Genetic Dwarf Apples

I’ve been looking into genetic dwarf apples. So far, I only see two varieties - Apple Babe and Garden Delicious.

I imagine they are too new or unusual, but though I would ask. Any experience with these?

I already have about ten conventional apples grafted to Bud-9, quite a few columnar and some espaliers. My aim is to keep a human-scale mini orchard that is accessible for the gardener (me) with less physical ability. Seeing offerings for genetic dwarf apples, I thought I would ask.

Garden Delicious

Apple Babe

The concept of genetic dwarf apples has been around at least back to the 1980s (reference) but I haven’t seen much about them. I enjoy genetic dwarf peaches, except they are way too susceptible to Peach Leaf Curl.

I don’t expect them to be the quality of a Rubinette or Gravenstein, but if they are decent flavor and not disease magnets, that’s a start.

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I don’t have experience with genetic dwarfs. However, any weak growing apple scion will produce a much smaller tree if grown on it’s own roots. Whether it’s small enough for your needs I am not sure. Honeycrisp is a good example of a low vigor scion. But in most cases people use dwarfing rootstocks to reduce tree size.

You could look at this list for low vigor scions.

Also look at this calculator it has some low vigor scions listed.

http://fruitadvisor.info/tfruit/clements/appletreespacing.htm

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I think for genetic dwarfing trees you are going to be the expert on the matter as we discussed on my post about genetic dwarf peaches. As was discussed about the peaches where there was not many genetic dwarf peaches bred to be genetic dwarfs. I presume it is the same here where the amount of breeding for genetic dwarfs is low not only like the peaches but I am sure the reason of the fact that there are already apple rootstocks that are dwarfing would make people not as inclined on breeding genetic dwarf apples. Heck I was looking at apples nurseries sell to start some next year and I would say finding a standard sized apple is almost harder than finding a dwarf or semi dwarf apple depending on variety.

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Well OK. Genetic dwarf apples. But what’s the point?

You can graft any and all apples on to such dwarfing rootstock that you are guaranteed to get no more than a tiny tree and a token harvest.

If small size and low overall production is your goal you are already there.

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Some genetic dwarfs may have advantages over trees on highly dwarfing rootstocks, for specific applications. They are dwarf not because of weakness but because of short interstems - brachytic dwarfing. Examples include genetic dwarf peach, almond, blackberry, and tomato varieties and some annual farm crops. Since the dwarfing is brachytic, they may be growable on strong, stout rootstocks.

Im not up to debating why someone would want dwarf trees. Everyone has their own needs. In my case, I want fresh fruit, multiple varieties shapes flavors, that spread the harvest over a long season, in a small space, that I can prune, pollinate, thin, bag, spray, pick safely and in an accessible way for someone with physical disabilities. If someone wants large trees, massive crops, that’s great, go for it and be happy. Im happy with a few bowls of fruit per tree to eat fresh, can, bake and share and not so much waste. As for me, without accessible sized fruit trees, I might not be able to grow them. Some mini dwarfs do bear heavily and produce plenty of delicious fruit for the gardener.

What I wondered about was experience with these apples - do they taste good, are they disease magnets, do they fall over (like some on M27 or Bud-9), do they tend to overset and require >90% thinning (like brachytic peaches), do they runt out and die (like several I had on M27, including Honeycrisp and Karmijn), do they grow far bigger than advertised (like my Liberty and Jonagold eventually have on M27 even though graft union was a foot above soil line).

Looking at a New Zealand nursery web site, they claim that “Growing to just two metres tall with a mop head habit, this dwarf apple variety produces delicious full-sized crispy red fruit. Good natural disease resistance means little spraying is required, and little or no pruning is needed. Early ripening variety.” I don’t know if their variety is a rename or vice versa of the American variety.

The image of the genetic dwarf apple tree “Apple Babe” on the One Green World website:

image

It looks productive, plenty of apples, unclear how large the fruits are. Stout trunk, unlike what
I have on M27 or Bud9. Fruits appear well shaded by the plentiful leaves, typical for brachytic dwarf varieties (I had a lot of sun burned fruits in 2021).

On the other hand, there is $$$, nursery hype, and it would help to learn about real home garden experiences. If I buy one, I’ll be happy to report on it’s progress.

Thanks @mroot for your suggestion. It’s an interesting idea :grinning:

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If you are looking at the quality of apple babe I found a source that does call it waxy. I don’t know about you but I would not call waxy a good taste. Malus domestica ( Apple Babe Apple ) - Backyard Gardener Something I would keep in mind is some apples One Green World has are more for cooking. A good example is I was looking into red apples because I found them super interesting and they are described the same as honeycrisp where they have a sweet side but also a sour side. In their listings is firecracker. In another website where someone reviews apples I found a person reviewed and and said it was certainly not for fresh eating.

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Thanks @elivings1. I did not find that website before. I wonder if the waxy description is just the skin, and if that is not a good thing? They might keep longer? They also state “medium size” which I find is nursery talk for “small”.

One Green World states their’s is on M-7 which should be a strong rootstock, I think.

I do cook a lot of apples. Pie, apple sauce, some juice, and even one apple even goes into batches of home made dog food. I find I am limited on how many I can eat fresh so the aspect is nice. Even so, I probably eat 100 apples a year one way or another. So if it is a cooking apple, that’s not entirely a bad thing. I like Calpyso™ and Era™ much more for cooking than I do in person.

Anyway, thanks for the comment. It’s interesting.

