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The Canadian White Blenheim Apricot Tree

Canadian White Blenheim apricots are consistently rated the best-tasting apricot in the world. In North America, where they are a specialty fruit, and in China, where they are known as the Dabaixing apricot, discerning consumers buy up the summer crop fast.

Canadian White Blenheim Apricot Tree

There is no sweeter apricot. The Canadian White Blenheim Apricot tree’s sweetness, its uniquely white flesh, its firm texture, and its edible sweet pit  make it irresistible.

History of the Canadian White Blenheim Apricot Tree

Blenheim apricots got their name from the Blenheim Palace,the ancestral estate of the Churchill family in England, famous for its apricot production. Blenheim apricots became the standard for apricot production in Europe, and they were an important addition to California orchards about 100 years ago.

Canadian White Blenheim apricots were bred for production in the Okanagan Valley in southern British Columbia. The Okanagan Valley is Canada’s only semi-desert, and one of a few locations in Canada where summers are reliably warm enough for apricot production.

Plant breeders in the Okanagan Valley needed an apricot that wouldn’t bloom too soon in the spring — Canadian White Blenheim apricots require 700 chilling hours — but that would produce large quantities of especially sweet fruit in the fall.

Probably by crossing the Blenheim apricot from England with the Dabaixing apricot of Xingxiang in western China, they created one of the most in-demand, and hard-to-grow apricots in North America.

The Canadian White Blenheim apricot and white apricots in general are a subject of intense scientific interest because of their resistance to plum pox virus. They are a source of the genetic material that may give not just apricots but also the other stone fruits, such as peaches, plums, nectarines, and cherries resistant to this devastating disease.

Canadian White Blenheim Tree and Fruit Characteristics

Canadian White Blenheim apricots, like the Blenheim apricots for which they are named, don’t just produce incredibly sweet, white fruit and tasty seed kernels. They also beautify the landscape with their fragrant pink blossoms in early spring. Like Blenheims, their habit is round and compact. They retain their decorative shape as they mature.

Canadian White Blenheim apricots are usually ranked in taste tests as the sweetest apricot. They are very juicy but they have firm, white flesh. They have complex aroma and taste when they are eaten out of hand or when they are dried, frozen, or preserved. But not many Canadian White Blenheim apricots last long enough to be eaten later.

Planting Zones

The reference books say that Canadian White Blenheim apricots grow best in USDA Hardiness Zones 5 through 9, but many home growers disagree. Canadian White Blenheim apricots need 700 chilling hours.

Many southerly locations in the United States in USDA Hardiness Zones 8 and 9 never get that many chilling hours, so Canadian White Blenheim apricots will bear fruit only occasionally. Even in the colder USDA Hardiness Zones, Canadian White Blenheim apricots are a late-season apricot, blooming later in the spring and ripening later in the summer.. 

Size and Spacing

Canadian White Blenheim apricots need to be planted  at least 15 to 20 feet (5 to 7 meters) from other trees and permanent structures. In about 10 years, they will reach their final height of  15 to 20 feet tand have a span of 15 to 20 feet

Tree Care 

In the Okanagan Valley and around Osoyoos, Washington where Canadian Blenheim White apricots are most common, these trees are usually grow on berms of raised, rock-free soil

Berms providerainage. They are usually about 6 inches (15 cm) high, with furrows on either side. The berm should be as wide as the mature  tree. That’s about 15 feet (5 meters).

Blenheim apricot trees are usually planted in late winter, which may be February in the warmest areas they can be grown and as late as April in their northern range. Commercial growers of Canadian White Blenheim apricots  will paint the trunks of young trees white to prevent sunburn. 

Sunlight

Canadian White Blenheim apricots need to be grown in full sunlight.

Fertilizing

The first year after you plant a Canadian White Blenheim apricot tree, you should fertilize it by hand. Most soils benefit from annual application of 12 pounds of 21-0-0 ammonium nitrate per acre. 

For the 5 feet (1.5 meters) around your young Canadian White Blenheim apricot tree, that’s just an ounce (30 grams). Add Compost for more nutrients. Spray leaves with seaweed emulsion, diluted accorded to label instructions, to provide your Canadian White Blenheim apricot tree with micronutrients. 

