Semi Dwarf or Dwarf Apple tree

Discussion in 'Fruit and Nut Trees' started by Gardenlover, Mar 7, 2008.

  1. Gardenlover

    Gardenlover Active Member

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    Southern Ontario, Canada Zone 6a
    I want to plant an apple tree in my yard what is the difference in quality between these two varieties?

    I don't want the tree to grow too big and fall into our neighbours yards...I would like to plant it 4 feet away from fence line. Which do you think is better choice semi dwarf or dwarf?

    thanks
     
  2. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    If your two varieties are "dwarf" and "semi-dwarf" those aren't varieties they are size categories, like "compact" and "full-sized" (or whatever) cars. The usual way to get these different apple tree sizes is to graft them on root-stocks of varying vigor. The variety being grafted onto each rootstock is the same, when you see for example dwarf 'Spartan' and semi-dwarf 'Spartan' there is no difference between the 'Spartan' part of each combination of scion ('Spartan', in this instance) and whichever rootstock cultivar was used. Although it varies putting an apple cultivar on a fully dwarfing stock might result in a tree maybe 10 ft. tall or so, unless heavily pruned and trained into a tree fence arrangement or fanned out onto a wall. Semi-dwarf trees might get considerably larger, perhaps even 60% of the size of the same variety on non-dwarfing roots. Semi-dwarf trees tend not to want to stay down where you can just walk up and pick all the fruit, without a ladder; trying to keep these as short as fully dwarfed trees can develop into a struggle.

    If you are planting on the sunny side of the fence you could buy cultivars with desired fruiting characteristics, disease resistance and pollen compatibility (they all only cross with certain other ones, this has to be kept track of when choosing your varieties, suppliers often have pollination charts showing which goes with which), plant them right at the base and train them onto it, like vines. This has the advantage of providing some reflected heat, as well as a means of support (apple trees on fully dwarfing rootstocks tend to lean over in time, if not supported, the same feebleness of the rootstock that heavily dwarfs the top also resulting in it being unable to hold the top up as it enlarges).

    I didn't think they would be locally adapted but now that they have been around awhile I've noticed that some of the Colonnade apple cultivars seem to be working out on other properties here. Nice little vase-like trees (not staying as ridiculous poles with no branches) with the apples held almost level with the ground. I even saw some small ones in one gallon pots late last fall at a nearby Fred Meyer store, otherwise local garden centers have had them available bare-rooted this past winter (season for bare-rooted plants rapidly fading or already over, not sure what you could find offered that way now - most places may have potted whatever didn't sell bare-rooted).

    Maybe you are in a part of Canada where it is still cold and bare-rooted stock will be in season for some time.
     
  3. Gardenlover

    Gardenlover Active Member

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    Thanks Ron.

    I hear that semi dwarf are more winter hardy than the dwarf variety.
    I will go with the dwarf.
     
  4. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    Seems like that would depend on which rootstock cultivar was used.
     
  5. Gardenlover

    Gardenlover Active Member

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    Thanks Ron.

    What is recommended for the Toronto area?
    I beleive it is a zone 6
     
  6. Daniel Mosquin

    Daniel Mosquin Paragon of Plants UBC Botanical Garden Forums Administrator Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    Apple Rootstocks factsheet from the Gov't of Ontario (includes a 1-877 information hotline number at the bottom)
     
  7. joshuaslocum

    joshuaslocum Member

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    If your goal is to enjoy the fruit and have a working yet easy addition to your landscape then go with Dwarf over the semi-dwarf.

    Semi-dwarf trees can still grow well out of your reach - necessitating ladders etc.

    Dwarf Fruit Trees are fantastic as a long term friend in your space. I have pictures up on the blog showing gorgeous fruit trees in front of lovely homes that long ago lost their ease for their owners because they are so HUGE...

    The Dwarf Fruit Trees Blog
     

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