Category Archive: Fruit trees

Cot N Candy – is it an apricot or a plum?

By James Wall.

One of the highlights of my summer has been harvesting the fruit from my Cot N Candy tree. This is a tree I have now grown for about six years.

After  the third year, there was a bit of disappointment in this tree. It was becoming a big strong tree, but there wasn’t much reward in the way of fruit. The fourth year was no good either and I was contemplating its removal but then in the fifth year, we had a half decent yield.

The tree is self fertile, so doesn’t need another pollinator, but maybe it does need a cold winter. Lots of stone fruit needs a certain amount of ‘chill’ time. Basically it is it is the number of hours below 7c measured during the three main winter months of June, July and August required to set off flowering and blooming in many fruit trees. Dennis Ting actually discusses this in an earlier story here.

Well, this season, the tree produced a bumper harvest. I was picking big bowls of fruit and there was still more coming on. The fruit was like a large apricot in size, the fruit was clean and it was a pale yellow, with some fruit on the sunniest side getting a reddish tinge. Sure, I may have picked some of the crop a bit early, but like nearly always, it was a race against the birds in the end, including some grass parrots that appeared from nowhere.

The flavour is subtle and not like a normal apricot but it does have a pleasant aftertaste and is easy to eat more. It stewed up beautifully and I imagine would have made good jam if we had been a bit more organised.

What was it about the flavour that made it different to an apricot? That was when a bit of research on the Flemings website. It turns out that Cot N Candy is actually an interspecific hybrid. Put simply, it is an apricot crossed with a plum.

An interspecific hybrid is the cross between two individuals of different species but of the same genus. In other words, the hybridization between two species of the same genus.

A species of plant belongs to a larger genus, and this group of plants belong to an even larger family. Crossing the same species of plants like tomatoes, is very common, but this inter-crossing of different species is less so. Your classic example in the animal kingdom is the crossing of a donkey and a zebra which gets you a zonkey.

This all sounds a bit freaky, but amazes me that it is even possible. Looking at the tree, you wouldn’t know – it looks as natural as any other.

That’s not all either. look out for nectarines crossed with plums, and even a cherry crossed with a plum, which is of course called a “chum”.

Cot N Candy

A vigorous, self fertile, tree. Prune to vase shape to allow air and sunlight into centre of tree to enhance colour and flavour. Generally crops well. Fruit set can vary slightly with climatic conditions at bloom time and the region grown.

The mystique of growing blueberries – part 2.

By James Wall.

So it was back to the blueberry farm on  the rolling hills of Gippsland in late October to see what was going on. Blueberries are already available in Melbourne fruit shops, but they are grown in northern NSW. Over here in Gippsland, they have begun to set fruit but are many weeks away from being ripe.

Being organic, the rows were being slashed and plants were being weeded. They have been fed with a seaweed and with fish emulsion, but from now on, the goodness of the soil will be enough to finish off the crop.

You can now clearly see all the plants with full leaf and you can compare the earliness and fruit size of many of the varieties.  You are also reminded of the differences in height. The one plant that really stands out as being perfect for the home gardener is Magnolia. It only gets just over a metre or so high, and it is evergreen, so will look leafy all year round. Importantly it has a good yield and great flavour. Yes there are some new blueberry varieties on the way, but Magnolia is currently one of the best.

Joel lets me know about a new variety called Eureka. It was part of a breeding program that the resulting cross pollinating of two varieties resulted in a plant with jumbo sized fruit. Joel himself has a breeding program and one day may just breed the ultimate berry. Plant breeding requires lots of patience and determination. Things are measured in years and rewards can take decades. Eureka is available exclusively to Coles Supermarkets. Their season is finishing soon, but I did manage to get a punnet yesterday and they are certainly good eating. The also have a great website.

So now it is a matter of watering regularly and waiting for the fruit to ripen. This can seem like an eternity but it will be sooner than later. For home gardeners, now is the time to protect fruit from birds, as they love them too. We’ll look at some solutions there over the next couple of months.

Oh yeah, Joel and his Dad also love trees, and have some amazing specimens. They take pride in selecting cuttings only from the best specimens, just like there with blueberry plants.

