Early Spring in the High Desert: Fruit Trees

Here in Albuquerque, the first things to bloom in my yard in the spring are bulbs and the dwarf peach, Bonanza. I have grown this peach tree in a 3/4 whiskey barrel since the late 1980’s. No matter how cold or how warm the winter, it has never failed to bloom. This year, after the very heavy snows but relatively mild winter temperatures, the blooms were spectacular.

‘Bonanza’ bloom

‘Bonanza’ blooms

Two weeks later, as the blooms fade, the little tree is well leafed out:

‘Bonanza’ beginning to leaf out

Even more exciting (to me, at least) are the tiny developing peaches that can just be seen:

Developing Peach

Based on the number of blooms, you might think I could expect a large crop of peaches later this year. Well, maybe. . . Over the years I’ve learned that the number of peaches has relatively little to do with the blossoms, which are almost always plentiful, but more to do with any late cold snaps. The last two years Albuquerque had cold spells after the peaches were much more developed than this, but relatively few survived. In fact, last year I had fewer than 10 peaches.

Some people might point out that I could have saved some of the peaches by stringing Christmas lights through the tree on the cold nights, and that is probably true. But my current attitude toward gardening in the high desert is, I’m willing to feed, water, and provide reasonable care, but the plant itself is going to have to deal with temperature extremes. Of course, I’m still hoping for a good peach crop this year!

Pears do extremely well in Albuquerque if provided just a little food and water. My pears bloom two weeks later than the peach, and thus almost never have the crop destroyed by a late cold spell. They aren’t bad looking either.


Pears need a second pear, a pollinating pear, to produce fruit. My pollinator produces small hard pears not fit for human consumption, but the birds love them, another benefit to the garden.

Although I do not grow them, apples, crabapples, and apricots also do well here, providing beautiful blooms early in the spring, and fruit later in the summer. Along with the bulbs, they are the ealy harbingers of spring in the high desert.