The tale of Bek's orchard...

05 April, 2014

In the final installment of how my garden grows, I will spin you a yarn about a girl with an unhealthy addiction to buying more apple trees than a person could conceivably fit in an average backyard.

When I first moved in, the area which has become my orchard was pretty much a wasteland.

It is the triangular space in the below diagram to the left of the garage and driveway.

Apple trees have always been on my to-do list, and not surprisingly they were one of the first fruit trees purchased for the yard. I had always loved espaliers, and in my apple tree research I stumbled across Woodbridge Fruit Trees. They have some excellent articles on both simplified and standard methods of espaliering apples (and other trees, but here I'm focussing on apples).

The thing that sold me is that most of their trees are sold on M26 rootstock, which is one of the more dwarfing rootstocks available. M26 rootstock trees grow to about 2-2.5m high, but more importantly, are suitable for espaliering. Most of your average Bunnings variety apple trees are sold on M111 or MM106 that grow to about 3-4m trees. Great if you want lots of one type of apple. Not so good for me when I love variety and want one of everything, which is not possible when there are thousands of varieties of apples, but I can try.

So in 2009 bought my first three trees from them; a Sundowner, Grand Duke Constantine and Fugi.

This is them in 2010, which is the earliest photo I have of this area. I had used the old roof tiles from the backyard stack to construct edging for raised beds. I had extra gravel from where I graveled the backyard and raised bed veg patch so I decided to gravel between the beds here too.

The bed in front of the apples has (from left to right) a gooseberry, rhubarb, a red-currant and a white-currant. To the left is the asparagus patch.

This is the view standing from that spot looking towards the far corner. Each stick is an asparagus plant I raised from seed.  The green mass of weeds is pretty much what the area consisted of when I first moved in.

Later in 2010 I aquired 9 more apple trees from Woodbridge Fruit Trees, to take my apple tree total to 12. (Varieties: White Transparent, Devonshire Quarrendon, St Edmunds Pippin, Bramley's Seedling, Esopus Spritzenburg, Pine Golden Pippin, Huonville Crab, Court Pendu Plat and Granny Smith, if you were interested).

I originally had these in pots, as I hadn't quite yet figured out exactly what I was going to do with them. Then, having made the raised garden beds and quite liking the ease of use, I decided to develop this area into an espaliered fruit tree haven.

I then laid out a rough plan, allowing me three beds of espaliers. 

"Look at all that space", I thought. "I'm just going to have to buy more fruit trees."

So I did.

In 2011 I purchased 10 more apple trees, including Tydeman's Early Worcester, Summer Strawberry, Fenouillet Gris, Forfar Pippin, Red Cleopatra, Australian Beauty, Caville Blanc D'Hiver, Freyberg, Lady Williams and Duke of Clarence.

In 2012 I finally got around to building proper wooden sleeper raised beds for them. 

I used start pickets to build wire supports for the espalier, and espaliered them in the formal T-shape.

However in 2012 I had a little rethink about how I could grow my espaliers after having a little chat to Pete the Permie. He grows his orchard of 300ish types of apple in a cordon espalier, which is essentially an angled single stem, from which I reckons he gets about 30kg of apples on an established tree.


I liked this idea so much I re-designed my orchard espaliers to cordons, and realised I could fit in a few more trees. Make that 16 more trees.


So I then bought Egremont Russet, Stayman's Winesap, Cornish Aromatic, Reinette Doree, Rome Beauty, Democrat Black, Pink Lady, Sturmer, Early Victoria, Sugarloaf Pippin, Sweetman, Ribston Pippin, Belle Cacheuse, Berner Rose, Hubbarston's Nonesuch and Catshead.

This is how it looks now.

This is the layout from early apples through to late.

Now that's enough apples. I think.

The espaliered apples is the greatest proportion of fruit trees in the orchard, but not all.

Along the fence bordering the neighbour I have a nectarine and a flat peach, as well as the gooseberry, red-currant and white-currant which I moved earlier this year, as they didn't love the full sun of their original position.

And that pretty much rounds up the orchard.

37 - Grapevine (was here when I moved in, green seeded type, variety unknown)
39 - Peach Donut (flat type)
40 - Gooseberry Champion
41 - Gooseberry unknown variety
42 - Nectarine Giant Queen
43 - Redcurrant
44 - White Currant
45 - Peach/Nectarine seedling (to be grafted with my parents' excellent late yellow cling stone variety)
46 - Apples (33 varieties) espaliered in a cordon espalier style
47 - Apples ( 3 varieties) espaliered in a modified KNNN (knee, navel, nipple, nose) style

The two other beds are just spares, which I usually shove some veg in. Currently there are some brassica seeds just coming up in the triangular bed, and the remnants of the summer corn and some purple sprouting broccoli seedlings in the other.

So that is my orchard.

Who knows what I'll decide to do with it next.


  1. Wow- that's really impressive! Have you had many apples yet? The names ofbthe trees are so evocative. One of my favourites in the orchards at work is a Cornish Gillyflower - great name, lovely apples. Not suitable for espaliering though as it's a tip bearer!

    1. Thanks! I've had an apple or three from about 1/3 of the trees so far, but the older ones are now cropping between 30-50 apples, which is really nice! I love the names too, Cornish Gillyflower sounds lovely.

  2. That's an amazing collection of apples you have, and in a compact area.
    Its given me a lot of ideas and inspiration.
    I just have 4 varieties on large rootstocks, and was hoping to graft more varieties on to those trees.
    But I am not really sure if large tree multigrafts are very practical.

    1. Cheers! I have no idea as to multigrafts, but am myself looking to graft onto these espalier a in the future, so it will be a learning curve for all.

  3. Wow- loads of apples! Love this post with all the before or after photos. Am quite surprised to see it doesn't look as though its in full sun? I have 1 apple from Pete the permie (on a M25 or maybe 26? graft). Its really done nothing. The last 2 years (have had it for 3) it hasn't had a single blossom. I put a crab apple out on the nature strip to pollinate it and its going quite well despite almost complete neglect.

    1. Thanks Jodie. You're rightness it's not in full sun. The council trees on the nature strip do block a lot of the midday sun, but the area gets quite al lot of morning and afternoon sun so the get by. I also think it is a little protective from the worst of the summer rays. The trees are deciduous, so the late apples that get the most shade get the sun in winter when the fruit will be ripening (theoretically) so I hope it won't be a problem. I have had to be careful with varieties, as we do get a bit of chilling but some varieties need more chilling hours than we get in suburbia. But that said I've had trees for a few years that did nothing and then decided the time was right. Good luck with yours.

  4. I love your orchard.