The daffodils and hyacinths are blooming, but it isn't officially spring until I've grafted some new fruit trees. This year I did an asian pear and four apple trees for Rachel to plant at her new house in Hillsboro, Oregon. I've also continued to reform an unknown variety of apple tree in our orchard. I don't know what kind it was originally (possibly a Yellow Delicious), but in our wet climate it has consistently produced the scabbiest apples year after year. I've been grafting on new varieties each year for the past four years. At present it is one quarter Aroma, one eighth Red Cort, one quarter Yellow Bellflower, and one eighth Winter Banana. I just grafted in a few more branches of Winter Banana and Aroma so it's reformation is now complete. I did get some Aroma apples last year, but the other grafted branches aren't producing yet. Aroma is not a common variety, but it had hardly any scab, a minor miracle considering how wet our spring was last year. It also seemed like a very nice tart sweet crisp apple and made a very nice pie. The other apple varieties I've collected thus far are Wealthy, Mott Pink, Akane, Pristine, Sansa, Lodi, Ashmead's Kernal, Chehalis, Melrose, Spartan, and Jonagold. Most of those have not produced yet. My favorite so far is the Melrose, but the Melrose did have some scab problems last year.
The other main sign of spring's arrival is crazy times at the bee store. Package bee orders are coming in thick and fast and we're working hard to stay ahead on equipment orders. We passed 400 package bee orders on Saturday (March 26).
I salvaged about twenty hyacinth plants from one of the display gardens at the Seattle Flower and Garden Show. They throw them away as they are not sellable after they've been forced and it takes them several years to recover before they will produce a nice bloom again. I can give them plenty of time to recover and I don't care if it takes a few years before they bloom nicely. I planted them along the garden path by the currants. Even a mediocre hyacinth bloom still adds some nice aroma to the garden. Speaking of currants this is going to be the year without currants. I've had a lot of trouble with some kind of currant saw fly which is reproducing in the fruit and pupating in the ground. It hasn't bothered the black currants much but has trashed the red currant crop the past few years. I tried replacing all of the mulch to get rid of the pupating adults,but they were still there the following year. This year I'm sacrificing the entire currant crop in order to get rid of them. The theory is that if they have no currant fruit to reproduce in they will go a way. Anyhow, I'm pruning all of the currants way back to eliminate all of the blooms.
I am looking forward to finally getting some fruit from our hardy kiwis this year. The male plant is now big enough and hopefully we'll have a better spring than last year. Last year we had no asian pears, a small crop of plums, a handfull of cherries, and only a bucket of apples that weren't scabby. The only fruit that produced well last year was the blueberries. I'm anxious to have a good fruit year.