It’s rewarding and empowering to get involved at the community level. There’s so much going on in Altadena, Pasadena, and Los Angeles that I have to be selective. I tend to prefer the “hyperlocal” projects in my hometown, Altadena.
I enjoy participating in the municipal decision process (it makes a difference, and it’s kinda fun), hanging out with my friends in Transition Pasadena and exchanging homegrown food with my neighbors (RIPE Altadena). Even something as simple as growing food in my front yard is a community-level action. Here are results from the Great Fruit Project, a survey of amateur Altadena-area fruit growers.
I also enjoy speaking in my community about be-cycling and about the science of global warming (what we know, what we don’t know). These are two distinctly different talks—but also connected.
There are many ways to get involved in your community and to share your unique gifts. I think we humans evolved to do this. Sharing my gifts helps me to feel fully actualized.
The Great Altadena Fruit Project
2=some reservation or other (please check raw e-mails)
3=don’t waste your time or water
Apple Anna 1-Joan 1-Marsha
Apple Ashamed Kernel 1-Marsha
Apple Beverly Hills 2-Debbie 2-Lin
Apple Bramley 1-Marsha
Apple Egremont Russet 1-Marsha
Apple Fuji 2-Lydia 1-Lynne 1-Marsha
Apple Gala 1-Sacha
Apple Gordon 2-Debbie 1-Marsha
Apple Pink Lady 2-Debra 1-Marsha
Apple St. Edmonds Pippin 1-Marsha
Apple Wickson Crabapple 1-Marsha
Apricot Golden Kist 3-Peter 3-Lin
Apricot Blenheim 1-Sacha
Apricot Royal 1-Sacha
Apricot unknown 3-Lydia
Asian Pear 20th Century 1-Debbie
Asian Pear unknown 1-Marsha
Avocado Fuerte 1-Peter 2-Lydia
Avocado Lamb Haas 1-Cara
Avocado Little Cado dwarf 3-Sacha
Avocado Kona Sharwil 1-Cara
Banana Dwarf Namwah 2-Lin
Banana dwarf Red-green 3-Lin
Banana Goldfinger 2-Sacha
Banana all varieties 3-Marsha
Blackberry Thornless Arapaho 1-Debbie
Blackberry Thornless German 1-Marsha
Blueberry Misty 3-Lin
Blueberry Sharpblue 2-Lin
Blueberry Sunshine Blue 1-Lin
Caper bush 1-Marsha
Cherry Balaton 3-Sacha
Cherry Minnie Royal 3-Peter 3-Lin
Cherry Montmorency 3-Sacha
Cherry Royal Lee 3-Peter 3-Lin
Currants black red and white 3-Sacha
Feijoa 2-Peter 1-Lydia 1-Lynne 1-Marsha
Fig Black Mission 1-Trish 1-Lynne 1-Sacha 1-Lin 2-Marsha
Fig Black Jack 1-Lin 1-Marsha
Fig Calmyra 1-Sacha
Fig Celeste 1-Marsha
Fig Kadota 1-Debbie
Fig large brown 1-Debbie
Fig Panche a.k.a. tiger 2-Marsha
Fig Violette de Bordeaux 1-Marsha
Fig White 1-Debbie
Fig unknown 1-Peter 1-Debra
Gooseberry green 2-Sacha
Grapefruit Oro Blanco 2-Peter
Grapefruit unknown yellow 1-Peter/CommGarden
Guava unknown 1-Marsha
Jujubes 1-Peter/Odyssey 1-Marsha
Kumquat Meiwa 1-Peter 1-Christina
Kumquat unknown 1-Lydia 1-Sacha 1-Debra 1-Jill 1-Marsha
Lemon Eureka 1-Bruce 1-Sacha
Lemon Meyer 1-Debbie 1-Sacha 1-Lin
Lemon unknown non-Meyer 1-Lydia 1-Peter 1-Marsha
Lime Bearss 1-Debbie 1-Debra 1-Marsha
Lime Kaffer 1-Debbie 1-Marsha
Lime Key 1-Peter/Beasom
Lime Mexican sweet 2-Peter 1-Bruce
Lime unknown 2-Lydia
Loquat 2-Debbie 3-Debbie 1-Marsha
Mulberry Persian 1-Sacha 2-Lin 1-Marsha
Olive unknown 3-Trish 1-Marsha
Orange Cara Cara 1-Bruce 1-Marsha
Orange Late Lane 1-Marsha
Orange Moro Blood 1-Bruce
Orange Blood unknown 1-Marsha