I grew both Apple Babe and Garden Delicious back in the late 1980’s. They both seemed to be dwarfed due to genetically based reduced internode elongation - brachtiatic dwarfing. Graft unions, which can provide problems, and weak roots, of dwarfing rootstocks, are not a problem with these. The quality of the fruit and productivity may be, I don’t remember. There seems to be some reason they have not become more popular over a period of decades. Since I can’t fully remember my experience with them, I may try them again. It seems they might be ideal for container growing if the fruit is of reasonable quality.
I also remember growing a genetically dwarfed nectarine, but don’t remember it’s name though.

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@WhiteFirFarm, that’s interesting. I thought they were new. Thanks for your experience.

Perhaps one should try growing them on their own roots if purchased on a dwarfing rootstock. I’m curious to know why OGW would offer them on a dwarfing rootstock. I don’t know if the trees I had were grafted. In all likelihood they were as it is one of the easier ways to produce ramets. One could make cuttings or layer some branches to get ramets, or just bury the graft union (the latter being legal if they are pattented - but since plant patents are effective for a limit of 20 years, they should no longer be under any patent restrictions) to get plants on their own roots… I do remember them fruiting, but don’t remember anything about the fruit except that it was on the small side. As mentioned, I don’t really remember too much, and I only had them a few years until I moved.

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I’ve also been interested in genetically/naturally dwarf apple trees as I like the longevity of own-root trees, but also like the option to pick different tree sizes according to planting site. I am always scouting the roadsides for feral apple trees and while most of them are of average size I’ve spotted one that has stayed very small despite being relatively mature with no sign of having been pruned back by road crews. After a few years of observation I collected scion and grafted three trees of it with the graft union buried to allow them to become own-root.

I should back-step a bit and say in addition to the tree size I also found the fruit from this tree very interesting with the majority of its fruit being relatively blemish free. I’ve not quite had the opportunity to pick it at peak ripeness due to not regularly being in proximity to the ortet at the right time, but I’ve gotten to sample a fair amount of slightly under-ripe fruit from it which I found very promising.

My next step is to start a stool bed of it to start propagating clones for distribution to willing volunteers who will grow it out to evaluate if it remains reliably dwarf in various locations.

Back to the general topic of this thread though, I suspect the reason we don’t have a longer list of genetically small apple cultivars is simply due to the fact that it’s so rare for anyone to grow named apple clones on their own roots to know if their size is due to their natural habit or due to their rootstock.

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i have no experience with brachytic dwarfing in apples.

I second mroot’s idea that very low vigor varieties probably make smaller own rooted tree’s.

The size of ~8 feet is roughly what i would expect of a very low vigor apple variety grafted to M7 to. So I’m not sure how much more dwarfing the garden delicious and babe are compared to other low vigor apples.

i’d caution you about advertisements. It’s rarely reliable in my experience. If seen seedling rootstock cherry’s/apples etc sold as dwarfs. And suited for pot culture. Technically you could keep them dwarf size. But i’d be hard.

Personally i don’t see a major advantage with own root apple tree’s. You’ll know little about long term size, disease resistance and soil/drought adaptability for example.

If accessibility is key, id stick to
-dwarfs. (keep in mind that a dwarf rootstock combined with a high vigor scion can still get large, but also that a tree pruned to contain to many spurs can “runt out” )
-espaliers.

If you want it low and multiple varieties id go for an espalier franken tree. Id personally go for something like UFO with cherry’s
page 50+ https://www.canr.msu.edu/hrt/uploads/535/78639/PNW-667-Cherry-Training-Guide.pdf

or like future orchards (new Zealand)
multi leader (Italy) https://www.growingproduce.com/fruits/apples-pears/what-you-need-to-know-about-multileader-systems/

imagine each of the uprights being a different variety. (I’m making a few tree’s like this. i am paying attention to scion vigor a little bit though)

I believe ‘Centennial’ was reputed to be a genetic dwarf. IDK.
I have Centennial (DolgoXWealthy) and Kerr (DolgoXHaralson), on M26, planted side-by-side. ~25 yrs in the ground here, both are similar size, about 10 ft tall. Seem like they’ve been that size for a long time. The only pruning they get is harvest of a few sticks of scionwood each winter. Both bear heavily, annually, and are never fertilized, so there’s not a whole lot of vigorous wood on either.

I buried the graft on my ‘Centennial’. I have to say it is NOT a genetic dwarf. Not a monster either, but it has pretty good vigor. I ended up top grafting it with some larger fruited varieties since my pole picker doesn’t handle crab apples well. I just keep the lower ‘Centennial’ branches for picking from ground level.

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I bought Apple Babe and planted it in my miniature fruit garden. Nice stocky stems, similar to those on columnars. If all goes well, maybe I’ll have something to report in a few years :slightly_smiling_face:

There are certainly some excellent genetically semi-dwarf apples that can be kept quite small and productive. Any real spurry, precocious apple can probably fill the bill. Here, in South NY, spur-form Ark Black loves to runt out even on 111 and grow spurs instead of vegetative wood. To a lesser degree so does Goldrush. Early Pink Lady is very precocious also.

Your scheme of having low branching trees needn’t limit itself to dwarf rootstocks or even early fruiting types. Even a tree like Northern Spy (famous for it upright habit, late fruiting and high vigor) can be trained to grow low, with some diligence- summer pruning and staking until trees come into full production. Such trees simply require more room and perhaps time to come into production.

If I was younger I might start with a vigorous tree on a vigorous root stock and use it to graft several varieties on and make an apple orchard on a single open-center apple tree, keeping all scaffolds at a manageable height. Such a tree could last over a century and handle drought and other adversity with aplomb. It could also singlehandedly (single branchedly? treely?) produce half a ton of fruit after a quarter of a century of growth.