Fruit tree catalogue
Apple trees are generally easy to grow, and because there are so many apple varieties there is invariably a good choice for almost any growing situation, from cool temperate to subtropical.
Apples are perhaps the most versatile of all temperate fruits, and one of the most widely cultivated tree fruits. Almost all cultivated apple varieties belong to the species Malus domestica, and are botanically part of the Rose family - apple blossom has an obvious resemblance to wild rose flowers. Apples trees were one of the earliest fruit trees to be cultivated, and originate from central Asia. There are now thousands of different apple cultivars or varieties.
Apples display perhaps a greater range of flavours, appearance, and texture than any other tree fruits. This diversity makes apples a particularly satisifying fruit for home cultivation. Without much difficulty (or space) one can grow a number of different apple trees which will keep a family supplied with fresh apples from mid-summer to late autumn, and with a good spread of flavours and uses.
Many countries have a tradition of apple varieties grown specifically for the production of cider (hard cider in North America). These varieties are generally not edible, but are grown for the qualities of their juice.
Cider production usually relies on a blend of different cider apples, and cider varieties are divided into four groups on the characteristics of the juice they produce:
|Higher tannin||Bitter sweet||Bitter sharp|
Some mainstream apple varieties can also be used for cider production or in cider blends, and a number of Crab apples are also useful for cider blends.
Crab apples (Ornamental malus) are very closely related to apples, being part of the same genus Malus. The only difference between an apple and a crabapple is the size of the fruit, and it is usually considered that any apple variety with a fruit size of less than 2" is a crabapple.
Crab apple trees are grown primarily for their ornamental value. This starts in spring with a profusion of attractive blossom, which is often scented. The brightly coloured ornamental fruits hang attractively on the tree throughout autumn, providing colour in the garden and a source of food for birds. Some varieties also have attractive bronze leaves.
Most crab apples are edible - although rather unpalatable for eating fresh. However many varieties are valuable for cooking - crab apples contain large amounts of pectin, and are useful in the kitchen for making fruit jellies. Several varieties are also useful for cider blends.
The prolific blossom also makes most crab apples excellent pollinators for all other apple and cider-apple varieties - they typically produce five to ten times more pollen than a typical apple tree. The blossom is also usually more long-lasting than that of normal apples, and spans several of the mainstream apple flowering groups. Crab apples are naturally precocious and will often start producing blossom and fruit in their 2nd or 3rd years.
If you are new to growing fruit trees, plum trees make an excellent choice. Plum trees are easy to grow - usually easier than apples and pears - and require very little training or pruning. The only horticultural challenge is that plums flower quite early in spring, so locations that are prone to frosts are best avoided (or choose a late-flowering or frost-resistant variety). They thrive in most conditions, but they prefer water-retentive soils, and mulching is therefore particularly important for plum trees - farmyard manure is ideal.
Unlike most apples and pears, many plum varietes are self-fertile or partially self-fertile and do not need a pollination partner. For plum varieties that are not self-fertile, another plum tree of a different variety flowering at the same time is usually all that is necessary to ensure good pollination and heavy crops - there are few of the pollination incompatibilities found with apples, pears and cherries.
Plums are also more nutrient-rich than apples or pears, and comparable to some other "superfoods" such as blueberries. Although plum trees do suffer from a range of diseases, they seem to catch them less often than other fruit varieties. Most important of all, the flavour of ripe home-grown plums is vastly superior to shop-bought fruit. Indeed in our opinion freshly-picked dessert plums can offer the most exquisite sweet flavours of any fruit available from the temperate garden.
We offer mostly 'European' plum trees - from the species Prunus domestica. European plums have a much better and more interesting range of flavours than the 'Japanese' plums usually found in supermarkets. Most garden plum trees in Northern Europe are of this species, and they are well suited to temperate climates, being hardier than the Japanese varieties and flowering later. Whilst European plums do not store particularly well, the fruit usually ripens over a 1-2 week period, during which time the tree can be picked daily to ensure a steady supply of fruit.
There is also a sub-group of European plums known as Gages, usually ranked within the species Prunus domestica, but sometimes sub-categorised as the "Reine Claude" group. Gage trees look similar to plum trees but the fruits are smaller and rounder than European plums, and either green or golden/yellow in colour. Gage trees prefer slightly warmer growing conditions than other European plums to bring out their full flavour, and their natural home is France - but they can be grown in any temperate climate. Gages have a unique distinctive rich sweet flavour, somewhat like an intense melon.
Damsons are primarily grown for use in the kitchen - if you can find the space it is definitely worth having at least one damson tree in your fruit tree collection.
