Tiny fruit trees

Last year I planted seven new fruit trees.  I desperately wanted to have lots of different types and searched for a means of making sure they were small trees.  Clearly you can choose dwarfing rootstocks but those I had planted the previous year were showing signs of getting much bigger than I had bargained for.

After some research I came across a book by Ann Ralph – ‘Grow a Little Fruit Tree: simple pruning techniques for small-space easy-harvest fruit trees’ which I have been following.  The idea is to have trees growing to approximately head height.  The method is theoretically applicable to any fruit tree regardless of the rootstock it is grown on.  In brief the technique is to cut the trunk off at knee height when planting a young tree.  There are some other techniques that follow on which are precisely documented in the book. If you are interested in the idea I would heartily recommend the book to you, the photographs of the trees produced by this method are entrancingly lovely!

So at planting time last year I cut my new trees at knee height.  Obviously I could not be sure how they would react to the shock of such radical treatment and sure enough some trees took it better than others.  It has clearly slowed the growth down a lot, most of them made little growth at all last year.

At the moment the quince is growing nicely and has a good shape:

KODAK Digital Still Camera

Quince ‘Vranja’

The pears and cherry are growing slowly but look fine, one mirabelle is also fine but the other was affected by the late frosts after a mild winter with several branches looking dead.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

Mirabelle ‘Golden Globe’

So thus far I am happy with how this experiment is going.

In the spirit of experimentation (and because I wished I had known about this technique at the time of planting) I also lopped off four of the trees I planted the previous year – plum Denbigh, damson Abergwyngregyn, apple Trwyn Mochyn and cherry Cariad (these are Welsh names for those of you who are confused!).  Ann Ralph explains how to do this in the book so again I followed her instructions.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

Cherry ‘Cariad’

Like the other group of trees they have responded differently, the cherry has fared best and is about to flower, the plum is also fine and about to flower, the apple was

KODAK Digital Still Camera

Plum ‘Denbigh’

set back by late frosts after starting to leaf and the damson appears reluctant to grow much!  However I think they will all get there in the end.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

Plum ‘Denbigh’



About Anni Kelsey

I love forest gardens and forest gardening, nature, reading and everything good about being alive. I have written two books - the garden of equal delights (2020) - about the principles and practice of forest gardening; and Edible Perennial Gardening (2014) - about growing perennial vegetables in polycultures, which is basically forest gardening concentrating on the lower layers.
This entry was posted in Borderland Garden, forest garden development, Fruit, Fruit trees and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Tiny fruit trees

  1. Pingback: firmly rooted in mother earth | gardens of delight

  2. Rich Wheat says:

    Hi Anni, I’m thinking of growing Cherry ‘Cariad’ on my south Pembs small holding. What do you think of it so far and does it do OK in the wet Welsh climate?




    • Anni Kelsey says:

      Hi Rich, cherry ‘cariad’ is doing fine in my location. The wet weather has not been a problem, the dry weather in early summer this year affected the fruit quite a lot of which split and fell off prematurely. But drought is an unusual condition in Wales of course! It is still a young tree and not yet fully into fruiting, but I am very happy with it so far, and I love the name!


  3. Pingback: Time to prune the tiny fruit trees | Anni's perennial veggies

  4. Matt @ Garden59 says:

    I did more or less exactly the same thing as you when I planted half a dozen new fruit trees a few years ago and I’m pleased to report they’re all still alive and well!


  5. I’ll try and take a photo of them later if I get to the allotment Anni


  6. Simon says:

    Hey, they look great. I love the shape of the plum, growing like a vase.


  7. Hi Anni I have 2 apple trees which I brought from Aldi about 8 years ago and I trained them, what I done was pull the main growing stem down towards the ground and all the branches I wanted to keep so it’s like a fountain. This has to be done in spring as the sap rises and makes them pliable so not to damage any branch. I tied the branches and main stem to the trunk then after a while I could cut the strings off leaving them in a fountain shape. These are lightly summer pruned and in winter I cut back any branches coming from the main branches back to 2 buds and the branches on them back to one. This has resulted in my trees being very compact but they bear masses of fruit.
    This could be a way to keep your trees nice and small. I wouldn’t think that Aldi would sell dwarf rooting stock trees. These trees cost me under £5 each and they are terrific. I also do this to the pear trees.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Anni Kelsey says:

      Hi Gaynor, that sounds ingenious! Do you have any photos of them?


      • Adam says:

        Neat! This is similar to what Stefan Sobkowiak talks about as ‘training’ instead of ‘pruning’ in The Permaculture Orchard. By pulling over the main leader you are telling the tree that it’s “hit the ceiling” and it’s time to stop growing. If I remember right, by pulling the fruiting branches down, past horizontal (important that they come down from the trunk and don’t arch up first) you are telling the fruit tree that branch should start fruiting (except with pears which apparently should only be pulled to horizontal).

        He cites this book as his source: http://amzn.com/0393732568


  8. mortaltree says:

    Very interesting. I will have to look into that book.

    I have wondered if apples could be grown as a three to five year coppice crop, and have a tree that, due to rabbit issues, I’ve been forced to cut back to just eight inches fromthe ground. It put two shoots up to six feet, but it’s on M111 rootstock so semi vigorous. Your trees being on dwarf rootstock will probably be more precocious. I will be very interested in further updates to see your results and to comparewith jy ‘experiment.’

    Liked by 1 person

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