In the colder regions of the country, the selection of apricot varieties is limited because apricots bloom early and may suffer frost damage. In recent years, however, breeders have produced a number of hybrids with hardy Manchurian apricots, and now varieties such as 'Chinese' will fruit fairly regularly even in the northern plains. The choice of varieties widens in milder regions, and more tender varieties such as 'Moorpark' will bear even in the eastern states.
Dwarfed apricots on special rootstocks produce fair-sized trees, and a full-sized tree will fill a 25-foot-square site, but you can train the tree to branch high and use it in the landscape as a shade tree. Trees are fairly long-lived and may last from 15 to 30 years, depending on care.
Many apricots are self-fertile, but in colder regions it is usually best to plant a second variety for pollination to encourage the heaviest fruit set possible. Frost may thin much of the young fruit.
Thinning is generally natural, either from frost or from natural drop in early summer. If your tree sets heavily, you will get larger apricots by thinning to 2 inches between each fruit. For pruning and training details, see page 46.
Apricots can also be used as stock plants for grafts. Plums do well on apricot stock, and peaches may take, although the union is weak. Your apricot tree can bear several different fruits over a long season.
Brown rot and bacterial canker are serious pests.
Check for climate adaptability and pollinating requirements, and be sure to buy hardy trees in the colder regions. 'Blenheim' ('Royal') This is the best eating, drying, and canning apricot in California. The fruit is medium sized and flat orange with some tendency to have green shoulders. It requires moderate chilling and will not tolerate excessive heat (over 90" F) at harvest time. Origin: England. 'Chinese' ('Mormon') Its Utah birthplace marks this variety as a good choice for the coldest regions of the West's apricot climates. Late flowering gives blossoms a chance to escape late frosts. Trees bear heavy crops of small, sweet, juicy fruit at an early age. Origin: Utah. 'Flora Gold' This genetic dwarf apricot reaches about half the size of a full-sized tree. Its small to medium-sized fruit is of high quality—best for eating fresh and for canning. The heavy crop ripens early, about a month before 'Blenheim'. Moderate-chill requirement. Origin: California.
- Goldcot' Late flowering, late bearing, and hardiness to -20°F recommend this variety to midwestern and eastern growers. The medium-sized to large fruit is tough-skinned and flavorful, good for eating fresh and for canning. Self-fruitful. Origin: Michigan. 'Harcot' Another cold hardy variety with late flowering but early ripening. Fruit is medium to large and flavorful. Heavy-bearing, compact trees resist brown rot and are somewhat resistant to bacterial spot. Origin: Ontario, Canada. 'Harogem' Small to medium-sized fruit is blushed bright red over orange; the flesh is firm. This variety ripens in midseason and the fruit is especially long-lasting when picked. The tree is resistant to perennial canker and brown spot. Origin: Ontario, Canada. 'Moorpark' This variety, dating from 1760, is considered by many to be the standard of excellence among apricots. The large fruit is orange with a deep blush, sometimes overlaid with dots of brown and red. The flesh is orange and has excellent flavor and a pronounced and agreeable perfume. Ripening is uneven, with half the fruit still green when the first half is already ripe. This is an advantage in the home garden, since the gardener does not have to use the fruit, all at once. The tree does well in all but the most extreme climates. Widely available. Origin: England. 'Perfection' ('Goldbeck') The fruit is very large, oval and blocky, and light orange-yellow without a blush. The flesh is bright orange and of fair quality. The tree is vigorous and hardy but blooms early and so is uncertain in late-frost areas. Since it requires little winter chill it will grow in mild-winter areas. It needs a separate pollinator and sets a light crop. Good for the South and West. Origin: Washington.
- Rival' Its northwestern origins make 'Rival' especially well adapted there. Large, heavily blushed fruit is firm, mild flavored, and particularly good for canning. The tree is large and rangy, blooms early, and needs another early-flow-ering pollinator such as 'Perfection'. Origin: Washington. 'Royal Rosa' This is a good choice for fresh-off-the-tree eating. The bright yellow fruit is firm fleshed and aromatic with a tart tang to its sweetness. The compact, medium-sized tree bears heavy crops early in the season. Origin: California.
- Scout' This variety originally came from a Manchurian fruit experiment station. The flat, bronzy fruit is medium to large with deep yellow flesh. It is good fresh and can also be canned or used in jams. The tree is tall, upright, vigorous, and hardy. The fruit ripens in late July. Good for the Midwest. Origin: Manitoba. 'Sungold' This is a selection from the same cross as 'Moon-gold', and the two must be planted together for pollination. The fruit is rounded and of medium size, with a tender, golden skin blushed orange. The flavor is mild and sweet, and the fruit is good fresh or preserved. The tree is upright, vigorous, and of medium size. The fruit ripens somewhat later than 'Moongold'. Good for all zones. Origin: Minnesota. 'Tilton' The vigorous tree bears heavily most years. The fruit is yellow-orange and tolerates heat when ripening. It has a high-chill requirement (over 1,000 hours below 45° F) but performs well in hot summer climates. Origin: California.
- Wenatchee' The fruit is a large, flattened oval with orange-yellow skin and flesh. Trees are fairly long lived and may last from 15 to 30 years, depending on location and care. The tree does well in the Pacific Northwest and the West. Origin: Washington.
An espaliered cherry tree
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