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Columnar apples and other fruit tree columnar varieties

 
Richard Gorny
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Location: Poland, zone 6
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I'm establishing a mini-orchard and I was told that for such limited space the best choice would be to plant columnar fruit tree varieties, mostly what they call Ballerina columnar apple trees - 'Maypole', 'Waltz,' and 'Polka' varieties. I was told that such trees can be planted very dense, the distance between them can be as small as 80-100 cm (30-40 inches).
I have searched the Internet a bit and it seems that there is a mix of opinions about columnar trees out there - some people confirm they grow as advertised, some other say it is all scam and that these trees do not keep columnar form and grow to sides, cannot be planted as dense as sellers say and in general are not a good choice. Do you have any experience with such trees?
 
Ann Torrence
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The ones I had a decade ago were a scam.

There needs to be some side growth-the fruiting comes on lateral growth. Smaller apple trees tend to need support to hold the weight of the fruit. The columnar apples seem to have the "feature" that they can support the weight on an awkward top heavy trunk without toppling over or breaking the graft union. Decorative, but a prime objective? Even if they did produce (mine didn't), they aren't bred for flavor. Isn't that the point?

Do an internet search on "spindle trellis systems." You can pack the trees in a meter apart, using dwarfing rootstock. You can graft pretty much any variety you want onto that. I saw in a quick search myself that the method has been adapted to cherries. Pears are a classic espalier choice, as are nectarines, so the spindle system should work for them too.

If you are tight for space, I am guessing this is zone 1 and it needs to look pretty. Take a look at "Belgian Fence" espalier systems. You can pack trees in at 50-75 cm in that system if you want. I think they are beautiful, and eventually they can self-graft where the branches cross and not need support at all.
 
David Livingston
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Also look up" Step over apples" much more fun .
David
http://www.woodbridgefruittrees.com.au/wft/articles/172-step-over-apples.html
 
Cj Sloane
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Richard, was it you who asked Geoff that question about Columnar trees in the Q&A? I'd say the fact that he didn't know what you were talking about was significant. I think you could prune them if you want to keep them small, closely spaced like the guy in one of Geoff's urban gardening vids.
 
Stefan Sobkowiak
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Richard Gorny wrote:I'm establishing a mini-orchard and I was told that for such limited space the best choice would be to plant columnar fruit tree varieties, mostly what they call Ballerina columnar apple trees - 'Maypole', 'Waltz,' and 'Polka' varieties. I was told that such trees can be planted very dense, the distance between them can be as small as 80-100 cm (30-40 inches).
I have searched the Internet a bit and it seems that there is a mix of opinions about columnar trees out there - some people confirm they grow as advertised, some other say it is all scam and that these trees do not keep columnar form and grow to sides, cannot be planted as dense as sellers say and in general are not a good choice. Do you have any experience with such trees?

Sorry Richard I have never used columnar cultivars. I did see them at a research station where they were developed and they were as per the pictures.
 
Daniel Blass
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This posting is a little old but I've been doing a lot of research on columnar apples for myself and thought I would share that.

Richard, I think columnar apples will do what you want but you may need to irrigate to get much production with a high density planting. An advantage is they do not require staking as the trunk is usually stronger and the weight all close to the trunk. The true columnar ones are bred from the Wijcik McIntosh or its crosses. These generally will not produce many side limbs that need pruning but it can happen. Might depend on the rootstock or stress on the tree, bud damage, etc.

It appears you are in Poland so there are large number of varieties that you can choose. In my research, I have found at least 75 available in the EU. If you want variety in a small area, they are a good way to go. In the US, you can find 7 varieties for sale. It was a little better but the Stark Brothers nursery appears to have dropped the Ballerinas. They sold them under the Spire name here in the US.

I would not recommend the original Ballerina series (waltz, flamenco, bolero) since these were not the best in terms of disease resistance and some may not be great apples. There have been many additional crosses made to produce better, more disease resistant cultivars. I would caution that there are some apples marketed in Europe as columnar that are actually just weak growing spur type trees. Those may not need much pruning but they are not true columnar trees. In no particular order, look at the apples released from Giesenheim (Pom series and Cats series), the releases from University of Novi Sad in Serbia, the releases from Jaroslav Tupy at the Institute for Experimental Botany in Czech Republic, and releases from Russia, Latvia, and Lithuania.

Regards
 
Richard Gorny
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Hi Daniel,
Many thanks for the information. My trees are already planted, but it will be useful if I ever look for next ones.
 
John Wolfram
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Location: Lafayette, Indiana
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Here's a good video showing the tall spindle system which is used in high density orchards these days.
 
I agree. Here's the link: https://richsoil.com/wood-heat.jsp
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