Damsons have a distinctive rich flavour, similar but quite different to plums. They are superb for making jams, jellies, crumbles, and pies.
Damsons trees belong to the species Prunus insititia, which also includes Bullaces, St. Juliens, and Mirabelles. Damsons originate from Damascus in Syria and the name comes from the term "Damascene plum". This might suggest they need a Mediterranean climate, but in fact damson trees grow very easily in cold climates or situations where other plum tree species might not flourish. In the UK the centre of commercial damson production is the Lyth valley in Cumbria, north-west England, notable for its wet climate. However, although they can succeed in areas where sunlight is not plentiful, damson trees do not grow well if they are shaded.
Damson trees are therefore a reliable source of fresh fruit in climates where other fruit trees may not succeed. They are also amongst the easiest of fruit trees to grow, needing no pruning once they are established - indeed pruning is not only unnecessary but undesirable with damsons.
Mirabelles are a type of plum, and are a common sight in French markets in August. The fruit is very small, the size of large cherries, and typically either bright red or golden yellow. Mirabelles can be eaten fresh, but are primarily used for making jams and similar preserves, as well as fruit tarts. They are also the plum species most often used in plum brandy and similar plum-based spirits.
Mirabelles are usually classified as Prunus insititia, along with Damsons and Bullaces (although they are sweeter than these fruits), but are sometimes also classified as a variety of the common European Plum (Prunus domestica v. syriaca).
Cherry Plums are very similar to Mirabelles, in fact often indistinguishable. Cherry Plums are usually categorised in a related species - Prunus cerasifera.
Regardless of the classification, Mirabelles and Cherry Plums make an interesting addition to the garden or orchard.
Mirabelle and Cherry Plum trees are hardy and grow well throughout Europe. Like the other minor plum species, they have good disease resistance.
Mirabelles are partially self-fertile but will set a better crop if another mirabelle is planted nearby. Reflecting their close relationship, Mirabelles will also cross-pollinate with most European plums and damsons if they flower at the same time - they usually overlap with most early and mid-season blooming plums.
Cherry Plums are generally fully self-fertile, and flower very early in the spring. They will also cross-pollinate other plum varieties - usually only the earliest blooming - that are in flower at the same time.
Pears are related to apples, and most of the horticultural requirements and challenges of apples apply also to growing pear trees. However pear trees are a bit more demanding than apple trees - they prefer slightly warmer conditions and are a bit less tolerant of soil and situation, and crop yields are lower.
On the plus side, pear trees are less susceptible to the various pests and diseases commonly experienced with apples.
When it comes to flavour, pears have an aura of exclusivity which you don't tend to find in apples.
Although there are some culinary pear varieties, all the ones we offer are dessert pears - good for eating fresh, but also useful for culinary purposes too.
Pears are fundamentally self-sterile so will require a pollination partner, in other words a compatible pear tree of a different variety growing nearby. Even the varieties we list as self-fertile will be far more productive with a pollination partner. Conference is probably the only pear variety that is reliably self-fertile.
Perry is a traditional drink made from fermented pear juice, and in recent years has enjoyed a resurgence in interest, along with its cousin cider. Perry is sometimes called pear cider and as with cider apples, perry pears are used specifically for the qualities of their juice and cannot be eaten.
Quince trees produce are versatile pear-like fruits used for culinary purposes - use them in the same way you would apples or pears. They are particularly good for preserves, and a small amount of stewed quince also gives an interesting lift to many apple-based recipes. The blossom and fruits are very attractive.
The quince originates from south-west Asia, but has been widely grown throughout Europe since classical times, and were introduced to England from France in the 13th century or earlier. The English word "quince" derives from the French word "cognassier". Quinces were also established in the American colonies, and many of today's quince varieties are American.
Quince trees prefer warm climates, as found in central Europe, and much of the USA. They can be grown successfully in most of the milder areas of England, but to get the best yields it really helps to plant them in a sheltered spot in full sun with a south-facing aspect.
Quince trees are usually grown as open-centred bush-style trees, a form which best suits the attractively contorted way in which they tend to grow. They can also be trained as fans (not espaliers) against south-facing walls or fences, and this is a good technique for getting the best cropping and flavour in the UK. Quince trees are generally slow-growing but very long-lived - and the trees become more attractive as they age. The first fruits are borne after 3-5 years.
All our quince trees are grafted on Quince A (semi-vigorous) or Quince C (semi-dwarf) rootstocks. Quinces are clearly related to pears but they produce smaller and more spreading trees than pears, and for this reason pears are usually grafted on to quince rootstocks to produce trees of more manageable proportions.