California Redwood Trees

Paulownia Trees

The mystique of growing blueberries.

Last month, it was a privileged journey for me as I headed past Pakenham, turned off at Moe and drove about an hour up into the hills to visit my friend Joel, an organic blueberry farmer. Being winter, to some people these mostly leafless plants just look like big woody bushes, ranging from 3 foot to 6 foot high. A closer inspection however showed that they had been pruned meticulously, many of them every year for over 15 years. The grower, his wife and first hand man had done most of the pruning, as no contract worker could be trusted to do this process quite as well as those that lived and breathed these plants almost every day of their lives. These plants were to these people what a dairy herd might be to a farmer. They were part of their extended family.

Joel and his beloved plants.

To prune a blueberry plant requires two processes: firstly remove the weak wood – thin twiggy bits that will never thicken up, but will still suck energy from the rest of the plant. You also follow the basic principles of pruning like cutting out inward growing branches, although sometimes At one stage, Joel left a branch growing into another branch, as next year it would be a main branch and the other older one in its way removed. That is because secondly, you remove some of the old wood. It will be three to five years old and will be grey in colour and have formed bark on its trunk. Removing some of this will help the plant renew itself with new whips forming. The best fruiting wood will be in that two to three year age bracket. These plants will live for twenty five years and more, so to renew the plant is important. Some of the big 6 foot plants were taking Joel over twenty minutes to prune just one plant, such is the dedication to a perfect wine glass like figure.

Here is a brief video showing just a snippet of the secrets of pruning a blueberry bush.

Pruning doesn’t feel as natural to me as say on an apple tree. I think this is because the blueberry plant is quite a messy looking plant with a rather twisted and knarled structure. If you like things to look neat and tidy, this plant may not be for you.

A beautiful plant structure

You have to admire someone who makes the decision to produce fruit organically. There are no weed killing sprays you can use and so all you can do is compost around the plants to smother the formation of weeds and then hand weed around the plants to be rid of the worst of them. Between the rows you need to mow regularly so as to stop the weeds from seeding. It’s a case of learning to live with the weeds.

Magnolia in the front and Legacy at the backFeeding organically is done twice in autumn and twice in spring using liquid seaweed and fish emulsion. Organic growing is more about building up beneficial micro-organisms in the soil. They break down the compost and turn this into nutritional food for the plants. It’s all about finding the balance and not upsetting it by adding ‘made to measure’ dosages of chemical fertilisers. The results achieved from this crop speaks for itself – up to 8kg of berries per plant which is twice the amount of most commercial crops.

If you would like to grow some of these wonderful blueberry varieties, we now have some for sale. By nature, blueberry plants are hard to propagate and most of them go to the commercial growers, so you won’t find these plants commonly available. We also sell organic Charlie Carp – a fish emulsion that also benefits our rivers because of the removal of thousands of carp every year.

When planting out blueberries, Joel recommends teasing out the roots and having them almost horizontal when planting.

Plant them on a small mound in the bottom of the hole, just to angle the roots downward slightly.

This does not feel normal to me as I am not a big teaser of roots unless a plant in a pot is root-bound.

Joel’s dad has however spent many years analysing plantings and swears by this process. In fact he dug up some earlier plantings and teased the roots and then re-planted the plants with great success.

Here is a picture of the teased out roots.

Varieties we have for sale:

Magnolia: Evergreen bush that grows to approximately 1.6m tall, will bush out to 1.2m wide has a large berry, great flavour & heavy yield.

Reveille: Evergreen bush that grows to approximately 2m to 2.2m tall, very upright plant that will only bush out to 0.8m to 1m, great for along fences. Medium berry with great flavour & medium yield.

Legacy: Evergreen bush that grows to approximately 1.8m to 2m tall , will bush out to approximately 1.2m wide, has a large berry, good flavour & heavy yield.

James and a pruned reveille variety


Winter pruning of an espaliered apple tree.

By Kevin Mankey – Espalier tree pruning July 2015.

I remember reading in a gardening book years ago a quote saying that eventually every serious gardener will attempt to espalier a fruit tree. Put simply, espalier is the discipline of training and pruning a tree into a single-planed shape such as a fence line or similar structure.