Pruning

When you are getting a Canaian White Blenheim apricot tree ready for planting, it’s important to prune  any branches with a small “crotch,” a narrow  angle to the trunk. Remove any broken limbs, too.

New Canadian White Blenheim apricots do best with severe pruning:

  • Branches within 20 inches (45 cm) of the ground need to be pruned.
  • Any branch that looks like it would be growing up rather than out should be removed.
  • Only after planting, the  central trunk of the tree needs to be shortened to about 36 inches (90 cm).

The year after planting, remove any branches that are growing at odd angles. The second year after planting, and only the first year after planting, prune the last year’s branches (not the trunk!) to no more than 36 inches (90 cm, out from the trunk). Never top the trunk once the tree has been planted. Cutting back the trunk will usually kill the tree once it has become established.

For the third year and afterward, maintain branches at least 7 inches (18 cm) apart so leaves can get sunlight and the fruit are easy to pick. Remove any branches growing upward instead of outward. 

You can read more about pruning apricot trees here.

Harvesting

Wait until there is no trace of green on the fruit. Yellow-orange skin with a red blush is a sign of ripeness.

Pests and Diseases

Canadian White Blenheim apricots don’t do well in hot humid weather.Extremely hot weather can cause “pit rot,” brown fruit around the pit. 

Canadian White Blenheim apricot trees tend to get fungal diseases when they are blooming. They also get powdery mildew. To prevent spread of disease, do all of your pruning in late winter., or sterilize pruning equipment after each tree.

Check out this post for more on Apricot Tree Diseases.

Irrigation

Keep the soil moist around your trees as far out as the limbs extend. Do not water so much that water stands around the tree.

General Rules for Taking Care of Blenheim Apricots at Home

Home fruit growers get the best results with Canadian White Blenheim apricots when they

  • Pull any weeds growing under the tree. Fallen leaves can be left  to compost over the winter, but it’s important to remove fallen branches and  rocks that come up with frost. 
  • Apply1 to 2 inches (2 to 5 cm) of mulch under your apricot tree in early spring. Keep mulch 6 inches (15 cm) away from your tree’s trunk.
  • Dry-summer apricots produce fruit with more antioxidants and vitamins, but too much water stress can result in dead leaves and fallen fruit. When afternoon temperatures go over 90 degrees Fahrenheit (28 degrees Celsius) for five consecutive days in the summer, irrigate your Canadian White Blenheim apricot tree with at least 1 inch (25 mm) of irrigation water per week. Flooding the area with a garden hose is adequate.
  • Make sure the soil under your Canadian White Blenheim apricot tree is moist but not soggy when blossoms appear. Avoid splashing blossoms with irrigation water. .

Common Uses For Canadian White Blenheim Apricots

The most common way to enjoy a Canadian White Blenheim apricot is to eat it raw. Just chomp into the white flesh of the fruit, peeling it first if you like, and enjoy!

Canadian White Blenheim apricots can be turned into an interesting apricot-flavored applesauce. They can be sliced as a topping for breakfast cereals. Or you can cook them in strudels, coffee cakes, jelly donuts, and salads with nuts and wild rice. Canadian White Blenheim apricots can flavor chutneys, moles, salsas, and salad dressing.

Health Benefits of Canadian White Blenheim Apricots

White apricots, probably from a relative of the Canadian White Blenheim apricot tree, are important in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Herbal formulas use the ground kernels, not the fruit. Known as Xing Ren, white apricot kernels relieve coughing due to infections and allergies.

They are also included in formulas for treating chronic constipation. There is a Chinese patent medicine made with white apricot kernels for coughs and colds called Xing Su San.

Where Do You Buy Blenheim Apricot Trees?

Over a dozen nurseries in the United States sell Canadian White Blenheim apricot trees. (We have not been able to find a source of Canadian White Blenheim apricot trees in Canada, but you could always graft branches from Canadian White Blenheim apricots from a kindly grower onto another variety of apricot tree. Visit Nature Hills Nursery for more information.

Where To Buy Blenheim Apricots

Look for Canadian White Blenheim apricots at farmer’s markets in Osoyoos, Washington and just across the border in Osoyoos, British Columbia  in July and maybe the first few days of August. 

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