Cultivating new fruit trees

Credit: skyseeker / Flickr


Q: I have a peach tree that grew from a seed in my compost. It is growing out without any overhead protection, but it does not get peach-leaf curl. At 12 years old now it is a big tree and had a crop of three boxes of big delicious freestone peaches (organic). The origin was probably an Okanagan peachstone but would be a new variety now.

Here on the coast, most peaches are seriously inhibited by peach-leaf curl and produce poorly because of having to make a whole crop of replacement leaves. I would like my tree to be available to other coast gardeners. I need to know how it can be propagated and if it could be registered as a new variety. If it can be propagated and registered I would like to call it Fernwood Freestone, as my home is in Fernwood, Salt Spring Island. The new tree’s fruit ripens in late August. I would appreciate any advice on how to make this fruit tree available to coast gardeners.

How lucky for you to have a peach seedling germinate in your garden and grow into a mature, productive tree that seems well adapted to our rainy climate. Peach-leaf curl is certainly a problem here, and since your tree is 12 years old, it would probably have contracted the disease by now.

The tradition of cultivating new fruit trees from seedlings is an old one. Europeans who came to Canada generations ago brought apples with them, and then planted the seeds (“pips”). They selected and shared the best cultivars with their neighbours and took them when they moved across the country. Apple
names such as ‘Cox’s Orange Pippin’ (an English cultivar) recognize this type of origin.

Since your peach was a seedling in your garden, it cannot be an existing peach cultivar, which means that you can name it. Cultivar names often reflect the best qualities of the fruit or the person who originated the cultivar. Alternatively, the name might suggest the tree’s geographical origin. This way, years from now, gardeners will know where it came from.

You might begin by getting the tree propagated and then test it in a variety of locations. Peaches are usually bud-grafted onto a particular rootstock, often to control size. Or you might want to grow it “on its own roots,” as they say. In this case, making cuttings would be the way to go. Orchardist Derry Walsh ( may be able to help with propagation.

It might be fun to offer a plant to the University of British Columbia Botanical Garden to test in their food garden. The Curator of Collections there is Douglas Justice (
GardenWise contributor Hugh Daubeny ( bred raspberries and strawberries for markets around the world. He would probably have some ideas about getting your peach to a wider audience. The other interesting option might be to contact the British Columbia Ministry of Agriculture and Food, as they have a variety of fruit-tree programs.