This year I have attempted to document the winter pruning of my espaliered apple to help explain some of the pruning techniques involved. This apple is a Gala variety, and I have been training it as an espalier for about eight years. The techniques explained here would be the same for any variety of pomme fruit ie. apples, pears, quinces etc.

Picture No. 1 shows the tree prior to pruning. Note the upright growing “whips” which are the current seasons’ growth. The objective is to reduce the length of these whips to just a few centimetres so that growth can continue in a controlled manner and the tree can re-direct its energy into fruit production.

Pictures 2 and 3 show a busy cluster of whips before and after pruning, showing a simplified version with the strongest upright leader retained.

Picture No. 4 below shows the ideal spacing between fruiting spurs. This is generally about 10cm or approximately a hands’ width.

Fruiting spurs are different from normal growth branches and appear to have a swollen claw-like appearance as seen in picture No 5 below. We want to encourage the development of fruiting spurs while controlling the vigorous upright whip growths.

Picture No. 6 below shows how we prune a whip at about three centimetres in length. The pruning cuts are done about 1cm above a bud on a 45 degree angle sloping back away from the bud. This is to direct rainwater droplets away from the developing bud like the slope of a roof sheds water. Picture No 7 below shows the finished job. The shortened whips will sprout from the top-most buds during their spring growth spurt whilst the fruiting spurs will blossom in spring and carry clusters of fruit over the summer months. One of the benefits of espaliered fruit trees is that they can easily be netted to protect fruit from birds and possums.

As you can see, this espaliered apple will create a living dividing wall between my vegetable garden and my outdoor living area. I will post some pictures of the results as the season progresses.

A Melbourne garden in winter.

By James Wall, Gardenworld.

It’s time to get off the couch, sharpen up the secatuers and face up to winter head on. There is so much that can be achieved – and when the wind is not blowing too hard from the south, Melbourne is not really that cold at all. Later, you come back inside and feel you have really earned that cup of tea. You may even bring in a few treasures for the kitchen such as a handful of spinach leaves, a lemon or two and a big bunch of coriander. Winter is here and it’s go go go.

Shape deciduous ornamental trees and shrubs now, removing inward crossing branches and cutting back lanky bits. Apart from apricots, it is also time to prune back deciduous fruit trees so as to control their size and improve branching. This means less fruit but of bigger size. It also means netting and harvesting is easier. Don’t cut the little spurs off that jut out from the branches as fruit will form on these.

July is a very busy month at Gardenworld as we sell hundreds of bare root trees. Included are dwarf fruit trees which can be grown in pots and are much easier to net. They are the same variety of tree but are grown on dwarf root stock. They are available in apricots, apples, peaches, plums and nectarines. Also this year there is a new tree from Fleming’s called a ‘chum’. It is a cross between a cherry and a plum. We still have some good stock available.

Still some good trees available.

It is important to spray peaches and nectarines with a mixture of copper sulphate and lime. This is known as the Bordeaux mixture. Back in the 1880’s, French Botany professor Pierre Millardet of the University of Bordeaux noted that vines closest to the roads did not show mildew, while all other vines were affected. After inquiries, he found out those vines had been sprayed with a mixture of copper and lime to deter people passing by from eating the grapes, since this treatment was both visible and bitter-tasting. This led Millardet to conduct trials with this treatment and he published his findings in 1885, and recommended the mixture to combat downy mildew and other fungal diseases.

Weeds in the lawn have just sprouted. Commence your plan of attack now and you will be rewarded with a weed free lawn in summer. I like manually removing them, but it is tedious work and I am glad I have my Back-Joy Kneeler, my best friend while performing this task. There are also some good selective herbicides that will kill the weeds but not your grass. You will however need to use a different one for buffalo grass.

Hydrangea quercifolia is a favourite plant of mine. Known as the oakleaf hydrangea its leaves have just turned orangey red before falling and will reward you with creamy white spring flowers. It is best grown in a more shaded part of the garden. Prune traditional hydrangeas now, if you haven’t already done so. Also prune canna lilies almost to the ground and tidy up other perennials.

