Sooke Garden Club: All about apples, pears and quinces

Sooke Garden Club invites speaker to monthly meeting on April 22

All about apples

Bob Duncan is paying a return visit to the Sooke Garden Club, and that can mean only one thing: another eye-opening presentation about growing fruit trees. This time the focus in on apples, pears, and quinces (and maybe medlars), a family of trees that offer up a bounty of delicious fruit every fall.

When it comes to planting fruit trees in this area, apples are generally the first choice. Pears are a typical second choice, while quinces, which used to be extremely popular throughout Canada, find themselves largely forgotten. As for medlars … well, I can count on two fingers the number of people I know who grow them, and one of them is Bob Duncan!

The trend toward growing food at home is definitely on the upswing, and various reasons are cited: high retail prices in stores, a desire to eat locally grown produce, the ability to control pesticide/herbicide use in food, access to more and preferred varieties, and a wish to be more connected to the land. Seasoned gardeners, however, would likely argue that the absolute best reason to grow your own food is taste: Home-grown fruits and vegetables simply taste so much better than their industrially grown counterparts.

But while home food gardening is increasing, the size of home gardens is decreasing. Seed producers and plant breeders are working hard to respond to (sub)urbanites’ desire to grow food. Fortunately, when it comes to fruit, the availability of good dwarf rootstock means that even small yards, decks, and patios/balconies can accommodate trees and bushes that yield full-size fruit.

Knowing what tree to choose for particular situations – and precisely how to grow it – is Bob Duncan’s forte. Along with wife Verna, Bob owns and runs Fruit Trees and More, a nursery and demonstration orchard in North Saanich. A trained botanist and entomologist with 40+ years’ experience growing fruit trees on Vancouver Island, he currently has over 400 varieties under cultivation on his small property. Some 200 of these are dwarf apples, his specialty, but he is equally recognized for his success in cultivating citrus and hardy sub-tropicals.

Bob will share his knowledge about and experiences with growing apples, pears and quinces. He will pay particular attention to variety selections and to these trees’ cultural requirements. He may even introduce you to medlars.

Join us Wednesday, April 22, 7 p.m., at St. Rose of Lima Church on Townsend Road. New members welcome. Annual fee: $15; guests: $5. It’s also a parlour show month, and contest potatoes will be available. Questions? Visit our website at sookegardenclub.wordpress.com, email sookegardenclub@yahoo.ca, or phone Rose at 250-642-5509.

Mark your calendar now! Sooke Garden Club’s 44th Annual Spring Plant Sale takes place on Saturday, April 25, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m., in front of the Evergreen Centre. Shrubs, perennials, annuals, herbs, veggie starters, container plantings … and master gardeners on hand to answer your gardening questions.

Submitted by Loretta Fritz