The New Dwarf Fruit Trees

Article excerpt

The new dwarf fruit trees What's new about genetic dwarf fruit trees? Their fruit tastes better than ever. If you've always wanted to harvest tree-ripened fruit in your garden but didn't think you had room, it's time to reconsider; improved genetic dwarf trees take little space, and their fruit is delicious.

Genetic dwarf fruit trees are compact and short; few exceed 7 feet in height, with an equal spread. You can fit one neatly into the smallest garden, or plant four in the same space it takes to grow one standard tree. They bear normal-size fruit, with most producing about a fifth as much as a regular fruit tree.

They grow well in containers, so are easy to move when you want to protect them against cold or take advantage of sun and shelter. All of these trees are handsome plants and can be used effectively in the landscape.

In the past, genetic dwarf fruit trees were often disappointing: if they produced any fruit at all, it didn't taste very good. Though most still can't match the flavor of the best standard varieties, newer genetic dwarfs--particularly peaches and nectarines--now bear tasty fruit.

What exactly is a dwarf fruit tree?

The drawing shows the two types of trees.

Regular dwarfs are created by grafting or budding a regular-size variety on a dwarfing rootstock; this is most effectively done with apples, since truly dwarfing rootstocks are not yet available for other deciduous fruit.

Genetic dwarfs, on the other hand, are created by propagating a naturally very compact variety on a standard-size rootstock. In general, genetic dwarfs look almost muscular, with closely spaced leaves and growth buds.

Widely adapted, easy to care for

Almonds, apples, apricots, cherries, nectarines, and peaches have genetic dwarf varieties. They are usually adapted to the same areas as their standard counterparts; check the Sunset Western Garden Book for details.

Genetic dwarf nectarines and peaches, while adaptable to the same areas as standards, tend to have lower chilling requirements--400 to 500 hours as compared to 600 to 900 hours for most standard varieties. They are adapted to most inland areas of Southern California and, although not completely tested, are worth trying in California and Arizona deserts. …