Orient Pear TreePyrus communis x pyrifolia ‘Orient’
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Pyrus communis x pyrifolia ‘Orient’
Outdoor Growing zone
The Orient Pear Tree is a large, round pear with the flesh and flavor of a European pear combined with the disease resistance of the Chinese sand pear. This heirloom variety has fruits that ripen over several weeks beginning in the middle of August, so none of the harvest will be wasted. The fruit has smooth flesh with a mild, sweet flavor and abundant juice. It is perfect for eating fresh, slicing in salads, or canning.
The Orient Pear Tree should be planted in full sun, in rich, well-drained soil. It has excellent resistance to the fatal disease fire blight, and needs less than 400 chilling hours, so it’s a great choice for hotter zones. Prune in summer, shortening back longer side shoots. Thin out extra fruit if there are many, leaving just one or two in each cluster.
If you have fruit trees in your garden, or neighbors with them, you will know all about gluts of produce. One of the problems with success is it can be too much. Especially if you have a small family you may be hesitating from growing a pear tree, because you are afraid much of the fruit will go to waste, because of the usual short harvest season. If this is you, then we have the answer – the Orient Pear Tree. Despite its name, this is not a crunchy Asian pear. No, it is an American variety of ‘real’ pear, packed with real pear flavor and texture. The huge fruits can weigh in at a pound a piece, but the beauty is they ripen over several weeks, so you won’t be facing a glut, and end up wasting your valuable home-grown produce. You will have plenty of time to relish the delicious flavors of this beautiful pear, with its buttery flesh, smooth flavors, sweetness and abundant juice. Eat it fresh, juice it, slice it into salads, can it or bake it. However you use it, you will use it all, with weeks of harvesting to look forward too. It is also very resistant to fire blight, so no worries on the disease front either.
The Orient Pear Tree Is a small deciduous tree growing between 10 and 20 feet tall, depending on how it is pruned, with a spread of up to 15 feet. This tree flowers on bare branches in early spring, in March or April, and the attractive white blooms are small but appealing, with touches of pink on the back of the petals. This tree needs a second tree of a different variety to develop a worthwhile crop of pears. We recommend the Moonglow Pear Tree for this, or in hot zones the Ayers Pear Tree. Each tree will pollinate the other, giving bumper crops. The leaves sprout as the flowering is coming to an end, hiding for a time the small, green fruits than are by then beginning to develop.
The fruit is large, over 3 inches in diameter, and round like an irregular apple. The skin is mottled green, turning yellow as it begins to ripen. The first pears ripen around the middle of August, and because they don’t all ripen at the same time you can pick over several weeks. As well, fruit picked before it is fully ripe (when the skin first begins to yellow) will ripen in a warm place within a week, and it can be stored in the fridge, where it will ripen over the next month. When ripe the flesh is creamy-white and very juicy, with a mild, sweet flavor. The flesh is almost completely free of grit cells, giving it a soft, buttery flavor. This pear is excellent for eating fresh or in salads, and for bottling or canning.
You can grow this handsome tree right on your lawn – it is lovely in bloom and also when it is covered in the attractive fruits. A row of pear trees of several varieties is an attractive feature along a fence, or edging your vegetable garden. In cooler zones especially it grows well spread out on a sunny wall as an espalier.
The Orient Pear Tree needs no more than 400 chilling hours a year, with temperatures below 45 degrees, so it will grow well in zone 8, and even in cooler parts of zone 9. It also grows in cooler areas down to zone 5, in sheltered spots or as an espalier.
Always plant the Orient Pear Tree in full sun for the best growth and good crops. It enjoys rich but well-drained soils, so add plenty of organic amendments when you are planting.
The Orient Pear Tree was selected for its resistance to fire blight, a very important consideration when planting a tree in most areas. Other pests or diseases don’t have such significance, and are usually not serious problems. Prune during dry periods in summer, not in winter or spring. Keep your tree with an open form, removing crowded branches. Shorten new side stems that are longer than 12 inches back to 6 inches long, to encourage flowering. Shorten stems don’t need pruning, but you can remove their tips. If you have a large number of young fruits it is a good idea to remove some, leaving just one or two in each cluster. This will give you top-quality, large fruits.
The European pear tree, Pyrus communis, has been grown for thousands of years, but in America its future was threatened when fire blight became a lethal disease last century. Dr. Walter Van Fleet was always keen on nature, but he became a medical doctor. He kept up his interest, though, by breeding roses and other plants, mostly between 1880 and 1926. At some point he crossed together a European pear with a pear from China that might have been a garden variety there. Unfortunately he didn’t keep good records, but the Chinese parent was probably a form of Pyrus pyrifolia, the sand pear. The Tennessee Agricultural Experimental Station in Knoxville received some plants of this cross around 1920, with permission to name and release it. In 1945 Dr. Brooks D. Drain, at the Experimental Station, wrote a book about this pear, naming it ‘Orient’. Crosses between the European pear and the sand pear almost always show good resistance to fire blight, already a problem at that time, and this new pear showed it too, so Dr. Drain encouraged its planting. Since then it has remained a valuable heirloom variety.
Disease resistance is especially important when choosing a pear tree, and in warmer southern areas you can get that without sacrificing quality, by growing the Orient Pear Tree. These heirloom varieties are always in short supply, but why grow a pear you can buy at the store? Order your trees now – don’t forget to order a suitable pollinator as well – because that limited supply will soon be gone.