Colorado Master Gardeners: Caring for flowering trees
May 30, 2017
Andy Kennedy/For Steamboat Today
There's something alluring about this time of year, when fruit trees are in full bloom, and I've been lucky to seem them from coast to coast this year. In late March, I timed a visit to Washington D.C. around the peak of the famous Cherry Blossom grandeur around the Tidal Basin at the Jefferson Memorial. In late April through early May, my husband and I spent two weeks along the Pacific Northwest corridor from Northern California into the Vancouver islands, taking a wide variety of blooms — apples, cherries, dogwoods. We returned home to the glowing white of the crabapples along Lincoln Avenue and the two gorgeous magenta crabapples in our own backyard.
Then came the snow.
If chosen correctly, flowering fruit trees can be very weather resilient, but weather can damage not only their blooms, but subsequently, their fruit. Both the D.C. cherries and our local crabapples went through a shocking cold snap and snowfall, and many trees had damage to their new buds or lost their flowers early. Heavy snow or ice can cause damage to the tree's branches, too.
Despite their resiliency, late spring weather incidents stress our trees, which can then attract insects, so keep a close watch on them through the season. To prevent further stress, make sure to water them well through the season, if needed, and don't fertilize them until fall.
If cold damage did occur to your trees and shrubs, resist the urge to immediately prune back the damaged areas. If you prune back the damage too soon, you may encourage new budding and growth, which leaves the plant susceptible to the next threat of cold weather. Try to wait until after the last frost date — though this is often hard to predict in the valley, June 15 is usually a safe guess. Use this Colorado Master Gardeners' fact sheet — at extension.colostate.edu/topic-areas/yard-garden/training-and-pruning-fruit-trees-7-003 — for tips about pruning.
In addition, many factors are important for selection, pruning, watering, feeding/fertilizing and protecting these trees. The Colorado Master Gardener website is a wealth of information when it comes to caring for your flower trees; the following page offers more than 100 fact sheets about deciduous trees: cmg.colostate.edu/pubs/Trees.html
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It's too soon to tell if our local flowering trees will set fruit this year due to that heavy snow we witnessed, but luckily, that kind of weather doesn't usually damage the tree longterm. The trees native to the valley are built for the fluctuation in temperature and will hopefully produce fruit as normal; the same goes for older, established trees, whether native or not. Some native trees, such as the choke cherry, even set their blooms later than most for just this reason.
If you have questions about your trees or find any insects or damage, use your local Master Gardeners as a resource and stop by the local extension office, 136 Sixth St., from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursdays, call 970-870-5241 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Other tree fact websites include the following.
Andy Kennedy is a Washington D.C. native, transplanted to the Yampa Valley in 1998. With a background in both sustainability and photography, she takes a close look at plants all year long. Because of her love for travel with her husband Craig, she calls herself the absentee gardener.