Orange Navel 2-Lydia 3-Lynne
Orange Washington Navel 1-Bruce 1-Debbie 1-Debra 1-Marsha
Orange Valencia 1-Cara 1-Bruce 1-Sacha 1-Debra 1-Marsha
Orange unknown juice 2-Lydia
Palms, edible — see Marsha’s notes
Peach Babcock White 1
Peach Eva’s Pride 1-Peter 1-Lin
Peach White Doughnut 3-Lydia
Pear Bartlett 3-Marsha
Pear Comice 3-Marsha
Pear Seckel 2-Marsha
Pear Warren 1-Marsha
Pecan unknown 1-Peter
Persimmon Hachiya 1-Lynne
Persimmon Jiro Fuyu 1-Peter
Persimmon Giant Fuyu 2-Lin
Persimmon unknown (not Hachiya) 1-Peter/Beasom
Plum Santa Rosa 2-Sacha 3-Debra
Pomegranate Eversweet 1-Lin
Pomegranate Wonderful 1-Debbie 2-Debra
Pomegranate unknown 1-Sacha
Pomelo 1-Bruce 1-Marsha
Sapote 3-Trish 1-Marsha
Satsuma 1-Lydia 1-Debbie 1-Sacha
Tangerine Dancy 1-Bruce
Tangerine Gold Nugget 2-Sacha
Tangerine Kishu 1-Sacha
Tangerine unknown 1-Marsha
Bearing first yr. of ownership; high water needs
same as above
Gorgeous old tree; heavy bearer
Here is the info on my (very established) fruit trees. The following trees were here when I move in in 1999:
Satsuma Tangerine 1 It has a two year cycle. One year is a bumper crop, the next not as many (but a lot, seven so) My arborist trimmed it some years ago to help out the even out the cycles a bit
Kumquat 1- It is about 18 feet tall ( I have never seen another that large). DId produce much better than now. A live oak, next door, went from a volunteer sapling to a 40 foot tree and is shading it. But it still produces every year and seems to keep some fruit on the tree all year.
Avocado 2 – I have two…I think that they are Fuertes or something similar. The production is moderate. I never have a bumper crop. One of the trees is completely overshadowed by that oak tree. It gets good production over my neighbors fence on the south side. The other tree gets very few avocados, but it only started producing any fruit in the last 5 years or so. I think it is coming into maturity.
Pineapple Guava 1- I don’t eat them, but the tree seems to do well without any attention. It is growing in the shade of my persimmon and house.
Persimmoon 1 – I have Fuyu persimmons…I get incredible crops, usually. Last year was the first year that I got only 3! I had had the tree trimmed, which may have affected it. It also has a two year cycle. But, normally, I get a lot of fruit one year, and an incredible amount the next. This year, it looks like I am getting on the lower side of usual, but it is going to be a decent crop.
Orange 2 – It is a juice orange, maybe a valencia. It is a huge, tall tree. It produces, but given the size, I think it produces the lowest yield that I have seen on any orange tree. I did get the sweetest oranges I ever had, last year.
Lemon 1 – Not sure which it is (not a meyer, though). I get a good crop of lemons. They will stay on the tree for a few months and then in a few months I usually get a second crop.
Navel Orange 2- Produces off and on. It is a small tree, but not a young tree. The oranges never have a great flavor or much sweetness.
I planted a couple of trees in the last 6 to 12 years
Lime 2- Maybe it was an Eureka…It is about 12 years old. It is a dwarf and did quite well until I had to transplant it during a remodel. It lives, but has not thrived.
