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Pick apples and pears from your own garden. Many would like that - but not everyone has enough space for the fruit trees with their lush crowns. The solution: columnar fruit trees! They grow slender and compact in height and are becoming increasingly popular. Many people ask themselves whether columnar fruit is worthwhile for their own garden. We have researched and gathered various experiences from columnar fruit owners.
Columnar fruit facilitates cultivation with its narrow growth. So that even fruit growers are using column cultivation more and more often. But it is also suitable for the balcony in a bucket or as a hedge to separate in the garden. Whether apple, pear, cherry, plum or peach - almost everything that is available as a normal fruit tree is also offered in column form. Are you also planning columnar fruit in your own garden and would like to read reports from other columnar fruit owners without going through various forums? Based on the experiences of various hobby gardeners, we have created a mood picture on columnar fruit with its advantages and disadvantages.
notice: For reasons of better legibility, small spelling mistakes (spaces, transposed letters, etc.) in the quotations have been corrected. The exact sources are linked under the indication of the respective forum.
Pillar fruit is characterized by a slender growth and the low cutting effort - at least in theory. But even the columns cannot do without cutting. Below you will find some field reports on growth, pruning, planting distance and pollination of columnar fruit.
"My columnar apple trees (Bolero and Waltz) are in pots, so they don't grow as well due to the cramped root space. Planted out in the open, columnar trees are sure to reach the dimensions specified by the grower. Even if they remain slender by themselves or through appropriate pruning, you should not plant them too close together, since their roots need space. As far as I know, columnar apples are grafted onto the same rootstocks as slow-growing varieties for trellis cultivation (e.g. M9). A distance of about 1 meter would be advisable. Pillar fruit is just not so suitable as a privacy screen.”
Source: www.garten-pur.de, user: tapir, 08/18/2005
“[…] Pillar apples also have to be cared for.
Side shoots that are too strong should be cut to 10 cm stubs so that the trees do not lose their shape.
In the case of the side branches, the squashed growth and thus the low height growth is no longer certain.”
Source: www.garten-pur.de, user: Asimina, 09.01.2006
“True genetically determined pillars have so far only been found in apples. Everything else is just cut like a column and only stays in this shape with strong cuts.”
Source: www.garten-pur.de, user: carot, 28.11.2014
“I have had a columnar apple tree for 3 years.
If in the area approx. 3 km another apple tree blooms then you don't need an additional one.
The crop yield increases the older the tree gets, last year I had 15 apples, I think that’s ok for such a small tree.”
Source: www.hausgarten.net, user: Stupsi, 03/04/2015
"[… ] As is already correctly stated here, all fruit advertised or sold as a columnar tree that CANNOT be called an apple is bound to have to be cut relatively radically, since in contrast to the apple […] no other type of fruit is naturally produced growing in dwarf or columnar form.
There are just a few types of fruit that grow quite slender anyway and often enough have branches that grow quite steeply upwards, which also makes for a certain optical slenderness. But without cutting, any (initial) columnar shape is definitely lost pretty quickly.”
Source: www.garten-pur.de, user: DerTigga, 27.11.2014
“Of course you have to cut more of the culture-related columns to keep them in shape. But for a gardener with heart and soul who is in the garden every day anyway, that's no problem. If a few branches need to be shortened a bit. But if you do that, you can really have fun with the trees.”
Source: www.garten-pur.de, user: Pflanzen1x1, 02/04/2014
Harvesting is arguably the most debated topic when it comes to columnar fruit. In the suppliers' catalogues, the small columnar trees are bulging with large fruits. You can find out what the yield looks like in reality here.
"I have the following columnar trees: 2x apples, 1x cherry, 1x plum and since Monday also a second type of pear
My experience after 2 years: really good sweet fruit - apart from the pear, all trees had already borne fruit in the first year. The pear had pears on top for the first time last year - some fell off in a storm and one big beautiful fruit made it to maturity [… ].”
