Fruit Trees & Bushes
Fruit trees have always been a great way to enjoy a harvest from the garden especially as they are simple to grow, offer a structural presence and provide both flower and fruit.
The most popular fruit trees are Apples followed closely by Plums. However there are many other types of fruit which are available throughout the year such as Pears, Apricots, Peaches, Cherries , Figs, Almond, Quince, Medlar, and Hazelnuts.
When choosing your fruit tree it is important to make sure that it is either 'self fertile' (does not require any other plant for pollination) or that you have space to plant a similar tree to offer pollination to the first tree.
Apples, Pears, Cherries and Plums have many varieties within their groups and these different varieties may flower at different times during the spring. In simple terms, they could flower Very Early, Early, Mid Season or Late Season. With Apples for instance most will need two different varieties to flower (ideally in the same garden) at the same period. When this occurs, each trees pollen can cross pollinate with the other. This will then produce the fruit.
For example: an Mid Season flower ideally would pollinate with a different Mid season or it may be flowering when the Early or Late season are still in flower.
Limited varieties of apple are self fertile such as Cox Self Fertile (original name !) but with Plums there are many self fertile varieties including Victoria, Kirks Blue, Marjories and Czar. Cherry varieties include Morello, Stella, Sunburst and Lapins Cherokee. Pears are more limited with the favourites being Concord and Conference.
Rootstock and Training
Most fruit trees are grown on a 'rootstock' which will be a basic cultivar. The rootstock determines the ultimate size of the tree. Apples use an 'M' code where M27 is Very Dwarf - M9 is Dwarf - M26 is Semi Dwarf - MM106 is Semi Vigorous.
The other types of trees tend to be on a suitable Basic rootstock or a form of Dwarfing Stock.
Some fruit trees are suitable for Training and this is done by selecting specific stems as the tree grows and removing unwanted stems to produce the shape required. Espalier trees are trained with the selected stems at 90 deg to the main leader. Fan trained trees have the selected stems trained at an angle around 45 deg from the main leader. These two styles are often grown against a wall or with the use of straining wires. Other styles are Step Over and Cordon.
Fruit bushes are generally considered to be soft fruits such as Raspberries, Blackberries, Blueberries, Gooseberries, Loganberries and Black & White Currents.
Fruit bushes are mainly available in the autumn and winter months when it is good to plant them ready for early growth in the spring.
Raspberries have a selection of varieties which will fruit at different times throughout the season giving Early , Mid Season, Late Season and Autumn picking. While there are many different varieties of the other fruits, each with their own special characteristics including flavour to size of the crop.
With careful planning, a good fruit garden could have some form of fruit ready to pick over a long period throughout the summer !