Fruits were part of Christmas celebrations from earliest times. Apples and oranges were slipped into Christmas stockings, for example. They remain popular additions to the Christmas fruit bowl because they look festive and colorful. A host of different fruits are among the ingredients in the aptly named Christmas fruitcake. For the gardeners among us, a fruit tree would make a very welcome Christmas gift.
Bright red apples make a festive addition to a Christmas table, whether fresh or cooked. Apple trees originated in the Tien Shan mountains in Kazakhstan where settlers discovered them around 8000 B.C. Thanks to the Romans, the apple arrived in Europe and Britain around 100 B.C. In the year 2000, University of California researchers identified new antioxidants in apples, a justification of their place of honor through the preceding centuries. Home grown varieties of apple trees (Malus domestica) are fairly easy to cultivate. They prefer well-drained soil, and full sun, particularly morning sun to dry the dew and reduce the chances of diseases. Seek advice on which variety of tree to plant that suits your area. In general, a healthy, small tree with a good root system is the best buy. Many of the 6,000 or so varieties of apple trees are available in strains, which are specialized forms cultivated for a specific characteristic. Strains come in spur-type and nonspur-type categories. "Spur-type" refers to the fruit spurs and leaf buds being closer together so that these trees occupy less space, and are better suited to home gardens.
Thanks to the Christmas carol, “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” the pear tree and the partridge are both at the heart of Christmas festivities. There are more than 20 species of pear trees worldwide. The most important species commercially, the European pear tree (Pyrus communis) exhibits prominent, yellow pears with juicy, white fruit flesh. It usually grows to heights between 12 and 20 feet, with a similar spread. Pear trees do best in a bright, full-sun location, with regular watering. The Bartlett pear is the world’s most common pear cultivar, according to the University of Georgia’s Horticulture website. It is likely that pears came to America with the early settlers, and gradually traveled westwards with the pioneers, becoming a major industry in the Pacific Northwest through the years.
Cherries are among the assorted fruits used in baking the traditional Christmas fruitcake. Cherry trees originated in Asia. They thrive in well-drained soil, preferring full sun and exhibit white flowers in the spring. The famous bing cherry tree (Prunus avium) produces very large and sweet cherries. If you have room in your garden for just one cherry tree, consider the sweetheart variety which is self-pollinating and among the last of the season’s cherry producers.