Source: www.gartenforum.de, user: Margit H., 03/30/2013
"Our columnar fruit - 2 apples and 2 pear trees - are not quite 1 meter apart.
The apple trees are now in their 4th year and bear more than plenty […]. The pear trees are in 1 year and have set about 8 pears each.
We also have normal apple trees in the garden, but compared to the columnar apple they bear little fruit.”
Source: www.garten-pur.de, user: Diptam, 08/17/2005
"I think they're great too, especially for small areas, they're also easy to harvest, but of course the yield can't be measured with a real fruit tree. "
Source: www.hausgarten.net, user: Stupsi, 11/18/2016
"I also have an apple and a pear and both are still very young, but the pear had 8 pears in the first year of planting, which were stolen right away. [… ] And the apple 5 apples… . The bigger they get, the more there is.”
Source: www.hausgarten.net, user: Kapha, 03/04/2015
“Two years ago we planted two columnar apples. They are now about 1.50 m high. One carried like 22/23 apples. I probably trimmed the other one too much or too late.
If you only want to harvest a few apples, don't have a lot of space or want to do it for the children, such a tree is definitely suitable for you. He also needs care.”
Source: www.hausgarten.net, user: Lieschen M, 10/17/2013
I can't really say anything positive about the yield: our [columnar cherry] has always been very plentiful for years, unfortunately they regularly rot before they turn reddish. I think this year we had more than ever: 10 pieces"
Source: www.hausgarten.net, user: geissbock, 09/02/2013
"I have an apple and a pear columnar tree.
Both are only 2 years old and are excellent bearers for such small young trees.
Last year we had 28 apples on the apple and 12 on the pear… without either of them having another columnar tree nearby… so no other pollinator.”
Source: www.gartenforum.de, user: Kapha, 03/30/2016
"I've had pillar apples for a year now, 3 of them. There is 1 apple, but the blossom was terrific. So I hope for next year!”
Source: www.garten-pur.de, user: berta, 10.10.2005
“[… ] The plums bore well last year (trees are only in their 3rd year), so that a large (large baking tray thickly covered) delicious plum cake jumped out. […]"
Source: www.planten.de, user: Angel1903, 03/11/2008
"If you only want fruit to snack on, then I would recommend columnar fruit, you can plant umpteen different varieties in a small space. The yield is just low, but as I said, it's enough for snacking.
But if you e.g. If you also want to pickle or freeze cherries, you will not be happy with the columns. Because with them, the yield is a few handfuls, which are quickly plastered over.”
Source: www.parents.at, user: Nike89, 03/10/2014
“The 4 apples have plenty of fruit (15-20 each) in the first year and they taste good too.
Also no branch growth, so I didn't have to cut.
The pillar cherry Sylvia also bore well. In mid-June already ripe and delicious full-fleshed cherries. Pollinator was one/all sweet cherries in the neighborhood.
Hardly any growth of branches there either, although there are no columnar cherries.
We do not regret the purchase. On the contrary… Super healthy, strong columns hanging full of fruit, like in the glossy catalogue.”
Source: www.garten-pur.de, user: minor, 08/11/2008
varieties and taste
The only classic column fruit is the apple, and even then only a few selected varieties. But other types of fruit can also be used to train the pillar. The taste of columnar fruit is not said to be very convincing. You can find out here what experiences other columnar fruit gardeners have had. It is well known that tastes differ.
“I think cherries are the worst choice.
There aren't any really small varieties of them yet. This has probably not been the case with pears either.
Peaches and apples seem to work best.”
Source: www.planten.de, user: Amur, 16.03.2008
"I advise you to stick to pillar apples only.
