Wednesday, 5 May 2010
A Visit to Grimo Nut Nursery
Last Tuesday we drove down to Niagara-On-The-Lake, to pick up some nut trees we had ordered from Grimo Nut Nursery. Grimo is pretty much the only nut nursery in Ontario. They have been around since the 1970's. They also sell the nuts they grow; again I don't know of any other significant source in Ontario.
Our trees were waiting for us in a dark, damp barn that smelled richly of earth. The trees are dug and kept cool and dark for a brief period of time in the spring until they are shipped or picked up - April is the month to plant your nut trees.
Young trees in their bins wait to be sorted and picked up.
The area around the house is a bit of an arboretum, with labelled specimens of many of the trees they sell. This one is a paw-paw; admittedly not a nut tree. (The Grimo family does grow a few fruit trees - we bought 2 quinces and a mulberry as well.) However, they are a fascinating fruit tree of the Carolinian forest, with fruit that has been compared to bananas and mangos. They are also the only member of their family that grows north of the tropics. (We got two, although ours look more like sticks at the moment.) You can see the bell-shaped flower buds just opening up in the tree above.
This is an American chestnut hybrid, which is dying of chestnut blight. The Grimos are working on developing and selling American chestnut trees with blight resistance. They are philosophical about the presence of blight in their orchards, since it lets them know if their trees are truly resistant, as opposed to just lucky. We ordered our trees a couple of months ago, but we were still too late to order any grafted American chestnuts. A lot of people are interested in them, as they are reputed to be a very tasty nut, and were once one of the most important forest trees in North America before almost all of them died of blight in the first half of the 20th century. We'll have to try again next year.
The farm is a long, narrow piece of land between two fields of grapes. The first half or so is dedicated to growing small trees to be sold.
We walked back to the orchard, where the fully-grown trees were just beginning to bud. It was a rather stark but beautiful spot, with the regularly spaced trees branching up into a blue, blue sky. Not as spectacular as the peach orchards in full bloom we had passed on the way, but it filled me with a peaceful feeling, like being in Meeting.
It was strange to see how the grafted trees had grown. They all had a two-tone look, but in some the graft had stayed low to the ground, and in others it had risen to above head height.
A view back through the orchard towards the house and barns.
Spring is a busy time in an orchard; in addition to all the orders which must be gotten ready to go out, there's pruning and grafting to be done.
Branches of trees selected for nut quality are cut and grafted onto rooted branches of trees selected for hardiness. They are kept in plastic tubes to keep them growing straight.
Some of the grafted "trees" with the plastic tubes in the background.
A tree in the "arboretum" explains a bit about the difference between grafted and seedling trees.
Before we left we stopped into the garage of the house which doubles as a shop to sell their nuts. Yes, of course we bought some! The prices were really quite reasonable, I thought. They can also be ordered by mail.