Fruit tree arbor

Now is the time to plant bare root fruit trees and the LA Times Home and Garden section has an interesting article on a Santa Rosa plum arbor used on a home entryway. It's made me think that a stick-built arbor planned for my kitchen door could be made with fruit trees instead. Potential problems with fruit trees include the fact that it would get only morning sun and my heavy clay soil.

UC Davis has information on the cultural requirements for fruit trees. Specifically, they recommend 6H of sunlight (early morning light is best) during the growing season and 3' of well draining soil or raised beds.

From the LA Times article by Emily Green:

...Marin-based UC Cooperative Extension horticulturist Steven Swain has some tips.

First, he suggests plotting out the tunnel's shape using wire, then constructing a temporary frame.

"The nicest arbors I've seen were grown by people who came up with a small wire enclosure that they could take down as the trees grew," he says. "Then they could tie the branches to the wire enclosure. That will allow you to train things. It also gives you a reference point about where you want to prune."

Laissez faire gardeners could forgo the frame by allowing the trees to retain a natural shape and by pruning to keep the path clear. Whatever form you choose, naturalistic or sculpted, Swain has more tips.

When planting the trees, take off as many lateral branches as you need.

"You can even prune the tree down to a whip," he says.

As new growth comes in, he recommends pruning for shape and gently tying new growth in the shape you desire. But do this in late summer, he says. Cuts on main branches made in winter will stimulate only wild growth. Done at the right time, it will keep arbor maintenance to a minimum. Once the trees are where you want them and branches are growing in roughly the right directions, you will be on your way to what Rochlin describes as a year-round show.

In an accompanying article they suggest the following selection criteria and varieties of tree:

Varieties: Consider peaches, plums, apricots, apples, almonds, even the relatively newfangled pluots and apriums. A common mistake that limits fruit yield in the Los Angeles area: planting varieties that need temperatures to drop below 45 degrees for at least 300 hours annually. For gardeners in the relatively mild, non-mountainous areas of Southern California, look for "low-chill" varieties.

Low-chill apples include 'Anna,' 'Beverly Hills,' 'Dorsett Golden,' 'Tropical Beauty' and 'Ein Shemer.' Low-chill plum varieties include 'Santa Rosa,' 'Burgundy' and 'Beauty.' For apricots, UC Cooperative Extension horticulturist Steven Swain recommends 'Gold Kist,' 'Katy,' 'Early Golden' and 'Newcastle.'

Most bare-root trees take three years to fruit. Anna apples fruit the first year.

Spacing: Davida Rochlin's plum arbor covers a 29-foot-long walkway. It contains three trees on each side, planted at identical 8-foot intervals. Each tree is 6 feet away from its twin on the opposite side of the path, roughly a foot and a half from the walkway.

The photo on the LA Times is dismayingly small and not clickable for a larger image.

Sychronicity brought Anne from A Plant Slut's Garden to my blog in the post just before this one, and her most recent Weekly Design Recipe blog post is about making a fruit garden wall. Both she and the LA Times link to Dave Wilson Nursery for more information.


  1. Thank you, Brent, for mentioning my post! Good info on yours, I'll keep checking back.

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