July 25, 2017

Do you think that you have no room for an apple tree?

ballerina apple trees

Gardening Tip – For the week 10th Oct. – 16th Oct.

Do you think that you have no room for an apple tree?

One would expect the answer to this question to depend greatly on the size of you garden, which is true, but it will also depend on how big you think an apple tree is. If you are thinking of the large branching monster of a bramley apple tree that you remember from your grandmother’s garden, you will most probably not fit it into today’s modern gardens, but apple trees have changed over the years and they have been perfected to fruit earlier in the life of the tree, and on much smaller trees that take up far less space than they used to.

Dwarf “Patio” Trees

patio fruit treesA common tree that is now widely available is the new dwarf tree sold as ‘patio’ trees, they are bred on special rootstocks (usually M27) which do not allow them to grow tall. The eventual height is between 1.5 and 2m.  The catalogues write that you can leave it in a tub all its life, but beware as this is hardly practical unless you are prepared for a lot of work, since it will be necessary to change a large proportion of the soil with fresh compost every couple of years and dressing with fertilisers and nutrients every few months. Even a so called ‘dwarf’ tree is heavy and repotting is usually a job for two people to avoid damaging the tree when tipping it out of the pot. A better idea would be to plant it in the garden where the roots will find all the nutrients they need on their own and hardly any care will be necessary after the first few years. It is definitely a novelty to have a dwarf or patio fruit tree, but if you are serious about growing fruit then forget it, because a dwarf tree will only give a dwarf amount of fruit even if they are full size fruit.

 

What I Would Advise – The Ballerina Apple Tree
Instead, I would advise you to plant a tree that will give full size apples and lots of them! The tree that I recommend is called a ballerina apple tree. It hardly needs any pruning and its branches naturally grow upwards as its name implies. I planted 2 such trees in my front garden back in 1989. They are now about 4m high and there they stand proudly erect like a Lombardy poplar without casting shade on my front room window, as seen in the picture.

ballerina apple trees

The whole diameter of the tree and branches is still no more than a metre! It fruits annually with large and tasty fruit.  Quite a few varieties are available, the only drawback is that they have different names to common apple tree varieties and until you taste one you will not know what type of fruit the tree will produce. I still have a letter from the Institute of Horticultural Research , East Malling, dated 28th September 1989, in response to my question whether I should leave the sapling in a tub or plant it in the garden. The letter reads, “If the size of the containers is large, then you could keep the trees in them and perhaps repot every two years. There would be no advantage in keeping them in pots if you have room in the garden “. As you can see from the photo, I listened to their advice and  planted them in the garden; had I left them in their pot, I cannot imagine what size the pot would have needed to be, for these giants  27 years later!

The Ballerina apple trees are available at most good garden centres, and cost between £30 and £40 for a potted tree around 1.2m high; if space is limited and you want to enjoy the blossom and fruit of a real apple tree in your garden it is definitely worth the investment and remember autumn is the best time to plant all shrubs and trees!!

ballerina apple tree
showing off its fruit!

 

Have an enjoyable gardening week!

Boris .

About The Author

Profile photo of Boris Legarni

Boris inherited his green fingers from his mother, who was still planting potatoes and rhubarb in the sixties as she was afraid that they would once again be rationed. As a teenager he used to plant radishes in the corner of the school garden and sell them during break time for sixpence, to give his classmates a healthy crunchy snack. He and his wife both have had an allotment for years, but there is no competition – he does the planting and she does the harvesting and cooking. With a passion for growing anything edible, Boris has planted dozens of named fruit trees in his orchard. Nevertheless he is an avid flower arranger, and assists local communities and charities with his flower arrangements. Boris tells us that after so many years on the allotment he has made all the mistakes possible, and he will share with you his practice to make yours perfect!

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