Apricot 3- It is about 7 years old. It also does not seem to produce very much. The last year or so has been worse..(I wonder if it was the timing of poor weather during flowering)
Apple-Fuji 2-It is about 5 years old..It produces a few apples a year. I keep thinking that it is young. It is a bit too close to my avocado. I am hopeful that it will improve with age.
Peach 3-White doughnut- I planted it about 8 years ago and finally pulled it out this year. It never thrived. I got a few peaches. It was a dwarf but never seem to get taller than about 3 1/2 feet.
Peach Eva’s Pride 1
Pecan unknown 1 very old tree, I never water it, the pecans are small but quite tasty, but not easy to harvest / process
Persimmon Fuyu 1 drought tolerant, low water
Avocado Fuerte 1 high water but worth it
Fig unknown 1
Lemon unknown 1
Lime Mexican Sweet 2. strange-tasting fruit but delicious juice, good producer. got a strange disease I never identified, so I took it out.
Grapefruit Oro Blanco 2. grows great, but not my favorite grapefruit to eat. I like tartness.
Apricot Golden Kist 3
Cherry Royal Lee 3
Cherry Minnie Royal 3
Guava Pineapple 2 Produces lots of fruit, some years delicious, other years the rind is thick and the fruit isn’t appealing
I also know of local trees that aren’t on my property but are wonderful, like a friends’ giant fuyu and keylime, and the grapefruit in the altadena comm. garden.
Thrives: figs, persimmons, pomegranate, citrus (threatened by HLB), avocado (threatened by shot hole borer), loquat, Eva’s Pride peach, pecan
Maybe: apple (Fuji and Pink Lady), Golden Kist apricot (it has all but failed to produce fruit so far for 3 years, despite the tree seeming very happy)
Fails: low-chill cherries (no fruit, leaves tend to turn brown). Don’t waste your time.
Unknown (e.g. too young): pluots, nectaplum (though I have a few friends who have recently lost theirs), Double Delight nectarine, bananas (I’m trying one, but maybe it’s hard to keep up with the food and water need?)
One reason I’ve held back is that the documented record of good candidates for fruit trees in our area is so plentiful.
So I’ll begin by listing our “1”s for the last 24 years. Collectively, the 9 trees in this list (2 are Valencias) produce a “super-premium” annual organic crop of 1,200-1,500 pounds per year. All are commercial cultivars on typical dwarf root stock:
“1”s, in no particular order:
a. Moro Blood Orange
b. Valencia Orange
c. Dancy Tangerine
d. Washington Navel
e. Eureka Lemon
f. Cara Cara Orange
g. Mexican Lime
Since the ways to turn our area’s great “1”s into “2”s and “3”s are far less numerous, I’ll end by inverting your question, so that my reply stays as brief as possible:
The very best ways to produce “2”s and “3”s:
1. Ignore every publisher’s list of recommended fruit trees for our area
2. Remain ignorant of your soil’s water-holding characteristics
3. Steadfastly refuse to learn what a water budget is
4. Refuse to learn what IPM stands for
5. Pay no attention to site selection
6. Never learn the definition of self-pollination
7. Fail to own commercial organic best practices
8. Consider yourself smarter than every commercial grower
9. Ignore all evidence to the contrary
10. Stay ignorant of emerging pest trends and mitigations
11. Fail to inventory your grove for emerging pest problems
12. Refuse to be curious
These fruit trees are at my Valinda home. It is a low lying area with heavy clay soil and we usually get good Winter freezes.
Bears every year; taste bad.
Bears every year; taste bad.
2nd yr, too young to evaluate.
Bears every year; excellent quality fruit.
Good, reliable, easy.
Bears every year; excellent quality fruit. Planted along East facing block wall – never freezes.
Bears well (but not every yr) excellent quality fruit.
Planted along East facing block wall – never freezes.
Bears well every year; excellent quality fruit. Planted along East facing block wall – never freezes.
