Choosing Fruit Tree Forms to Suit Your Garden
The traditional orchard tree, known as standard or half standard, is too large for most modern gardens, but there are other forms and sizes to suit small gardens. These include bush, dwarf pyramid, cordon, espalier and fan-trained trees.
The largest of these is the bush, with a height and spread of 8-18 ft (2.6-5.8 m). The size varies according to the type of fruit and, with apples and pears, to the vigour of the rootstock on which the tree has been grafted.
Shoots (called scions) of varieties of apples are grafted on to the roots (also called the rootstock, or stock) of wild apples, and pears on to those of quince. The various types of rootstock have a predictable effect on the eventual size of the tree and how it will crop.
When buying apple or pear trees, therefore, check with the nursery that they are on suitable dwarfing stock.
Apples, pears, peaches (in a few favourable areas), plums and acid cherries can be grown as bush trees.
In a more restricted garden, apples and pears are better grown as dwarf pyramids which, because of the dwarfing stock on which each variety is grafted and the method of pruning employed, will grow to only 7 ft (2.1m), with a spread of about 4 ft (1.2 m).
Most economical in terms of space is the cordon, which consists of a main stem with short, fruiting spurs. It is grown obliquely against a wall, or in the open, and is supported by posts and wires.
Apples and pears can be grown by this method. Although the yield per tree is small, a row of cordons, set only 2-½ ft – 3 ft (760 mm-1m.) apart, is very productive for the space occupied.
Another advantage is that a number of varieties can be grown in a comparatively small space.
Apples and pears can also be grown as espaliers, which carry fruit on a number of tiers, or horizontal branches. An espalier can be planted against a wall or fence, or trained on wires supported by posts to form a screen between the leisure garden and the vegetable plot.
Espaliers can even be grown as a form of ornamental and productive fence to surround an entire garden — an ideal solution for many new estates where only post-and-wire fences are provided.
A fan-trained tree is the best form for growing peaches, nectarines or apricots against a sunny wall.
In a very small garden where there is room for only one tree, you could grow a ‘family tree’ on which three varieties of apples, or three varieties of pears, are grafted on to a single stock.
This means that the selected varieties pollinate each other and give a succession of fruit over an extended season.
Check that dwarfing stock has been used, or the tree may grow so large that it defeats the original purpose of saving space.