- Author: Ben Faber
Deciduous plants need a certain period of dormancy during which they accumulate hours of cold. This is a very practical process on their part, since most dormant plants grow in cold climates. Differing areas have different patterns of cold. Some areas have very distinct ending points to the winter and if the plant leafs out, it will grow and be fine. In many winter areas, the end point is not distinct. Spring may come on with glorious weather, but then there might a cold snap in the spring and all that new growth is frozen back. Plants that have survived in these spring frost areas will thrive. Those that have not adapted to the erratic spring weather will die.
Chilling hours are the number of hours needed to take the plant into a period where it is assured of not getting hit by the cold. The are different ways of calculating this and the plant has an internal mechanism that has developed in that area to make sure it comes into a period where there is less likely-hood of a late freeze occurring.
So what has happened is that humans have moved plants around and moved them out of the areas where they are best adapted. It looks better, tastes better, has the characteristics that people want. So we move plants that require a lot chilling into areas that don't have much cold weather. And we move plants that require low chilling into areas that have cold winters. In the latter case, one knows right away that a mistake has been made because the plant flowers too early and gets hit by the late spring cold.
In the former case where plants requiring high chill are moved into warmer winter areas some odd things happen. For example the plant never leafs out in the spring. Then one knows there is not enough cold in that area to grow the plant successfully. Delayed flowering and leaf out are the most common for plants growing in marginally cold areas. This may not be noticeable in most winters when a normal winter occurs.
But this winter has been different in California. It was way too warm. And in many areas fruit trees requiring more chill than happened, just have not flowered or leafed out. Areas along the coast has been the worst hit, but it has happened in the Sierra foothills and the San Joaquin Valley. These were trees that were out of place and it is sad to see. The only thing that can be done at this point is hope for colder weather next year. But maybe that is not something one should hope for too much.
Effects on lack of adequate chilling on apricot - delayed and uneven bloom.
- Author: Dave Beamer
A local Santa Barbara backyard grower has been experimenting with many different apple varieties and has found some unusual success at growing a wide variety of them that according to their published chilling hours requirements should not do well in Southern California.
Apple varieties grown in Santa Barbara by Dave Beamer as of Nov. 2014
Varieties that have grown good fruit so far (asterisks mark my personal favorites)
*Arkansas Black (3 crops) hard, juicy, aromatic; skin is very dark when ripe in Oct. – Nov. (AK, ~1840)
*Ashmead's Kernel (3 crops) wonderful mostly tart flavor, pleasing texture, russeted (England, ~1700)
Aunt Rachel (2 crops, 2 apples) good texture, juicy, mildly tart; big apples ripen in July (good in Riverside, CA)
Benoni (one apple) the first apple was small, juicy, tart and ripened in August (MA, 1832)
Bramley's Seedling (8 apples) large fruit, very tart cooking apples in England, milder here (England, 1813)
Burgundy (one apple) deep red apple, very juicy, great texture, mostly tart, aromatic (early August)
Canada Red (two apples) red-striped apple, juicy, good texture, not much flavor in the first crop
Dixie Red Delight (3 crops) hard, juicy, mildly sweet apples with tough skins (ripen in late Oct. – Nov.)
Dorsett Golden (5 crops) self-fertile, commonly grown here and in the tropics (ripen in June – July)
Fuji (25+ crops in the back yard) self-fertile, sweeten if left on the tree (best in Nov. – Jan.)
*Golden Noble (3 crops) good texture, sweet and juicy in October, apples grow very large if thinned
Hauer Pippin (2 crops) good texture, juicy, thick skin, tart in October, sweeten Nov. – Dec.