Bears every year; good fruit. Limbs tend to break.
Good – leaves only used. Bounces back from frost damage.
Bears well every year; excellent quality fruit but rarely obtained due to early heat waves when fruit ripens in Spring – ruins crop.
Bears heavy every year; excellent quality fruit. Lives up to its name.
1st yr crop shows good promise.
I live in west Altadena (Mountain View Street by JPL):
Black mission fig – 1
Fuerte (?) avocado – unpredictable
Hybrid lemon (old) – 3
Loquat – 3
Sapote – 3+++
Olive (unk variety) – 3+ (but have to prune to get fruit)
my other fruit and one nut tree are too young to tell.
Apple, fuji 1
persimmon hachiya does amazing about every other year
fig about 100 years old, black mission i think, 1+++
peach, babcock white, 1, except it has some sort of fungus or rot and is now dying after 20 years but still producing
orange unknown, inherited with 103 year old house, naval type, 3
grapefruit ditto, yellow grapefruit, not very sweet and not very productive because i don’t water it 2
both citrus quite neglected by me.
Inherited neglected pineapple guava 1
Our yard is very sunny and south facing with some large terraces. I’ve indicated the trees I’ve planted against terrace walls (very hot sunny location) bc it is much hotter there.
Banana Goldfinger 2 (Very protected sunny location)
Lime Mexicana 1 (full sun)
Kumquat 1 (sun and partial shade)
Pomegranate (full size) 1 (full sun)
Plum Santa Rosa 2 (very hot sunny location)
Apricot Royal 1 (very hot sunny location)
Apricot Blenheim 1 (very hot sunny location)
Orange Valencia 1 (full sun/partial shade)
Tangerine Kishu 1 (very hot sunny location)
Tangerine Satsuma 1 (prefers partial sun)
Tangerine Gold Nugget 2 (less productive, great taste)
Lemon Meyer 1 (prefers full sun, ok in shade)
Lemon Eureka 1 (full sun)
Apple Gala 1 (very hot sunny location)
Cherry Balaton 3 (very hot sunny location, never flowered)
Cherry Montmorency 3 (very hot sunny location, dropped leaves)
Avocado Little Cado (dwarf) 3 (died in full sun)
Fig Calmyra 1 (full sun)
Fig Mission 1 (full sun)
Feijoada 1 (partial shade)
Currants, black red and white 3 (died in full sun, never fruited in partial/full shade)
Gooseberry green 2 (fruits every other year)
Persian Mulberry 1 (full sun)
im in lower altadena and had success with most citrus, regardless of wher they are planted in the garden.
orange valencia 1
orange washington navel 1
lime bearss 1
blood orange 3 (croaked in that terrible windstorm) [editor’s note: I did not include this in the compilation]
kumquat no idea what type 1
figs no clue what types 1
pomegranate wonderful 2 (susceptible to oak root fungus)
apple pink lady 2 (not enough chill here)
plum santa rosa 3 (struggling in the drought)
I live in La Canada, my Kumquat tree is a prolific producer of fruit, so it could go on your thrive list. I have not noticed any citrus disease.
Bears every year; ok
Grows well & bears but high water, N input
Grows slowly, bears; high water, N input
Little fruit; needs more water?
Mixed results: some plants do well, others don’t
Minnie Royal + Royal Lee
Little fruit, brown leaves
Smaller plant, mucho fruit
Grows fine; little fruit
Excellent huge fruit; inconsistent year to year
Few fruit, many leaves; doesn’t want to be kept small?
I’ll put Golden Kist Apricot in the no-fruit “fail” list and second the fail categorization of low-chill cherries now and increasingly with climate change. Dwarf Namwah banana thrives—grows fast and bears as expected—but Dwarf Red-green, though it bears, is slow; both do need water but feed on just compost. Persian Mulberry is a maybe—grows fine on little water, bears sparingly so far.
