Two years ago, I ordered an Orenco apple tree. The nursery wasn’t able to fill my order, so I tried again last year. Again, the nursery wasn’t able to fill the order. As a result, I talked with the orchardist who has been custom grafting apple trees for me and he grafted the Orenco for me. In December, the tree was ready to come to Illahe. It has been planted and I’ve been waiting for it to break dormancy. Today, it started showing signs that it is breaking dormancy (the buds are swelling and there is a tiny bit of green on the tip of one bud). In addition, the plants that I’d ordered a few months ago have arrived. So what are they and why?

The biggest addition is three crabapple trees. We have planted 10 Gravenstein apple trees at the lodge over the last five years. Gravensteins are our favorite apple, but they have one minor downside. Gravensteins produce sterile pollen. In order for fruit to form, the flower has to be pollinated with viable pollen. Now that some of the Gravensteins are getting to the point where they may bloom, I wanted to be certain that they’d have a pollen source. Crabapples have a long bloom period so they’ll help pollinate the Gravensteins and the later blooming apple trees.

The crabapples are important, but they aren’t the only addition. One of the firefighters who came to the area to fight the Klondike Fire told me about a pineapple guava. He said it was the best fruit that he’d ever eaten. He said that it would grow in our area so I decided to try it. I don’t know how that will turn out, but it sounded interesting and it isn’t a fruit that our guests are likely to encounter in a lot of other places.

The other fruit that we are experimenting with this year is a black currant. When my great-grandfather was caretaking for A.T. Jergens at Jergen’s Lodge – across the river and downstream from Foster Bar, they grew a lot of currants (and a lot of apples). Over time, I anticipate expanding from one plant to several – if I find that I use them.