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Feeling fruity. There's a fruit tree for every garden, even the smallest space.

Which fruit tree for a small garden?

Did you know that you can have a fruit tree in your garden, whatever the size of your outdoor space? Even a courtyard; a roof garden or a balcony can house a patio fruit tree or bush in a pot. The secret is all about selecting an appropriate variety; positioning; feeding and pruning. What you need is a combination of low-maintenance, compact growth, good health (of the plant, although let's hope you've got that too) and self-fertilising properties.

There's room in even a tiny garden for an apple tree in a pot.

What fruit tree to buy?

What sort of trees are available? Firstly, don't be tempted to buy the very smallest rootstock. Fruit trees are grafted onto a root and it is this that determines the vigour. The pot itself will form the containment which will restrict the size, and your job as a nurturer, will be to ensure there's adequate food and moisture to keep it healthy.

Grafting is an age-old skill whereby a budded cutting from another tree is fastened onto an established root. The cutting is called the scion.

Cherries, apples and pears: fruit trees for the patio

Cherries, for example, make a good tree in a tub. Choose a dwarf rootstock which isn't doll-sized and make sure you have selected a self-fertile variety which won't need a partner in order to produce fruit. Consider apples and pears trained as cordons; espaliers or miniature standard. Once you’ve selected the form, make sure you learn how to prune it in order to keep the appropriate shape.

A cherry tree in a pot will yield fruit and it looks lovely too.

How to prune?

It's not as difficult as you might imagine. Draw yourself a picture of the framework you hope to achieve, then keep pruning back to that framework each year.

A step-over tree is a great way to keep a fruit tree very low.  A fan-trained fruit tree can be trained against a fence or a hedge.  An espalier trained fruit tree is trained into horizontal shapes which look great against a wall or fence. It's a really productive method of training too.  A cordon-trained fruit tree can be grown against a wall for maximum fruit potential. It simplifies the shape of the plant and reduces it to one main stem which is laid at an angle.                                               

Apricots, nectarines and peaches - there's a fruit tree for YOU!

In addition to the fruits that you might expect to find in a garden, there are also some more unusual tree possibilities too. Apricots, nectarines and peaches are naturally compact and yet they provide full-sized fruit. How successful are these fruit trees when they grow in the UK? The answer, as always, depends on where you are and how you treat them.

Click the photo to watch a short video about patio peach, apricot and nectarine trees!   These are trees that only grow a couple of centimetres or so per year and they make a rather charming talking point. What's more, the fruit can be amazing. A ripe peach picked from the tree is hard to beat. The nectarine is slightly more difficult but can be a delicious success too. These trees will thrive on a warm south or south-west-facing wall when grown as a fan shape. They are actually best out of a heated greenhouse as they like a dormant period during the winter. They work well in a pot as many of these little trees will grow to only just over one metre tall. What rootstock for a peach? St Julian A is favoured as it restricts the vigour and size, yet gives them enough strength to do what you want them to do.

Fig-ure this out!

A fig tree in a pot, or a basket in this case, is a great way to grow this delicious fruit. Some trees positively benefit from being contained. This includes figs which need their roots to be confined in order to stop them producing too much foliage in favour of fruit. You can train them into a fan-shape or a standard form, or train them against a sunny wall. The most popular varieties are Brown Turkey, Brunswick and Violetta.


Family apple and fruit trees

Fancy a mixture but only got room for one little tree? There are family apple trees which have several varieties grafted onto the one rootstock. This technique can also be adopted for other trees too. A nectarine, for example, can be budded onto a young peach tree. Not only will fruit trees provide you with fruit, but the blossom is generally delightful too.

Family fruit trees have several different varieties of fruit tree grafted onto one tree. They offer a great space-saving solution.   Fruit bushes for the small garden Blueberries and cranberries work well in pots because they favour ericaceous compost. They reward the grower with juicy round berries coupled with attractive foliage and spectacular autumn leaf colour too. Even  redcurrants, bilberries and goji berries can be squeezed into a small garden using a u-shaped or cordon style of training against a warm, sunny wall.

Blueberries are known as 'superfood' as they are packed with vitamins. They work very well in a pot.

Training to a support

Fruits with long, spreading canes such as blackberries, raspberries and the newer 'salmonberries' can be trained over arches and pergolas, but make sure you select thornless varieties which won't catch on clothing as you walk by. 'Loch Maree' is an early fruiting thornless blackberry which would perform well in this environment. And then there are grapevines, of course, which are, perhaps, perfect for such a situation.

Salmonberries look very much like raspberries. Rubus spectabilis is native to North America and it tends to ripen earlier than raspberries or blackberries. THANK YOU to Jo Wendel for the use of this photo. Want to view spectacular images of Alaska? Visit for a real treat.  

Born under a gooseberry bush?

What about gooseberries? Growing any sort of soft fruit is now trendy and the modern gooseberry bushes have enjoyed a resurgence of interest. They can be tamed into manageable shapes so they fit comfortably alongside perennials in the flower borders. Red dessert gooseberries such as 'Captivator', are particularly versatile as they can be eaten straight from the bush or used in pies and fruit salads. A golden variety called 'Hinnonmaki Yellow' is said to be equally delicious, as is 'Golden Drop'.  Those loving gooseberries are definitely not fools!

Gooseberry, (Ribes). This one is Hinnonmaki Red. These are really trendy at the moment.  

Citrus fruits for the home

Did you know that you can grow REAL grapefruits, lemons and satsumas in your home? There's a range of citrus trees that is highly suitable for indoor growing conditions, particularly in high light conditions such as conservatories. The fruit produced on these little trees is full sized. In fact it is generally larger than you might buy in a supermarket!

Citrus fruit trees make ideal conservatory plants and these little trees produce full sized fruit! Citrus tree house plants will gradually grow into actual trees if the size of their pot allows. They have been used with great success in bright office atriums and reception areas where they can be planted into the ground or into large containers. Not only do they amaze visitors with a vibrant display of fruit but also with delightfully scented flowers too. Is there a down-side to having citrus trees in your home? Only that their soft, lush foliage seems to attract various aphids and pests so you'll need to keep an eye out for unwanted visitors. Whatever the size of your plot or your home, there's a fruit tree to suit you. Enjoy growing: spring is nearly here!

By Perfect Plants


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