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Fruit Tree Forms

An illustrated guide to the forms (types) of fruit trees available to buy and grow

Tree Forms

Choosing the right tree for the right place is of utmost importance to avoid disappointment especially when growing top fruit trees. There are many forms available to suit every situation. This article explains the main types and will help you decide which form of fruit tree you need for your particular circumstances.

 

Bush Fruit Trees

Bush Fruit Trees

 

Bush fruit trees vary in shape depending on the type of fruit, however they all have a stem of only 60-90cm/2-3ft on which all the side shoots are pruned away. The top growth point is then removed and several top outward facing shoots are allowed to develop into branches and grown on.  This keeps the overall height of the tree within manageable reach. Often grown on dwarfing rootstocks. Most top fruit can be grown as bushes as can gooseberries and currants. Often grown on dwarfing rootstocks.

 

Suitable for: 
Limited Space
Medium/Large Containers

 

Recommended fruit:   Apples, Pears, Currants, Gooseberries, Cherries, Plums, Apricots, Blueberries, Goji Berries

 

Cordon Fruit Trees

Cordon Fruit Trees

 

A cordon fruit tree consists of one vertical stem called a maidens, which has been pruned to have short side growths called spurs on this the fruit will grow. They can be grown free standing, trained on wires or against walls where they are often planted at an angle to make the most of the space if the wall isn't very high,  which allows the stem to grow to a longer length for maximum fruiting whilst still being easily reached. The name "cordon" is also given to the double vertical branch trees.

 

Suitable for: 
Limited Space
Medium/Large Containers
Walls & Fences
Wires - can be used as a natural divider (living fence) between two areas

 

Recommended fruit:   Apples, Pears, some Currants


Espalier Trained Fruit Trees 

Espalier Fruit TreesEspaliers are the most decorative forms of tree when properly trained and can make a stunning focal point in any garden. They are comprised of a single vertical maiden stem with tiers (pairs) of horizontal branches opposite each other which are trained at right-angles on each side of the main stem. There are usually 3 pairs of branches, however more can be trained. The side branches can be grown quite long to fill available horizontal space.

This is not a tree for the weak hearted, especially if starting to train from scratch as brutal pruning is required to attain the espalier formation. Furthermore, it takes a whole season to produce each horizontal pair of branches so patience is required. Unfortunately due to the harshness of the pruning/training, very few fruit trees are suitable to train as an espalier. Often grown on dwarfing rootstocks.

Suitable for: 
Limited Space

Large Containers

Walls
Wires - can be used as a natural divider (living fence) between two areas (not peaches)

 

Recommended fruit:   Apples, Pears, Plums

Fan Trained Fruit Trees

fAN fRUIT tREESFan trained trees are formed when two main branches are allowed to develop from the maiden stem which has been cut down to 20-30cm/8-12". These are trained at a "V" angle and then cut back allowing shoots to develop from each branch. These shoots are then trained and tied into place to form an open fan shape. Although they can be grown free standing and trained on wires, they are most often grown against walls, the warmth of which provide extra protection to the tree, making it ideal for more tender fruit.  Often grown on dwarfing rootstocks.

Suitable for: 
Limited Space
Large Containers
Walls & Fences

Recommended fruit:   Apples, Pears, Cherries, Peaches, Plums, Nectarines, Apricots, Figs

Pyramid Fruit Trees 

Pyramid Fruit TreePyramids have a clear stem of only 45cm/18" on which all the side shoots are pruned away then several top outward facing shoots are allowed to develop into branches and grown on with the bottom branches being kept longer than the ones above, gradually getting shorter towards the top of the tree forming a pyramid shape.  This keeps the overall height of the tree within manageable reach - between 1.8-2.7m/6-9ft. Often grown on dwarfing rootstocks.

Suitable for: 
Limited Space

Large Containers

Recommended fruit:   Apples, Pears, Plums

Standard and Half Standard Fruit Trees 

Standard Fruit TreesStandard fruit trees are the ones you are most likely to see in orchards and are generally free standing.  The maiden stem is allowed to grow to the desired height, around 2m/6ft and all side shoots are pruned away. The top growth point is then removed and the top three or four outward facing shoots are allowed to develop into branches and grown on.

The only difference with half-standard trees, is that the  maiden stem is pruned back at 1m/3ft which makes for a slightly smaller tree. 

Although most trees can be grown as standards, some of the more tender varieties do less well so it is advisable to grow other forms. Care should be taken before choosing to plant standard fruit trees as they can grow very large.

Suitable for: 
Large spaces

Recommended fruit:   Apples, Pears, Cherries,  Plums, Apricots, Damson, Greengage, Nut trees, Olives

 

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