In the vegie patch, plant more of the fast growing leafy greens as the older batches will be getting towards the end of their tether. Go for broccoli, onions, broad beans, leek, spinach and silverbeet in particular. If you love your Asian recipes, go crazy with coriander, which you can direct seed into the soil. Sprinkle 20 odd seeds per hole.

It really is a great month for deciduous plants. Look at a plants structure while it has no leaves. There is an element of beauty, especially at the first sign of new shoots. Now that we are past the shortest day ,the days will only become longer, the plants will respond and it will be great to see just how alive this world really is.

Citrus leaf miner – silvery lines on leaves.

There is one pest that has been making an appearance in almost every garden, and that is the citrus leaf miner, Phyllocnistis citrella. They are a common pest that attack citrus trees from summer to autumn, especially when the weather isn’t consistent. But they can also prove to be a problem in the early months of spring when the new season’s growth starts to emerge. The adult is a tiny moth that is silver-white in colour with yellow markings and they have an approximate wingspan of 5mm. The adult moth lays their eggs onto the undersides on the new foliage, and once these eggs hatch that is when the symptoms and damage is most noticeable.

When the eggs have hatched the larvae begin to tunnel in between the fine layers of the leaf. This process usually takes the young caterpillar 5 days to do. Affected trees will show symptoms in the foliage and overall appearance. Silver aztec maze designs appear on the leaf surface and can cause the foliage to discolour overtime. Foliage can also be distorted and curled. Other symptoms can cause plants to wilt and in heavy infestations can cause affected trees to suffer from stress and remain unhealthy for long periods of time.

When the affected foliage starts to curl along the margins the larvae are fully grown. The larvae curl the sides of the leaf to create a ‘shield’ to protect itself as it goes through pupation. The pupation can take up to 3 weeks to complete and then the adult wasp emerges and the cycle repeats.

The best method of control is to prune off all affected growth then follow up by spraying an organic pesticide such as EcoPest Oil by Multicrop or Pest Oil by Yates. Don’t apply it on a hot sunny day.

Citrus leaf miner can be found on other plants so make sure to check over surrounding plants. Also you could avoid using a high nitrogen fertiliser in summer, as this promotes very soft new growth that makes them very attractive to these insects.

By Bonnie-Marie Hibbs

Images by Bonnie-Marie Hibbs

Growing Dwarf Citrus in Pots Part Two

By Dennis Ting

If you missed part one, CLICK HERE

Pummelo Tree in 50cm pot.

In the Part 1 of Growing Dwarf Potted Citrus I outlined how to select a tree, a pot, potting mix and plant up your young tree. I have spent the last 12 months observing my own trees and they have had to cope with extreme conditions of heat during the last summer. I am happy to report that I have refined my techniques and suffered no tree or even crop losses by following a few important rules. I include some photos to illustrate the range of citrus I am now harvesting Lemons, Limes, Mandarins, Oranges, Tangelos, Tahitian Limes etc.

Consistent deep watering is most important during the warmer months and I cannot stress this enough as citrus cannot get too much water at this time.

The potting mix must not dry out ever as you will get significant flower and fruit drop.

Citrus have glossy smooth green shiny leaves and when they become pale and feel like leathery leaves the plant is water stressed already. Dig into the potting mix with your fingers and you will feel it is probably quite dry underneath. Use a jet nozzle on hose to punch four holes into top of the pot when watering to ensure potting mix is re-wet through not just surfaced watered. Continue to do this all summer if necessary as citrus love their water.

Mulch well with light coloured pea straw all during summer to reflect the sun from the darker potting mix and add nutrition.

Humidity at night can be increased by spraying the foliage which improves flower retention and fruit set.

Liquid fertilizer every two weeks on the foliage and soil at night or early morning alternating between a Seasol / Powerfeed combination with either Thrive Flower and Fruit or Phostrogen from September to March.

I find an infrequent two monthly water with worm tea compost diluted at a ratio of 1:10 can also be beneficial but it can be alkaline so should be used sparingly.

From April cut back fertilising but some is still needed  to size up and colour up the fruit.

