Keepers NurseryThe UK's largest range of Fruit Trees
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A guide to choosing Pear trees
Here are the most important things that you need to take into consideration when choosing pear trees:
Variety. As pear trees are relatively demanding and do best in warm growing conditions, choosing varieties suited for your part of the country, particularly if you live in cooler regions, is more critical than in the case of apples. The local microclimate is also important. Warm sheltered local conditions help while local susceptibility for spring frosts hinder growing pears because they flower early. Choosing a variety that suits your personal preference and taste is of course crucial. A few eating pears have some acidity but nearly all eating pears are sweet. The differences in flavour are more subtle and harder to define. However one easily defined difference with which many people distinguish between pear the like or dislike is the texture of the flesh. Some pears have a harder more crunchy texture while others are much softer. Here are some examples of varieties we suggest you look at on the basis of such preferences:
You prefer firm crisp pears like Conference. We suggest you look at Bonne de Beugny, Conference, Concorde, Durondeau, Louise Bonne of Jersey .
You prefer soft pears like Williams. We suggest you look at Beth, Beurre Hardy, Doyenne du Comice, Onward, Sensation, Williams Bon Chretien.
Rootstock. Pear trees are grafted on rootstocks and the choice of rootstock is important because it determines the ultimate size to which your tree will grow. It is important to choose a rootstock suitable for the space you have and the way you wish to grow the tree. The range in the case of pears is very wide. At one end of the range trees on dwarfing rootstocks grow no more than 10ft/3m, while at the other extreme grafted on very vigorous rootstocks they can grow into 30ft/10m tall old fashioned pear trees. See how much space you have, imagine how you want the mature tree to look like and decide on your choice of rootstock. The soil is also a very important issue in the choice particularly as pear trees are generally less tolerant of poor soil conditions and some rootstocks will not tolerate chalky soils. Here are some guidelines for various common situations:
Small garden or allotment. Dwarfing Quince C rootstock.
Small tree for medium sized garden. Dwarfing Quince C rootstock or semi-dwarfing Quince A for poorer soils.
Medium size tree in a lawn or other grassed area. Semi-dwarfing Quince A rootstock or semi-vigorous Pyrodwarf rootstock particularly on poor or chalky soils.
Large old fashioned tree. Very vigorous Pyrus (seedling pear) rootstock.
Pots and planters. Both dwarfing Quince C and semi-dwarfing Quince A rootstocks can be used. Restriction of the roots by the pot will keep the tree small. It is also best to start with one year maiden trees.
Special restricted forms. Quince A or Pyrodwarf for fans and espaliers, Quince A or Quince C for cordons and Quince C for step-overs.
Chalky or alkali soils. Semi-vigorous Pyrodwarf or vigorous Pyrus rootstocks. Quince rootstocks will not tolerate alkali conditions
Tree Forms. Pear trees need to be pruned and trained to become attractive and productive trees. Pruning and training need not be complicated or elaborate. You can produce a very good tree with very simple training. Pear trees are very flexible in the range of forms they can be trained in but certain classic forms have become established over time. You need to consider what you wish your tree to look like as a mature tree and buy a tree suitable for that form. We supply untrained one year old trees known as maidens which can be trained into any form. We also supply two year old trees which we have already started training towards a particular form. If you want to order a two year old tree ensure that it is in a form that suits your purpose. You would normally not be able to re-train a two year old tree into another form. Here are some guidelines about the various tree forms:
Dwarf pyramid trees. Christmas-tree-shaped trees suitable for small gardens, allotments or other restricted spaces. We do not supply two year dwarf pyramid trees and you would need to buy maiden trees on dwarfing or semi-dwarfing rootstocks to train in this form. These trees are best grown with a permanent stake.
Bush trained trees. Open centre goblet shaped trees with relatively short clear trunks of 3ft/1m normally on dwarfing or semi-dwarfing rootstocks suitable for small gardens.
Half standard trees. Open centre goblet shaped trees with medium length clear trunks of 4ft/1.3m in height normally on semi-dwarfing or semi-vigorous rootstocks suitable for medium sized, large gardens or paddocks.
Standard trees. Open centre goblet shaped trees with a tall clear trunk of 6ft/1.8m on vigorous rootstocks suitable for large gardens and paddocks. We do not normally supply standard trained pear trees but our one year maidens on Pyrus rootstocks would be suitable for training.
Restricted forms. These are intended for growing against walls and fences. They are both a way of growing fruit in a restricted area and an attractive decorative feature. They include espalier, fan, step-over and cordon trained trees.
Cropping season. The ripening season of different varieties of pears has a wide spread from mid August to late October. Unlike apples which ripen slowly over a prolonged period, pears ripen very rapidly once the process starts. They can go from being very hard to over-ripe and mushy within a matter of days. For this reason they are usually picked from the tree before they are ripe and allowed to ripen indoors. The ripening process can be delayed, particularly in the case of mid and late season varieties, by refrigeration but once it starts it cannot be stopped. It is therefore particularly important to take the cropping season into consideration if you are planning to grow more than one pear tree so that all the pears do not ripen at the same time.
Blossom. All pear trees have pretty blossom which opens in April. The blossom is pure white but many varieties have colourful yellow, orange, red and even maroon pollen which gives them added colour.
Pollination. We have deliberately left this to last as it is an issue that you only need to check after you have chosen your varieties. Although there are some partially self-fertile varieties, pear trees should be generally regarded as self-sterile, which means that they need pollen from a different variety of pear to fertilise their flowers and produce fruit. Furthermore, compared to apple trees, because pear trees are less common and there are no ornamental equivalent of crab apple trees the chances of having suitable pollinators in neighbouring gardens is less likely. For these reasons it is important to ensure that you have a combination of varieties that will cross pollinate. You can use the show suitable pollination partners facility on the variety pages to check that your chosen varieties cross pollinate and make changes if necessary.