Quince trees benefit from a general purpose plant food in late winter, and young trees in particular should have a good layer of mulch to suppress weeds and keep the roots moist - they like slightly damp conditions for their roots. If you can provide a sunny sheltered spot with moist soil you should be successful. Quinces are relatively easy to grow, as they are nearly all self-fertile or partially self-fertile, and need minimal pruning.
Quinces should stored in a cool place after picking (preferably with natural light, it does not need to be dark), to allow the fruit to mature and the fragrant flavour to develop - they can be used after a month or so. It is best to store them away from other fruits unless you want them also to pick up the fragrance of the quinces.
Cherries are perhaps the most diverse member of the genus Prunus, which includes other popular stone fruits such as plums, peaches, and apricots. There are two main types, the sweet cherry Prunus avium (best for eating fresh) and the acid or sour cherry Prunus cerasus (best for culinary use). Cherry trees are generally easy to grow, but sweet cherries like sun, so choose a sunny aspect when planting. The main horticultural challenge is the need for netting to ensure that the birds do not get the crop before you do.
Cherry trees do not need much attention as they grow, a simple mulch to keep the area free of weeds is sufficient. Once fruiting begins the mulch remains important, and should be extended to match the spread of the branches, because it acts as a sponge and therefore helps prevent fruit-splitting after heavy downpours. You should also apply compost and/or manure during the winter to supply the tree with the nutrients it needs for growth and fruiting.
Provided you can keep the birds off, cherry trees make a good choice for the garden because cherries are a fruit that is best eaten straight from the tree - sweet cherries do not keep more than a day or so and the flavour fades very rapidly. Shop-bought cherries are often quite expensive, and can never be as fresh as those you pick from your own tree.
There is not a great variation in the flavour of cherries, so when choosing which varieties to grow, it is perhaps more important to think about the ripening season and other horticultural attributes. The main characteristic of a good sweet cherry is that it should be "more-ish"!
Apricots trees belong to the species Prunus armeniaca, and originate from central Asia, where they have been cultivated for thousands of years. Apricot trees naturally prefer a continental climate and most commercial production takes place in Turkey, southern Europe, and California.
Apricots have excellent nutritional and medicinal properties, and they contain more concentrations of beneficial compounds than most other fruit. They are one of the best natural sources of Vitamin A.
Apricot trees are easy to grow in warm climates but can be challenging in temperate climates such as much of the UK and northern Europe. The main problem is not winter cold - Apricots are very hardy - but inconsistent and variable weather, especially in winter and spring. Apricot trees prefer a simple regime of cold winters (with 500-700 hours below 5 degrees centigrade) and hot sunny summers, and do not like either the cold of winter or the heat of summer to be interrupted. Nevertheless, even in a temperate climate, if you can provide a south-facing wall for a fan-trained specimen then you have a reasonable chance of success.
As climate change has brought water shortages to the dry south-east of the UK there has been increasing interest in growing Apricot trees, because they generally have good drought tolerance.
Peaches are a luxurious fruit originating in the Far East and now grown throughout warm temperate regions. Peach trees prefer a continental climate, especially warm or hot summers.
Peach trees can be grown successfully in the UK. However if you want to be reasonably sure of success the best method is to grow as a fan on a south-facing wall, or in a patio container which can be moved indoors (to an unheated room or conservatory) during winter.
Peach-leaf curl is a serious fungal disease of peaches (and nectarines). It is transmitted by fungal spores which are active during late-winter / early-spring and are carried in splashes of rain drops. It can be readily avoided by covering wall-trained trees over winter and early spring with a frost fleece or similar. Peach trees grown in patio containers can also be protected simply by keeping them indoors over the winter.
All peaches are self-fertile - but that doesn't mean they don't need pollinating, it just means you don't need another peach tree nearby to cross-pollinate with. Pollen must still be taken from one flower to the other and since peaches flower very early in the season you can't always rely on pollinating insects to be out and about. If in doubt, you can hand-pollinate - here's an article on the my tiny plot blog showing you how.
Nectarines are essentially smooth-skinned peaches. They can be grown successfully in the southern parts of the UK but you are only likely to be successful if you can plant the tree as a fan on a south-facing wall.
Hazelnuts are an important natural source of healthy proteins and fats, and Hazel bushes make an easy and low-maintenance addition to any orchard.
There are two closely related species, Corylus avellana, which is the common hazel or cobnut native to the UK, and Corylus maxima, also known as the Filbert. The main difference is in the length of the husk surrounding the nut - cobnuts have a short husk whilst filberts have a long husk. Filberts arguably have a slightly superior flavour but there is not a lot in it.
