Let's face it – Calgary ain't the Okanagan. Orchards aren't our thing because spring doesn't always come early, summer heat waves are too spotty and our evenings are always on the cool side. Any green thumb gardener knows that there are certain things that just don't do well in our climate. Watermelon, for example.
But we love our flowering trees and the resulting fruit. It's just a matter of find the right kind of tree and perhaps changing our expectations of what Alberta fruit really is. There's nothing like fresh fruit that's you've grown in your own back yard. In the first half of the last century, preserving your own fruit was essential to stocking the prairie pantry. What wasn't eaten fresh was made into jam or canned. This ritual has fallen out of fashion but raising fruit is now coming back in vogue.
It's time to step away from crabapples! Here are ten types of fruit trees that do well in our Zone 3 climate here in Southern Alberta as recommended by a local landscaping company that you can plant today for a bountiful fruit harvest down the road.
The flowers in spring and pink and white and with the help of bees and other pollinators, the apples produced are red and medium in size. They ripe early in the season and can be eaten fresh and used for cooking. They can be picked before fully mature and they store well. Very hardy for the prairies.
Norland apples are botanically known as ‘pomes' and they have sweet white flesh and a crisp texture. These trees tend to produce generously and the apples should be picked just before they ripen. Norland apple trees were developed in Canada, and they are a cross between Melba and Rescue trees.
This brand new apple variety is taking the prairies by storm. It was developed by the University of Saskatoon in 2008 specifically for the harsh prairie climate. It provides large apples nearly 8.5 centimeters in diameter. It requires pruning and thinning to ensure large-size apples.
Prairie Sensation apples are reddish yellowish on the outside with light colored juicy flesh. They ripen in late summer to early fall and can be stored for up to three months, making them an ideal apple for a number of recipes.
An odd name for an apple but this is another hardy apple tree. These apples store well and are fantastic dessert apples (think pie!)
This is a rather hard to find variety, but M360 trees are well worth the hunt. They are gorgeous year round and produce fairly quickly and also store well for up to six months.
If you like Golden Delicious this tree is for you. Trees produce a yellow fruit. To help apple trees along, thin out the fruit when they become loonie size. If fruit are 20 to 30 cm apart on the tree they'll grow larger.
Crispy, yet juicy and sweet these yellow apples are ideal for cooking and can also be enjoyed fresh from the tree. When properly stored, Alberta Gold apples will stay good for around three months.
A nursery in Bon Accord, AB recommends these hardy apples because they're crisp, sweet and juicy. Ready for harvest in mid-September. This variety of apple tree is also disease resistant.
Winter Cheeks apples exhibit lovely clusters of white flowers with pink overtones, and they feature a pleasant light scent. However this trees leaves stay forest green until the fall when they turn yellow. Be forewarned, unpicked fruit can be somewhat messy if it drops on walkways and lawns, so consider this when choosing a location for Winter Cheeks trees.
This variety of apple was developed in the 1920s in Manitoba where it gets far colder than it does in Alberta. Fruit is ready in about mid-to-late August and prairie growers love it for its apple sauce. A good sized apple at 6 to 8 centimeters with a 20-week shelf life in a cool room. The good news is that it will produce fruit even when it's young.
Goodland Apples are also known as Malus Goodland apples, and the fruit is light green with a red blush. The flesh is white, crispy and flavorful, making them popular in homemade desserts and sweet side dishes. They are generally ready to be harvested around late summer to early fall.
Golden Spice Pears
Yes – some varieties of pears can be grown in Calgary. This variety, as the name would suggest, has a spicy taste although you may prefer the fruit canned as opposed to eating raw. These pairs are about an inch and three quarters in length, which is smaller than regular B.C. pears. The fruit ripens in mid-to-late September – guard against frost.
Golden Spice Pear trees are lovely throughout the year and feature beautiful clusters of whitish flowers with purplish anthers on the branches in the springtime. The rest of the year it boasts glossy oval leaves that transition into stunning burgundy colors in the fall. However, this can be a high-maintenance plant and somewhat messy if fruit is allowed to drop.
Early Golden Pear
This is border-line Zone 3 and is more a Zone 3 fruit, but with success it will bear smaller, disease resistant fruit ready about 10 days earlier than the Golden Spice. It has lovely white flowers in the spring.
Early Golden Pears are a popular choice for those who enjoy canning fruit and making jellies and jams. However, they can be tasty fresh off the tree. Expect to see the firm yellow fruit lightly blush in late August when they ripen. This particular variety does require a different tree of the same species nearby it for pollination.
These trees are very popular in Quebec and produce pears similar to Bartlett. They are hard to come by and may be ordered online and shipped from Quebec if you can't find a nursery that sells them. They are self-pollinating.
Loma Pear trees tend to produce fruit at a relatively young age, and harvests typically come every five to seven years. These trees will produce rather large pears and they enjoy full sun and well drained soil in Zone 3 climates. Because it self pollinates, Loma Pear trees are ideal for those who only want one or two fruit trees.
This variety of plum tree was developed in Brooks, AB so you know it will work well in this climate. It produces juicy, yellow plums with tender skin. Eat fresh or can for the winter. It has showy white blossoms in May with fruit ripening in August. It needs pollinators.
Brookgold Plums have golden tender skin that is almost translucent with a flavourful flesh that is sweet and very juicy. They can be eaten directly from the tree, and they are also a good choice for canning and making jams. This hardy tree should provide mature fruit around mid-August.