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:
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.
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.
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
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.