Hawaii (one apple) good texture, flavor is a mix of sweet and tart, good in Riverside (CA, 1945)
Honey Sweet (two apples) described as “very sweet”, first small crop was mildly sweet (Virginia)
*Hudson's Golden Gem (3 crops) russeted sweet apples that can taste like pear juice (good in Riverside)
Kandil Sinap (2 crops) long narrow apples, good texture and juice but very mild flavor (from Turkey)
*Laxton's Fortune (4 crops) sweet, hard, crunchy, juicy, red apples; ripen late Aug. – early Sept. (1931)
Maigold (two apples) flavor is a mix of sweet and tart, from Switzerland
Red Boskoop (one apple) quite tart, one large apple with good texture (sterile pollen)
Red October (2 crops) hard, crunchy, juicy; a mix of sweet and tart flavors (but only one was red…)
Reverend Morgan (two apples) very good texture, mix of sweet and tart in late August (Houston, TX 1965)
Sierra Beauty (2 small crops) self-fertile, a mix of sweet and tart flavors, ripen late Sept. to Oct. (~ 1890)
Snow Apple (5 crops) mostly smaller apples, aromatic, tender flesh, tart and juicy (1739)
*Spitzenburg (4 crops) very good texture, juicy, wonderful tart-sweet flavor (NY, late 1700s)
Summer Rambo (one apple) precocious, mildly tart, the first apple was good (“Rambour Franc” ~1500)
*Wealthy (five apples) self-fertile, precocious; tart to tart-sweet, grown in tropics (Minnesota, 1868)
William's Pride (4 crops) very precocious; tart, juicy red apples ripen June – Aug depending on weather
Wyken Pippin (2 small crops) medium-sized apples, mildly sweet, good texture
I assume that three or more years of good fruit means a variety is reliable in coastal Santa Barbara County.
I have tasted locally grown Standard Delicious apples (the original “Delicious” variety, also called Old-Fashioned Delicious or Hawkeye). These apples are green with red stripes and are larger, juicier and have better flavor and texture than today's Red Delicious. Their flavor is sub-acid (very mildly tart).
I have been told that in this area Golden Delicious goes from unripe and sour to mushy – without ever passing through ripe. I have not tried growing it.
Varieties that grew bad fruit in my yard (I have removed these):
Cox's Orange Pippin (3 crops) tart, some were good for two small crops; in 3rd crop all apples split and rotted
Early Joe (two apples) soft, borderline mushy, and dry (reported bad in Riverside also)
Reinette du Canada bland flavor, apples fell off in August instead of October or later
Ribston Pippin ripened too early, poor taste and texture
Saint Cecilia all apples cracked and rotted in the first crop
Suntan (3 crops) sterile pollen, very tart; in 2013 all apples split and rotted
Victoria Limbertwig (2 crops) apples cracked and fell off in June-July (should ripen in fall)
Zabergau Reinette ripened too early, poor taste and texture
Not sure yet:
Bevan's Favorite (one apple) aromatic, not much flavor, poor texture in early July; I will try it again
Husk Sweet (3 apples) described as having “honeyed sweetness”; the first crop had no flavor at all
Roxbury Russet (six apples) 3 cracked, 3 good; tart, oldest American apple still being grown (MA ~1635)
Very young varieties that have not yet fruited:
Akero from Sweden (no description of the fruit was given)
Anna from Israel, partially self-fertile, sweet, grown in Santa Barbara and tropics
Arkansas Sweet described as crisp, crunchy and sweet (Arkansas, 1905)
Bentley's Sweet described as “intensely sweet” (Virginia, early 1800s?)
Black Oxford deep purple skin when ripe; eating, cooking and cider apples (Maine, ~1860)
Black Twig used for eating and juice; tart due to tannic acid (Tennessee, ~1830)
Blue Pearmain dark red apples, very juicy, subacid flavor, some russeting (early 1800s)
Erwin Baur from Germany [Duchess of Oldenburg x (Cox's Orange Pippin?)]