More information on growing hazelnut trees.
Almonds are a type of nut closely related to plums. They grow best in central and southern Europe, but may be grown in the warmer parts of the UK with some success. They are quite easy to grow, but cropping in UK conditions will be light.
The combination of healthy unsaturated fats, high levels of antioxidants, and rich vitamin content has increased interest in growing nuts in the garden or home orchard. Somewhat surprisingly the humble Walnut is turning out to be perhaps the healthiest of all nuts, thanks to its super-abundance of antioxidants.
Walnuts are essentially large trees, and over the course of several decades will slowly grow to a height of between 6m-12m (20ft - 40ft) depending on the variety. Most of our Walnut trees are grafted on to rootstocks of a related species (the Eastern Black Walnut) which encourages earlier fruiting - even so they grow at a leisurely pace and regular nut production is unlikely to start before 4-8 years. However like most slow-growing trees, Walnuts are long-lived. Growing Walnut trees is therefore a long-term undertaking, but a worthwhile one.
Some Walnut varieties are self-fertile, with both male catkins and female flowers occurring on the same tree. In this respect Walnuts are similar to Hazelnuts rather than Almonds (which are more closely related to plums). The potential for self-fertility arises when the timing of both the flowers and catkins co-incides. Self-sterile Walnut varieties are those where the flowers and catkins do not overlap. Again, as with Hazelnuts, it is often a good idea to plant two Walnuts of different but compatible varieties if you have the space. Walnuts have an advantage over other nuts in that the pollination process occurs in late spring so is less affected by the poor early spring weather which often occurs in the UK.
Walnuts are relatively untroubled by diseases, but pruning is best avoided.
Figs are fascinating trees, quite unlike most of the orchard fruits grown in temperate climates. In fact they are essentially a sub-tropical fruit, but can be grown by the keen gardener in most of the drier and warmer parts of the UK.
Growing fig trees is not hard in the UK, but getting them to fruit is an interesting challenge. The key is to pick the sunniest and most sheltered spot you can find, and, somewhat bizarrely, to restrict the root growth with a container or a planting hole lined with patio slabs.
Medlars are an unusual fruit species, distantly related to pears and hawthorns, but with fruit that vaguely resembles crab-apples. They are quite easy to grow provided you have a sunny spot.
All medlars are self-fertile, and can be expected to fruit when the tree is 3-4 years old.
Medlars make attractive trees, with large ornamental flowers in spring, and often attractive leaf colours in autumn.
The fruits, which resemble small russet apples, are primarily used for fruit preserves, and have a rich luscious texture when cooked. Some enthusiasts also eat the fruits raw, after they have been left to "blet" for a few weeks.
Mulberries are primarily ornamental trees which are also grown for their fruit. There are two species, Morus nigra, also known as the Black Mulberry is the main fruting form. Morus alba, the White Mulberry, also produces edible fruits but is primarily grown for its ornamental value. White Mulberries are also used in silk production - silkworms feed on their leaves, which have a much finer texture than the leaves of the Black Mulberry.
All the varieties we sell in this category are Black Mulberries, i.e. the fruiting form, and are grown on their own roots (not grafted).
Mulberries are best-suited to large open gardens or parkland areas, and they grow slowly into large trees of about 6m-10m height and spread. If planting several trees, allow about 10m / 30ft between trees.
The fruit resembles raspberries or unripe blackberries, and has a tangy sweet-sharp taste. It can be eaten fresh or used for cooking (in other words, just like raspberries and blackberries). The fruit is borne throughout the canopy of the tree, usually out of reach from the ground - the usual method of picking is by shaking the branches when the fruit is ripe in late August.
Mulberries are easy to grow (if you have the space), usually unaffected by diseases, and self-fertile.
Mulberries are slow-growing and can be grown in large pots or planters for a decade or more, although trees grown this way may eventually need to be planted in open ground.
Family fruit trees consist of 2 or 3 apple or pear varieties grafted on to the same stem - in effect you have a small orchard on a single tree.
The advantage of a family fruit tree is that the varieties are chosen to be compatible with each other in their blossom and fruiting seasons, and the tree takes up less space than growing the same varieties individually.
Our orchard packs are carefully selected collections of trees which will help you start your own orchard. Each pack contains a number of fruit trees selected by us from reliable varieties which are easy to grow. All are either self-fertile or able to cross-pollinate each other so you will not need to worry about pollination.
If your orchard is in an exposed location we can also supply Alder trees, which are traditionally used for orchard windbreaks.
You might also want to browse our fruit tree collections.