Pears FAQs

Our new garden is very exposed on the north-east side, but in our fruit-planting scheme we would like to include pears. We are in the process of growing a shelterbelt of trees to the north-east, so would it be wiser to wait until the cold winds are blocked out before planting the pear trees?

Pears easily suffer from wind damage: the bruised foliage turns black, and this loss of leaf area affects tree growth and fruit production. Delay your planting until the wind problem is solved, when the calmer and warmer conditions will increase your chances of success.

We have a couple of very old pear trees whose varieties are unknown but whose flavour is very good. A friend of ours would like to grow the same pears in her garden, so last winter we dug out some rooted shoots from around the trees. We have now grown them on in pots, but the foliage looks different. What has happened?

The shoots you have dug up are suckers thrown up from the rootstock, which may well be a seedling pear rootstock of no fruiting merit. Only by budding or grafting scions from the upper part of your tree onto a rootstock could you help your friend.

Could you suggest two varieties of pears, not too difficult to grow, that would be suitable for planting in our small Surrey garden? ‘Conference’ is an obvious choice; it is a reliable cropper, and when fully ripe in October and November the fruit is juicy and sweet. It also makes a good pollinator for my second choice, ‘Louise Bonne de Jersey’, another good cropper. Its medium-sized pears ripen in October, are an attractive yellowish-green flushed with red, and are deliciously flavoured. These two pears make an ideal combination for a small southern garden. ‘Doyenne du Cornice is our favourite pear, but we are told that it is one of the most difficult to grow. What would be our chances of success here in Cheshire?

In your district it would need some protection to provide extra warmth during the growing season. Trained as an espalier (that is, with pairs of opposite horizontal branches) on a south- or west-facing wall or fence, it might thrive, provided it had the company of two good pollinators flowering at the same time; ‘Beurre Hardy’ and ‘Glou Morceau’ would be suitable for this.

We have several pear trees, including a ‘William’s Bon Chretien’ which seldom fails to crop, but we have been very disappointed with the quality of its ripe fruit. ‘William’s Bon Chretien’ pears must be picked before they are ripe, otherwise the flesh goes gritty and rather dry. Next time, when they are mature and full-sized but still green (about September), pick them carefully and store them in a closed container such as a cardboard shoe box. Inspect them daily, so that you can enjoy them at their peak of ripeness; thereafter, they deteriorate rapidly.