[nafex] Ultra hardy pears

Bernie Nikolai Nikolai at v-wave.com
Mon Dec 17 20:59:32 EST 2001


Great pears for me are almost as illusive as trying to grow bananas here in
central Alberta!  I'll give a few comments based on my experiments/experiences:
        First topworking - I had a huge old very hardy pear tree of the
"apostle" series, originally bred in Saskatchewan.  The "apostle" series,
Peter, Andrew, Thomas, etc. are fully hardy in zone 3 and even zone 2, look
great, produce heavily with large, good looking pears, but the only use for
them is throwing at stray dogs (but not too hard, you'll kill them :)  They
taste like a cross between petrified wood and old, compacted sawdust.  But
they are great for topworking, so I put Nova, Hudar, Harrow Delight,
Alexander, Moonglow, Anjou, and several others on it.  The grafts did very
well and were loaded with flower spurs going into the winter of 1995.
Unfortunately 95/96 was a test winter, and even though the tree was in a
protected location in the city, we hit -40C three times that winter.  In the
spring I was heartbroken as all the grafts were dead, from all the
varieties!  So even topworked, which makes the hardiest possible "location"
in my humble opinion, the above pears can't take -40C.  They did take -37C
in previous years and survived fully.
        Ure is marginally hardy for me here in zone 3a.  It is not hardy
outside the city at my orchard site, but it is in the city.  The pears are
small, ripe mid to late September, and very tasty, but only for a day as
they don't store at all!  So unless you do a lot of canning or can eat 600
lbs. of pears in a day, Ure isn't much good.  Mind you on the day they are
ripe, they are very good, and taste similar to a ripe Bartlet (I think they
are 1/4 Bartlett).  A seedling of Ure, "Early Gold", bred at Jeffries
Nursery in Portage La Prairie, Manitoba, is far hardier than Ure, and a much
tougher tree.  It is also pingpong ball sized, and the "second" best tasting
pear I can grow.  It is ripe the last week in August for me, but also
doesn't store at all.  The "third" best tasting is Golden Spice, but I don't
really rate it as an edible pear, at least not an enjoyable edible pear.  It
is hardier than Ure, but not as hardy or as tasty as Early Gold.
        I am trying others, but with poorish results.  The Helmer Pear,
found in the mountains of Idaho, of excellent reputed taste and size, and
reported to take into the -40s without damage, has repeatedly died to the
snowline for me.  I have a Savignac from Quebec that is supposed to be very
hardy, and it is alive, but certainly struggling after 3 Alberta winters.
But its a zone 4 pear.  Luscious and Summercrisp do not survive for me on
their own trunks.  They might make it for a year or two, only to succumb in
a tough winter at -40C.  The trees never survived long enough to fruit, so I
can't comment on their taste.  Beurre Giffard, despite being from France,
was reputed to be extremely hardy, but again, has died to the snowline for me.
Bernie Nikolai
Edmonton, Alberta
zone 3/2 
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