Patio peaches can be a durable landscape addition

Hot humid summers can really take their toll on landscape shrubbery. Improper pruning is hard on them too, and many people either don’t prune enough or prune too much or at the wrong time. Some shrubbery is difficult to contain in smaller spaces. Fruit trees create even more maintenance nightmares.
I have two dwarf ornamental peach trees that are thriving in the summer heat. Their canopy is so lush and dense they must be inspected closely to notice they are loaded with fruit. Unlike my other fruit trees, they show virtually no signs of disease and they require little pruning.
My plants are seedlings, but the cultivar they most closely resemble is Bonfire. Foliage is deep purple. Fruit quality is not very good if you like fresh peaches, but they make great peach butter and peach bread. They also make pretty good pies. You’ll have to wait a little longer than most peach varieties. These little guys don’t soften up until September.
These peaches have strong peachy taste and a rich reddish color when cooked. Flesh is rather mealy, almost the consistency of mashed potatoes. Other culinary negatives are that they are small and not freestone.
Their greatest value is not for their fruit, though wildlife might disagree. Dwarf patio peaches provide contrasting color and texture to a landscape. Long slender dark red to purple leaves on compact plants is eye-catching. Plants also have a slightly weeping growth habit.
Autumn foliage is orange and the dark speckled bark is attractive in winter. In spring, deep pink double flowers can be spectacular, and plants are self-fruitful.
These miniature trees rarely grow taller than six feet and they thrive in containers or in the ground provided soils are well drained. Planting them in containers will make them grow a little smaller. They’re also a good choice for container use because they have no thorns.
Regardless of the garden type they should be planted in areas with adequate sun, although they do tolerate substantial shade. High heat and humidity are usually not a problem. Bonfire peaches also tolerate drought well.
Most pruning should be performed when plants are dormant. Remember that peaches fruit on the previous season’s wood, so don’t remove more than half of that. Plants will be healthier if some branches are thinned. This promotes vigorous growth for the remaining ones.
Also, since fruit set can be heavy it is important to notice the angle of the branches in relation to the trunk. Wide angled branches are stronger. This is an important consideration for any tree that produces appreciable fruit.
Other varieties of patio peaches exist and many have better fresh eating qualities than the Bonfire type. Bonfire has by far the prettiest foliage in my opinion. Bonfire also is smaller and easier to train into a desirable shape.
Prioritize what’s important to you. If you want fresh fruit and aren’t as concerned about shape and foliage then Reliance, Bonanza II, Southern Flame, Southern Rose, and Garden Gold have great fresh eating qualities.

Ornamental peach seedling thriving in a very dry location

Ornamental peach seedling thriving in a very dry location

Heavy fruit set is barely visible under dense canopy

Heavy fruit set is barely visible under dense canopy

Ted Manzer teaches agriculture at Northeastern High School.

About tedmanzer

I grew up in Old Town Maine and got a B.S. at the University of Maine in Plant Sciences/ minor in Botany. From there I moved to West Virginia and earned a M.S. in Agronomy at WVU. I also met my wife there. She grew up in rural WV as the daughter of tenant farmers who raised cattle and hogs. Their lifestyle at times was one of subsistence and I learned a lot from them. I've always been a foraging buff, but combining my formal botanical knowledge with their practical 'Foxfire-type' background opened up my eyes a little more. I recently retired from teaching high school agriculture after 25 years teaching with my wife. Until recently I wrote a weekly nature/foraging column for the local paper ( I also have written several Christian nature/adventure novels that can be purchased on Amazon in Kindle format. One is a five book family saga I call the 'Forgotten Virtues' series. In the first book, Never Alone (presently out of print), a young boy comes of age after his father dies in a plane crash, and he has to make it alone. The second book, Strange Courage, takes Carl from his High School graduation to his recovery from a nasty divorce. The third book, Second Chances, takes Carl from his ex-wife's death and the custody of his son to his heroic death at age 59. The fourth book, Promises Kept, depicts how his grandchildren react and adjust to his death (this one is not yet published). In the final book, Grandfather's Way, his youngest and most timid granddaughter emerges from the shadow of her overachieving family and accomplishes more in four months than most do in a lifetime. I use many foraging references with a lot of the plants I profile in these articles in those books. I also wrote a romance novel titled Virginia. It is available on Amazon and is a different type of romance from a man's perspective.
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