Multi-variety or 'frankentree' planning

I am planning out having multi-graft apple tree/s and am not sure how to go about it. I am trying to think ahead to having somewhere to [A] have a tiered espalier [B] have a few apples to test out whether I like the apple enough to bother with a tree [C] park interesting scion and grow it out if I haven’t decided on it or need appropriate rootstock the following year.
What are your considerations for establishing one? Most posts I’ve found mention having a variety the person isn’t impressed by, for whatever reason, or a test seedling. They then cut down/ cut back and start plugging in other varieties.
I am trying to decide which variety to use as framework - it would need to be grafted and grow out. Or have people used clonal rootstock, grown it taller, and grafted it as a framework tree? Is vigor a consideration for the frame?
Particular to an espalier, how do you decide what variety goes on which branch level? Everything similar vigor, or weaker at top level? I am generally thinking of differing harvest dates for this one, or varieties with a long harvest window. It would be planted near our patio, for fresh eating off the tree.

Most people just work with what they already have for a frankentree. (variety they don’t like/overgrown tree that they want to prune heavy)

However if your starting from scratch, i would focus more on disease resistance than vigor.
Cancer (Nectria galligena) and fire blight come to mind. Although i am not sure how much the resistance of that matters for the thicker framework branches. (i remember that B9 for example gets more fire blight resistant with age(thickining) of the main stem.)

Also i would shy away from varieties that are known to be virus infected or virus sensitive for the framework.

A rootstock as framework might not be the best choice. Some rootstocks have a larger dwarfing effect from longer rootstock stem lengths (like in interstem tree’s)
So i can imagine complete rootstock framework to be extra dwarfing.

Also a lot of rootstocks are selected for root diseases, and not nessesarely leaf/above ground disease resistance. Like MM111 can handle a lot below ground. But above ground gets burr knots etc.

When your tree is large enough to framework. You usualy place higher vigor scions lower on the tree, at more horizontal branches. And the lower vigor higher/ closer to the center, or on thicker framework branches.

This youtube video from skillcult is excellent :slight_smile:
He shows you step for step how he makes a frankentree. And what you can do to help the scions leaf out and grow enough. But also where on the tree to place them. And how much room they need.
His other content is amazing to. Recomend a watch (he has multiple playlists!!! on frankentree’s grafting and tree training!!)

I am personaly grafting and planting a “frankentree espalier” orchard this year. I am stil working on the topic. But hope to post it the coming week(s)

My goal is a large collection of different varieties. In order of ripening. And espaliering the frankentree so each variety produces 5-10 apples/fruits a year. (roughly 1.6 meters ~ 5foot of fruiting (spur) stem.

Besides working on your frankentree. If your starting from rootstocks. It might be worth it to buy some extra to make a stool bed. So u can propegate your own. M27 might be cool.

If you want to test out a new variety that is posible virus infected, it’s a lot safer to put it on a seperate rootstock, than to graft it on a valuable espaliered tree. And M27 is really dwarfting and also really precosious. It does need a lot of care though.
And never graft on your stool bed. Always first cut off your layered rootstock and than (bench) graft it and plant it out.

B9 and MM111 also seem worthwhile to grow for rootstocks. Although i cannot find if B9 Stil has breeders rights/patent. M27 and MM111 are really old. So should be off patent


I think @oscar covered it. I would just suggest that whatever your rootstock is you first tree on top of the rootstock should be a disease resistant variety. Mine happens to be Liberty, but others would surely be as good.

I have a note in my files: don’t Frankentree on G 935 rootstock as it is virus sensitive. You want a tried and true rootstock without virus issuses.


Thats an excellent point !
I am using MM111 interstemd with M9 and B9 for my frankentree espaliers.

Same would be true for the krymsk (5,6,7) series for cherry’s. (was more virus sensitive)

And i think i remember krymsk or VVA plum/peach/apricot rootstocks also being more virus sensitive. If going for prunus, i think you want a sharka tolerant rootstock. And framework variety.

I don’t know about pears. Since we mainly use quince for that. (have no accses to OHXF in europe :frowning_face: )
On quince rootstock i would go for a good interstem. I though beurre hardy was used as a virus indicator. so would be sensitive???. So probably go for doyenne. Or old home.

For my first two Franketrees, I just went garden center hopping looking for a fairly cheap semi-dwarf tree, that had the scaffold limbs pretty much where I wanted them at time of purchase.
My first one was a Wolf River, on M111, very disease resistant and very vigorous. (Might be too vigorous for espalier.) (But I want a 15 foot tree.)

Since then, I’ve added to a Pink Lady, a Fuji, and a seedling tree that will bloom for the first time this year. The Pink Lady may not be ideal, but it gave me a place to park some varieties until I decide if I want a whole tree of them…it was on sale and had a good number of limbs ready to graft to at the time of purchase. Red Delicious would also be fine, if you found one well-limbed.

I actually think I’d pick a B-118 if I were going to start from scratch to do espalier.


Thanks, you are validating many of my thoughts. I am focusing on disease resistance for my trees. Definitely need to have that for a multi-tree, and anything virus sensitive is right out @hambone that’s one factor eliminating some Geneva roots. I hadn’t thought about dwarfing in this case or late at night, so maybe rootstock is out then. I have bought some rootstock to use for stooling, but they aren’t even here this spring. Getting antsy. :slight_smile:
Skillcult’s videos are frequently rewatched here. Very informative,even though our growing conditions are quite different. I intend to look at frankentree again.
@marknmt I may try Liberty, and end up as other people, grafting over what I don’t like. I haven’t enjoyed the Liberty I have had, just ‘eh’ apples. I tried with a graft two years ago, but the wooly apple aphids have killed the tree. So rootstock choice again, which is why I need to find a tree with it labeled if I use it as@BlueBerry has.