Healthy citrus trees do not get troubled by much as long as you feed well and keep them growing as I have never had problems with scale, aphids or citrus leaf miner. Citrus Gall Wasp is a problem I have but if you hang the yellow gall wasp traps in the trees from July to catch the emerging flies in spring you should minimise the infestations. Another method I have heard of is to slice vertically over the galls as this exposes some of the larvae to air and kills them while the sap can still flow up and down the branch. Lemons and limes are the most badly affected while oranges and mandarins just suffer from the odd gall that does not seem to cause too many problems.

As I said above just keep the tree growing as cutting back is not really an option on dwarf trees as you weaken the tree and it becomes smaller and smaller.

I would now like to introduce my ‘Zen Defensive Method of Pot Placement’ which again was of some benefit during the extremely hot weather last summer. I place my plants in a ‘North – South’ line with pots ranging in size from a few at 400 mm to the majority at 300 mm and a few smaller ones at 200 mm for young trees. Remember from Part 1 the pots are a light terracotta colour and not black so do not absorb the heat from the sun. The pots are almost touching and would get hot summer afternoon sun but the branches are allowed to grow into each other to provide mutual shading and shelter.

'Zen Defensive Method of Pot Placement'

Next to the ‘North – South’ line is a deciduous Walnut tree which also provided some light shading but not too much. They appear to grow well like this than if I pretended they were in an orchard situation and spaced them apart individually. I do have a few larger plants in pots which are spaced well apart and they suffer a bit during the warmer weather but can be successful too.

Tangelo. Limequat and Cumquat in 20cm pots

I have not found much pruning necessary at all except for shaping and cutting back to encourage branching for the stronger growing lemons. Thinning of branches before the flowers emerge in spring appears to conserve energy and result in a better crop of well sized fruit.

So now you have enough information to grow your dwarf potted citrus to produce useful crops of full sized fruit to perfection in your own garden.

Growing Tropical and Sub-Tropical Fruit in Melbourne

Growing Tropical and Sub-Tropical Fruit in Melbourne reported by Dennis Ting

In the Garden Centre we sometimes get in some of the more tropical and exotic fruiting plants like mangoes, custard apples, tropical guavas, avocadoes and coffee.

Many customers ask me if it is possible to grow these in suburban Melbourne and have any chance of getting fruit.

I have had feedback that ‘yes’ it is possible but the results will be variable and more care is needed than growing standard fruits like pip fruit, stone fruit or citrus.

As I have an interest in the rarer fruit myself I had the pleasure of visiting Mark in Mount Waverley who has a garden filled with exotic fruit trees and to investigate his methods and compare them to mine.

I think the first observation was that he made full use of the micro climates available in his garden by placing trees in the sheltered spots and ensuring tender plants were not exposed to the hot summer sun as for instance he grouped his avocados together in a corridor.

Avocado 'Reed', espaliered on north facing wall.

Mark also made use of fences and walls especially those facing north to espalier the Reed avocado and Pitaya vine. He created artificial shade by stretching shade cloth across the court yard for tender plants like the coffee.

Avocado with fruit.

Another method was to use pots filled with a good potting mix starting with 300 mm pots and moving up to 500 mm pots then to 100 litre and 200 litre woven bags for plants not to be planted out and a major advantage is it allows the plants to develop a root ball and provides good drainage / adequate watering all year.

This is similar to my method as it allows these tropical plants to acclimatise over some years and develop a strong root system.  

Also in times of inclement weather like excessive cold or heat the pots can be moved to more sheltered locations or more easily protected than if outside in the ground.

Mango, grown in a mound.

I noticed that for plants like avocados and mangoes to be planted in the ground he now planted on a raised mound and mulched heavily to avoid problems of root rot in his heavy clay soils and this seemed to be successful.

Mango 'Bowen' also known as 'Kensington Pride'

One method Mark was experimenting with was to increase the range of varieties he was growing so as an example he was obtaining other varieties of mango (Palmer & Nam Doc Mai) to try apart from the Bowen (Kensington) as there were some that were more cold tolerant and he was trying the Lamb-Hass (A) avocado to improve pollination in addition to the Bacon (B), Wurtz (A) and Reed (A) ones he had.

