Structure Trees with Edible Fruit (Part 2)

By Lorraine Spooner

With the winter season offering the perfect opportunity to re-assess your garden without spring and summer foliage, I discussed last week how fruit trees can be used to create interesting structure in a garden setting.  In part 1, which you can read here, archways and the different use of trained forms of trees were highlighted; this week Part 2 will provide suggestions for half standard and multi-stemmed forms of fruit trees.

A garden’s structure can also be creatively tweaked by using hedging to form different rooms within the garden. One of our designers, Tina James, shared her tips for this in her latest blog post, which you can read here.

Structure Trees with Edible Fruit (Part 2)

Half Standard Fruit Trees

This range of trees come in 15, 20 or 35 litre pots and are suited to every garden space. A single specimen can make a seasonal statement in a small garden, or plant in numbers at the recommended spacing, where a variety of specimens could produce a bountiful harvest.  These are also suitable for border centrepieces in the vegetable garden or potager to add height to otherwise ‘flat’ beds and provide welcome shade for those vegetables, such as lettuce, which tend to bolt in hot sunshine.

One of the most interesting fruit trees for providing architectural structure is the mulberry, whose branches become twisted and gnarled in maturity. The King James mulberry, now known as ‘Chelsea’, has been bred from cuttings of a tree in the Chelsea Physic Garden, planted during the reign of King James I.  This old English variety produces larger than average fruit, succulent and rich in flavour – mulberries are rarely found for sale in shops, so this is one to plant if you have the space to accommodate its spreading habit.  This variety is in stock, or ‘Giant Fruit’ is another popular alternative.

Structure Trees with Edible Fruit (Part 2)
Structure Trees with Edible Fruit (Part 2)

Mulberry trees are also grown in a ‘Roof Form’ with an umbrella of branches trained across a framework. The large heart-shaped leaves are perfect for providing shade over a patio, where the tall clear stem will not impede access to a busy entertaining area.  Morus platanifolia, a fruitless variety, is in stock in this form and is pictured above in this stunning Nicholsons’ designed garden.

If you have raised beds, another fruit tree form to add a mini vertical element is the quarter standard (pictured right).  These delightful trees have a clear stem of less than 1m, above which a dense canopy of branches facilitates picking without bending. Gooseberries and blackcurrants are particularly effective in this form and will provide interesting winter structure, when most ‘grow your own’ areas are looking a little devoid of vegetation.

Multi-stem Fruit Trees

Finally, an article on structure would not be complete without mentioning multi-stemmed trees.  This form of plant is defined as a tree with two or more main stems arising near ground level, but importantly growing from one root system. Specific pruning techniques carried out at an early age encourage the formation of multiple branches.

Structure Trees with Edible Fruit (Part 2)

Multi-stems combine the characteristics of both trees and shrubs, with an open structure at their base and often with a greater foliage mass than the same tree in its usual form. This means their features can be enjoyed at close quarters, rather than gazing skywards to appreciate these attributes.  Their structure creates a ‘window’ through which other planting can be appreciated and they are particularly effective planted in groups to break up a long vista, creating instant structural impact.  Mespilus germanica, the common medlar, is available in this form, so follow in the footsteps of your ancestors and plant one of these heritage trees in your garden.

Trees provide structure in abundance – they all have individual habits of branch growth and form which can be utilised in so many diverse ways.   The Plant Centre is open and our horticultural experts are available to assist you in choosing plants to provide this all important element to your garden space.  Alternatively, contact me via lorraine@nicholsonsgb.com, or our Plant Sales Office, 01869 340342, Option 1 – orders can be taken over the phone and collected or delivered to suit your requirements.

Structure Trees with Edible Fruit (Part 2)