Anna apple thrives
Marsha F. [editor’s note: this is a wealth of information, but the format and lack of numerical scores made it difficult to compile; I made some editorial decisions]
Good Producers to add to the list, or for additional description:
Feijoa (wrongly called pineapple guava–pronounced fey-ho-a–its Spanish/Colombian–NOT fay-joe-a),
prefer Apollo and Nazemetz
Pitanga (aka Surinam Cherry), both red and black varieties though I prefer the black
Mango but frost sensitive [added as 2]
nectarine [did not add as variety-sensitive]
pluot [did not add as variety-sensitive]
plum [did not add as variety-sensitive]
prune plum (some varieties)
pear, some varieties [see below]
crabapple [did not add, my own bias]
quince/membrillo, smyrna variety, spectacular flower show, some varieties don’t do as well [did not add as variety-sensitive]
almond (target for the herds of parrots) [added as 3]
peach: red barron has spectacular flower show [did not add as need to know how fruit does]
Apples: most of my apples are actually producing well, but fruit is smaller with drought. This includes:
Anna, Pink Lady, Fuji, St. Edmonds Pippin, Ashamed Kernel (Russet–spectacular flavor), Egremont Russet, Wickson Crabapple, and Bramley (which is triploid), Gordon
Pears (all tend to be very slow growing trees and very late to break bud):
Bartletts: can grow here but don’t do really well in terms of fruit production/size, also pretty slow growing 
Warren–grows better than my bartlett (size of tree, size of fruit, number of fruit), a good pear ready in mid august–very tasty
Comice–slow growing and would really prefer another zone but is hanging in 
Seckel–wonderful “gourmet” pear, would also prefer a colder zone, but does produce, these are a small pear (fruit) 
Bush fruit, good producers:
some blueberries (southern) [did not add as variety-sensitive]
currents [did not add as variety-sensitive]
German thornless blackberries (canes, not vines; no tip rooting) 
caper bush, lovely flowers too 
Non-tree fruit, good producers:
physalis (aka poha, ground cherry, ground cherry, cape gooseberry)
grapes [did not add as variety-sensitive]
banana (thirsty & heavy feeder, strips the soil as bad as tobacco) [3 added as all]
Kiwi fruit 
edible hardy palms (butia capitata, jelly palm, wine palm, pindo palm)
Breaking out the citrus, good producers:
mandarin / tangerine
calamondin, non-varigated has better flavor
orange, valencia, washington navel, late lane (great tasting) cara cara
lime, Bearss, Kefir
finger lime (fingerling lime, caviar lime)
Black jack–black mission type with wonderful flavor, i prefer it to black mission, is a naturally dwarfing tree
Violette de Bordeaux–small tree, can even be grown in a pot, excellent flavor, black type fig
Celeste–small tree, can be grown in a pot, really great flavor
Panache or tiger fig–green, pink interior–beautiful looking, good flavor but I prefer black jack
Mission fig: good fruit, the standard for SoCal, but I like black jack better
Virtually all figs do well here
For me, the drought has affected even the good producers: I have fewer fruit and smaller fruit, and in some cases no fruit.
It is hard to know what has been affected by the drought alone versus the drought or climate shift. We pretty much no longer have a Spring or Autumn–summer has extended on both ends.
My favorite fruit tree sources:
Trees of Antiquity, Peaceful Valley, Bay Laurel Nursery. I have sandy soil so try to avoid Citation rootstock. The trees that I get from Trees of Antiquity and Peaceful Valley (but especially Trees of Antiquity) are 2 to 3 years older and have fruit the second season, that is, 2-3 years earlier than nursery/big box stock. Every Fall, Peace Valley (in No. Calif) has a bare root fruit tree special of 10 trees for $200–they are great trees, pruned properly, and this is a bargain. Bare root trees from these companies ship to us in January. Order now before your favorite variety runs out.
Note on backyard orchard culture: I do close planting (“backyard orchard culture”) but find that instead of three/four trees in one hole, mine do better if close planted in a close line. For me the southern-most tree always outgrows and overshadows and eventually kills the other 2 or 3 trees.