I was most impressed that Mark was producing his own coffee and we roasted some in a pop corn maker, ground them using a mortar and pestle and then did a Greek style pour over and I had to say it was a great cup of coffee to finish off my visit!!

Coffee plant with flowers and berries.

Growing Dwarf Citrus in Pots Part One


By Dennis Ting,

Growing dwarf citrus in pots is one of the most rewarding fruit growing endeavors, especially for those with limited space as you can provide ideal conditions for them by moving them around during the seasons.
Dwarf trees will produce full sized fruit as it is the tree that is dwarfed and not the fruit, although early on the fruit may be smaller as the tree establishes, but still full of flavour!
I have quite a collection myself and they include both the common types and also some of the more unusual too like pummelos, grape fruit, blood oranges and Japanese kumquats which may not be readily available and I am quite surprised by some of the tastes.

The real beauty of all citrus is their evergreen foliage, fragrant flowers and colourful fruit – yellow to red which you can take advantage of by moving your potted tree around.

The main difference between a standard citrus tree designed to grow in the ground and in pots and is the rootstock the tree is budded on to, with dwarf trees grafted on to Trifoliata – Flying Dragon rootstock.
These rootstock are slower growing than standard citrus rootstock, but more importantly are dormant during winter which allows the fruit to ripen but no un-seasonal leaf growth subject to cold and frost damage.
These dwarf the tree to between 1.5 to 2 metres if grown in the ground but even less if grown in a pot. Keep in mind that it is only the tree that is dwarfed and not the fruit which will be full sized once the tree matures. You can get a crop from the second or third year but please only leave a couple of fruit on as these dwarf trees need all the energy to grow to establish a framework in early years.

The first photo is of my oldest tree is a pummelo – ‘Flicks Yellow’ growing in a 500 mm pot and it is very happy here bearing sweet delicious tasty fruit every season (Photo 1).
Then there is the next photo showing young trees growing of Tahitian Lime, Eureka Lemon, Japanese Seedless Mandarin and Meyer Lemon all growing in 300 mm pots (Photo 2).

30 cm pots

So how do you start?

You will find a range of Dwarf Citrus available at Gardenworld either as the Pipqueak Range in 150 mm pots or larger trees in 200 mm pots as you can see in the two photos (Photo 3 & 4).

Pipsqueak Range

Mixture of available dwarf citrus

There is a good range available covering Eureka, Lisbon and Meyer lemons, Tahitian and Kaffir limes, Emperor, Imperial and Japanese Seedless mandarins (my favourite), Valencia and Washington Navel oranges etc.

Now let us talk about pots – never black please! These are fine for nursery stock but I think they heat up too much in a home garden situation.
All my pot grown fruit trees are in terracotta coloured plastic pots only. I would pot up a 150 mm Pipqueak tree into a 200 mm pot initially and a larger 200 mm tree into a 300 mm pot initially (Photo 5).

Photo 5

A bigger pot initially will not result in faster growth as the roots on the dwarf rootstocks tends to drown if planted in a big pot say 500 mm straight away.
I have found a better strategy is to start with a 300 mm then 400 mm and 500 mm to half wine barrel over a period of about five years or so re-potting in early spring each time.
You need to use a good quality Debco Terracotta and Tub Potting Mix as the trees will be living in this mix for life and cheaper ones tend to break down and become water logged (Photo 6).

Photo 6

After planting, water in with a good soaking of Seasol to get the roots working and mulch with a lucerne hay or similar, especially over the first summer to avoid the sun heating up the dark coloured potting mix (Photo 7).

Potted and ready to grow !

In Growing Dwarf Citrus in Pots Part Two I will outline my ’12 Month Seasonal Care and Maintenance’ including my ‘Zen Defensive Method of Pot Placement’ which has worked extremely well.


The big chill in my alternative food garden

An alternative winter food garden.

We have a Rare Fruit Specialist who works in the nursery on Saturdays. His name is Dennis and here are a few snaps of his winter garden following on from the previous winter, spring, summer and autumn blogs.