Golden Nugget small sweet apples, from Nova Scotia (Golden Russet x Cox's Orange Pippin)
Golden Sweet described as having “honeyed sweetness” (no balancing acidity)
Grimes Golden a parent of Golden Delicious, but described as having more complex flavor
Holstein sterile pollen, a seedling of Cox's Orange Pippin (Germany, 1918)
Hubbartson's Nonesuch precocious and heavy-bearing, sweet, ripen in summer (MA, 1830)
Jefferis sweet, juicy, pear-flavored small summer apples; heavy-bearing (PA, 1830)
King David an offspring of Arkansas Black, grows good fruit in Riverside (Arkansas, 1893)
Liberty self-fertile, disease resistant, flavor is a mix of sweet and tart (NY, 1962)
Late Strawberry described in North Carolina as “one of the best dessert apples available”
“Longview” a sweet seedling apple from Longview, WA (grafted with owner's permission)
Margil from England, considered one of the best-flavored sweet apples (small crops)
McIntosh precocious, tart, juicy, with aromatic white flesh (Ontario, Canada 1798)
Ozark Gold described as having “honeyed sweetness” (no balancing acidity)
Pettingill self-fertile, tart/sweet flavor, a seedling from Long Beach, CA (1949)
Ramsdell Sweet a very sweet, juicy apple
Red Astrachan self-fertile, tart, early flowering and ripening, from Russia
Redgold described as having “honeyed sweetness” (no balancing acidity)
Strawberry Pippin red skin, white flesh, sweet or sweet-tart flavor
Smokehouse precocious tree, very juicy apples (Pennsylvania, 1837)
Summer Queen ripens in August (New Jersey, 1800s)
Terry Winter sweet/tart, heavy-bearing, good in Riverside (Georgia, before 1860)
Winesap crisp, juicy flesh with sweet-tart flavor (New Jersey ~1800)
Winter Sweet crisp, juicy, very sweet flesh, origin unknown
Rootstocks used: M111: probably the best here, M7: good, but grows many suckers, G30: on one tree from NY.
Contact me if you want free summer or winter scion wood from my trees. (Please note: some of my trees are still too small to donate wood.)
Sources of my trees and apple information:
Trees of Antiquity (California)
Kuffel Creek (California)
Bay Laurel Nursery (retailing trees from Dave Wilson Nursery, California)
Big Horse Creek Farm (North Carolina) (also sells scion wood now)
Cummins Nursery (New York)
Scion wood for grafting: Maple Valley Orchards (Minnesota)
For an especially useful website go to www.kuffelcreek.com and click on “Apples”. Kevin Hauser tries to keep 100 apple varieties growing in his yard in very hot Riverside, California. He removes trees that grow bad fruit and replaces them with other varieties that are new to him. He has also experimented with different rootstocks. His website has a link to his blog, where he posts information on growing apples in the tropics as well as in Riverside.
The weakness in his information is his optimism. He may declare that a variety is good in Southern California if only the last apples of a variety to ripen are good and all the earlier apples were bad. Next year you may read that every apple ripened too early and he's getting rid of that tree. That's why I bought Ribston Pippin and Zabergau Reinette from him, one year before he declared both of them bad for Southern California (they were bad here also). But he has done a huge amount of pioneering work for warm-winter areas and the tropics.
So far I have found two apple varieties that grow good fruit in Santa Barbara but not in Riverside (Ashmead's Kernel and Snow Apple). I assume these trees can't tolerate Riverside's very hot summers, so they may not grow good fruit in the hotter inland areas of Santa Barbara County either.
The website for Trees of Antiquity (www.treesofantiquity.com) has good information about planting fruit trees and summer pruning for size control.
Dave Wilson Nursery (www.davewilson.com) has a lot of information for home fruit growers on its website, although they only sell wholesale. Bay Laurel Nursery retails some of their apple trees but only on M7 rootstock, which grows lots of suckers.
Apple information—flavor, ripening time and quality of fruit—usually comes from other parts of the world and may not apply here. Be a pioneer: grow a variety that's new in Southern California and share what you learn.
Feel free to share this information with others. (Spread the wealth!)