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Published April 18, 2009, 08:00 AM

Growing fruit trees can beautify your garden

What could be more delightful than to be able to pluck and eat fruit from a tree that you also admire for its beauty? Every quality valued in a landscape tree — whether it’s textured bark, fall leaf color, bright flowers, even decorative fruits — can also be found in some trees bearing edible fruits.

By: By Lee Reich, The Associated Press , The Jamestown Sun

What could be more delightful than to be able to pluck and eat fruit from a tree that you also admire for its beauty?

Every quality valued in a landscape tree — whether it’s textured bark, fall leaf color, bright flowers, even decorative fruits — can also be found in some trees bearing edible fruits.

FIRST, A REALITY CHECK

When it comes to “luscious landscaping” with fruit trees, special considerations are needed. Think twice before planting an especially bountiful tree near a terrace or driveway. Excess dropped fruit could create a mess.

And producing fruit — especially high-quality fruit — demands an extra measure of energy from a tree, so also pay attention to choosing a site with sun and soil that suits it.

Pests might present a problem when landscaping with fruit, which can be as attractive to pests as to us humans. Yet trying to spray one fruit tree nestled among other plants or growing near a terrace brings its own set of problems. You don’t want pesticides to fall on nearby plants or in areas where people — especially children — play or lounge outdoors.

The best way to avoid the need for spraying is to do something else before you even plant: Choose an appropriate tree for your region, one that is handsome and pest resistant, and bears tasty fruits.

Fortunately, in every region of the country there are plenty of handsome trees that yield edible fruits without the need for spraying or, in some cases, even pruning. And some fruit trees are adaptable just about everywhere.

LARGE,

LUSCIOUS FRUITED,

ORNAMENTAL TREES

Among larger trees, for example, consider American persimmon (Diospyros americana) and hackberry (Celtis occidentalis).

Persimmon has gracefully arching limbs, checkered bark and slightly bluish leaves. The rich, sweet fruits of American persimmon have the taste and texture of wet, dried apricots that have been dipped in honey along with a dash of spice. They dangle like Christmas ornaments from the branches well into fall.

Hackberry is related to American elm and has a similarly pleasing, vase-shaped growth habit. The real beauty of this plant is more subtle, though, and that is its bark, which is gray and punctuated with corky ridges that cast crisp shadows reminiscent of a lunar landscape. The fruits, ripening in late summer and fall, are small, round and as sweet as dates, although the flesh is admittedly sparse.

FRUITS FROM

MEDIUM-SIZE TREES

Two examples of medium-size ornamental trees bearing edible fruits are cornelian cherry (Cornus mas) and pawpaw (Asimina triloba).

Cornelian cherry is mostly planted as an ornamental only because people don’t realize that the fruit is edible. The fruits look and taste very much like tart cherries.

Pawpaw (Asimina triloba) is a lush tree whose large, dark green leaves would look perfectly at home in a tropical forest. The fruit has a creamy texture and flavor much like banana, along with hints of pineapple, avocado and mango. Despite its tropical airs, pawpaw happily survives frigid winters where temperatures dip well below zero.

SMALL, PRETTY

TREES BEARING

TASTY FRUITS

If you lack the space to plant a large or medium-size tree, there are a number of small trees that are pretty and bear tasty morsels.

Juneberry (Amelanchier spp.), for example. This tree is a cloud of white blossoms in spring, and fiery purple, orange and yellow leaves in fall. Even in winter, juneberries liven the landscape subtly with their smooth, gray bark and neat form. The blueberry-size fruit is sweet and juicy, with the richness of sweet cherry and a hint of almond.

Medlar (Mespilus germanica), another small tree, has large white or pinkish blossoms, each handsomely framed by a whorl of dark green leaves. The fruits that follow are interesting, if not attractive, resembling small, russeted apples, tinged yellow and flared open at the end opposite the stem. After harvest, the fruits soften to the texture and flavor of old-fashioned applesauce, brisk and winy.

The trees mentioned above represent only a slice of the pie of what’s available for landscaping with fruit trees. There are many others: quince, Korean pine, mulberry and the rare shipova, to name a few.

With only minimal effort on your part, mostly in selecting the right plant for beauty, adaptability and flavor, you can have your cake (the tree) and eat it (the fruit), too!

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