It is amazing what you can grow successfully in a suburban garden in Melbourne despite the hot and dry weather we have most summers due to normal relatively mild winters. However this winter it was a real doozzie of cold nights and frosts in last two weeks of June here for me something I had never experienced in over 10 years. The lowest recorded outdoor temperature was -2.7 c one morning in my garden which was the lowest I had ever seen. As you know from previous blogs I am a keen grower of the sub-tropical and exotic fruits so expected there to be some damage but there were also some pleasant surprises of survival too!

The effects clearly seen on soft leafed sub-tropicals with totally scorched leaves – tamarillos, babacos, black sapote (leaves and stems really black now) and three year old passion fruit wilted (gone). The tamarillo fruits were okay and all the fruit have ripened, babaco fruits should ripen in November and both are sprouting new leaves again. My ‘Podded’ and covered sub-tropicals – avocados, curry leaf tree and mango (surprisingly) show no or minor ill effects, the acerola cherry defoliated (looks okay) and three year old coffee blackened and gone (flowered last summer and had beans but takes no frost at all).  No terrible effect on citrus, cherimoya (cold climate custard apple), feijoas, jaboticabas, macadamias (flowers okay) and white sapote (despite leaves frozen solid).

Tamarillo with leaves totally burnt by frost.

Three year old Passion fruit vine may be dead.

Three year old Coffee totally blackened may be dead.

Jaboticaba showing reddening of leaves due to cold stress.

It is not all bad as there may be a plus side with great winter chill for all my pip and stone fruit and interspecific hybrid apricot / plum / nectarines?  So what is winter chill in basic and very simplistic terms? It is the number of hours below 7 c measured during the three main winter months of June, July and August required to set off flowering and blooming in many fruit trees. But it is not quite so simple as many factors affect chill units including the specific variety and whether a tree is in the sun or shade, wind etc. Then there are also other models that deduct from the chill units if the temperature rises above a certain level.

So here is a list of winter chill hours for some of the more common fruit trees that could be grown in Melbourne and I would like to highlight some.

 Almond 500-600

Apple 400-1000 (Low chill varieties are less)

Apricot 500-600

Japanese Pear 400-500

Blackberry 200-500

Blueberry (Northern High Bush – Deciduous) 800

Blueberry (Southern Low Bush – Evergreen) 300

Chestnut 400-500

Cherry 700-800

Citrus 0

Currant 800-1000

European Pear 600-800

European plum 800-900

Fig 100-200

Filbert 800

Gooseberry 800-1000

Grape 100+

Japanese Plum 300-500

Kiwi 600-800

Mulberry 400

Peach 600-800

Persimmon 200-400

Plum Cot 400

Pomegranate 100-200

Quince 300-500

Strawberry 200-300

Raspberries 700-800

Walnut 600-700

Apples have a wide range chilling requirement hours depending on the variety 400 to 1000 so choose the variety carefully. 

 Japanese Pears require only 400 – 500 while European Pears are 600 – 800 and therefore flower much earlier.

Japanese Plums require only 300 – 500 while European Plums are 800 – 900 and therefore flower earlier too.

There are a range of low-chill fruits like citrus, figs, mulberries and persimmons that do well in Melbourne.

 Some of the high-chill fruits like currants, European plum, European pear and even raspberries maybe more difficult in the bay side suburbs but would be fine in more inland and hill suburbs so careful selection may be required.

Josephine pear will it ever flower ???

If you are having trouble with getting good blossoming on your fruit trees then the lack of winter chill hours for your specific variety may be an issue and some years may be better than others. I have some five year old dwarf European pears of ’Josephine’ and ‘Beurre Hardy’ that have developed flower spurs but never actually open flowers in spring yet so I will be interested to see if the cold winter has helped. I have a five year old ‘family’ apple tree with five ‘Heritage’ varieties grafted on but one never blooms although it has fat flower buds in winter and they just turn into leaves!!

Apple tree with five varieties showing fat flower buds.

 I guess in conclusion a cold winter is great if you are trying to grow some of the high chill requirement deciduous fruit trees but a problem if you are trying to grow some of the tender evergreen sub-tropical and more exotic plants from warmer climates

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