Good columnar apples are available in various well-stocked tree nurseries, whether locally or online. [… ] Other good varieties are Rondo, Sonata and La Torre. I now advise against columns from the CATS series (Greencats, Redcats, etc.), as I have had negative experiences with two trees, both in terms of fruit and growth. I have had the first varieties such as Bolero or Flamenco for a year, but they are no longer recommended because they are apparently not supposed to taste that good. Of varieties such as Braeburn, Gala, Elstar, etc. as a columnar form:Hands off!. These are not real columns but normal trees that […] form side shoots. The same applies to alleged pillars of other types of fruit such as peaches, plums, mirabelle plums, apricots, cherries etc…”
Source: www.gartenforum.de, user: Krokus, 04.03.2018
"I like the bolero. And the most important thing is that it lasts a long time. But it's all a matter of taste."
Source: www.gartenforum.de, user: Michi1, 04.03.2018
"I have pillar apples, but I would never get any again. The older columnar fruit varieties in particular, such as Bolero, hardly have any taste. It is better to get a normal tree where a variety has been grafted on a slow-growing rootstock, they don't get that big and you can also plant them in tubs."
Source: www.garten-pur.de, user: moose, 02.01.2006
“I bought a columnar apple this spring just for fun. Variety Red River, was planted out in the flower border.
Apparently very immune to many diseases.
That has actually been confirmed. Despite unfavorable conditions (the mallow planted next to it grew twice as high as the sapling and took away a lot of light), there was no scab or anything like that.
One of the numerous blossoms came through to an apple (the rest is frozen), which I was able to harvest the day before yesterday [… ] It smells good.
Something for the first year.
Incidentally, the growth was only a few centimeters and it was not necessary to cut side shoots, as they were not available.
So for the time being, it's actually ideal for someone who can't (or doesn't want to) cut or do anything else on the trees."
Source: www.garten-pur.de, user: Amur, 13.10.2005
“Out of the taste, I like the Starline Suncats and Golden Gate pillars best. Suncats quickly grows to 3m and is good to eat in September. Golden Gate matures later and will be stored with me until January. The taste of both varieties is sweet and sour and very aromatic and spicy. Golden Gate is more sweet than sour. Both apples grow as big as a Boskoop.”
Source: www.garten-pur.de, user: apple friend, 05.06.2012
“[… ] I think the main selection goal of such varieties is columnar growth. Column growth AND taste, that's 2 lottery wins at once when breeding.
I have not yet tried a columnar apple that I liked. I think it's an emergency solution in terms of taste, rather than a decorative form."
Source: www.garten-pur.de, user: Mediterraneus, 27.11.2014
Advantages and disadvantages of columnar fruit
Classic columnar fruit trees impress with their easy-care pruning measures. But the disadvantage: These only include a few apple varieties. Everything else that is advertised as columnar fruit requires more complex care. All advantages and disadvantages of columnar fruit here at a glance:
- low cutting effort with actual columnar fruit (apples)
- well suited as a snack
- space saving
- also suitable for balcony + terrace
- light harvest
- as a pretty decoration with a great flower
- suitable for beginners
- actual columnar fruit only apples, everything else needs to be kept in shape
- Cutting measures are nevertheless necessary
- low yield
- Wear often only after 2-3 years
- Ignorance is exploited by many providers (e.g. lack of information on cutting measures, photo manipulation)
- not convincing in taste
- comparatively expensive
Experiences with columnar fruit are mixed. While some pillar owners have robust and relatively productive trees in the garden, other gardeners have had bad experiences. Anyone who is toying with the idea of columnar fruit in the garden should obtain thorough information from the provider beforehand. Unfortunately, however, some catalogs show photomontages of heavily draped fruit columns. Don't let this fool you.
You should also be aware that the columnar shape is only genetically determined in some apple varieties (e.g. 'Goldcats', 'Starcats', Rondo, Golden Gate or 'Redcats'). Everything else is only raised in columnar form and requires regular pruning. The yield of columnar fruit is very low, but only exceeds conventional fruit trees in terms of mass per m². If you only want to have the sweet fruit as a snack in the garden, columnar fruit is definitely worth a try.