Fruit trees are great. When a plant bares fruit, that means it also flowers so you know you'll have an ornamental tree as well. That makes fruit trees a great solution for a smaller urban yard. Even if you don't really want the fruit, you'll end up with a lovely tree in your yard. Another advantage of fruit trees is their size. Generally speaking fruit trees tend to be smaller than shade trees like maples or oaks. They also tend to be rather broad in shape so they add a good amount of privacy without being too overwhelming.
Now in the Ottawa climate, we can't just grow any fruit trees. Our winters are simple too cold or our frosts come too late in the spring to get fruit off some trees. Here are the best suited fruit trees to our climate:
- Apples - The most common fruit tree. Though dwarf apples are the smallest, their dwarf roots reduce the winter survival so it's best to aim for a semi-dwarf tree. The size is still reasonable and you're more likely to have your tree for years to come. But keep in mind not all apples are created equal. Red Delicious doesn't live in Ottawa because of the cold and ones like Granny Smith need a much longer summer to ripen so take those off your list. Our job as a garden centre is to filter through the varieties out there and only sell the ones that survive so your best bet is always to drop by and see what's available.
- Sour Cherries - Sorry, but sweet cherries just don't cut it in Ottawa. Montmorency is the best sour cherry for long term survival. We've tried others and nothing stands up as well as this old-faithful. Cherry trees are great since they tend to grow a little less broad than other fruit trees so you can plant it in narrower spots.
- Plums - Again, not all plums can live in our climate. When thinking of a plum, you probably need to watch for space. Since many plums are not self-fertile, that means you need two or more to get fruit. Plums are also more susceptible to Black Knot, a fungal disease, which is common in the wild around Ottawa so make sure to keep that in mind.
- Pears - Flemish Beauty is hands-down the best hardy pear. You can get bushels of pears off a tree once it's mature. It's a larger plant than apples or cherries, but it develops a pseudo-weeping habit over time as the weight of heavy fruit-laden branches bend them down towards the ground. There are a few other smaller-fruited hardy pears, but nothing like the Flemish Beauty.
Unfortunately, plants like peaches, apricots, or nectaries are not really viable in Ottawa. Although there are some hardy apricots that live, they pretty well never produce fruit because the late spring frosts kill off the flowers and fruit. Pretty plant, but not really for fruit.
Last but not least, beware of the box-stores. They're notorious for selling cool and different fruit trees that aren't suitable for our winters. We have so many people visiting us asking why their fruit tree didn't survive the winter only to discover they were sold a tree that stands no chance of survival in our climate.