Pondering a plum or apricot espalier, or something else?

The photo of Alan’s espaliered apricot got me thinking I should do something like that too, but I have concerns if it will be worthwhile here in zone 6 PA due to disease pressure and potential for them being short-lived as Alan has discussed.

Details: Would be planted along the side of my garage, almost due west facing. Disease resistance/low spray is ideal; I have no problems with spraying but tend to procrastinate until it’s too late. I’m hoping to add some earlier season fruit (July-August) to my orch-yard; have lots of later season fruit varieties but not much early stuff except berries.

The options I see at the moment:

  • I have a nice potted damson plum (long story) that can be nicely turned into a rootstock courtesy of rabbits heading it off at 12" last winter. Should be getting some Flavor King and Supreme scions this winter to graft onto that, which is shaped to make a decent fan espalier. Alternately, I’m sure I can locate some apricot scions and graft it over to apricots and use the plums elsewhere.
  • I have a Jonafree on bud 9 I grafted this spring in a pot that needs a home.
  • Or something completely different, open to suggestions!

Here’s the site, currently home to potted figs and various seedlings.

My understanding is west-facing is not good, the morning dew will stay on late and there will be lots of disease problems. Maybe figs would be OK there as they don’t have disease problems.

Apricots have not had any short-lived problems for me, the only problems I have had is trees with borers. The slightly colder climate Alan is in may be the problem.

I don’t really have any input but I love this word. I’m adopting it for my own use.

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Ahh, that’s a good call, it does stay damp there later in the day.

Scott may have an ideal site, but those with more varied site experience with apricots probably have a different take- I have discussed this with Tom at Adams County Nursery and he stated flatly that apricots are very fragile trees.

I don’t know if this is not the case as you get down as far south as Scott or if Scott has simply been blessed, but I lose a much, much higher percentage of my apricots coming out of dormancy than any other species I grow and this is based on scores of trees over the years- between a hundred and two hundred I’d guess.

However, my successful experience on my own property is based on a single tree that is growing on the south and eastern walls of my house. Growth on both sides are healthy, but there is asphalt at the base of the south side which certainly helps reduce dew and increases warmth.

How much this success is based on location is hard to say, but I’m certain that the flowers and early fruit are more protected from late frost. I do have an Orange Red apricot in a normal site on my property that is also extremely healthy and should begin bearing crops on years they aren’t frozen off.

Apricots are the most sensitive fruit to early frosts because they are first to flower. I expect that the cambium damage that kills them may come from coming out of dormancy too early as well, but have no proof.

Do you have any opinion on how pluma might do, or are stone fruits a bad idea in general there.

I wouldn’t grow any mainstream fruit in a west-sun only location, they are all prone to diseases as they are not native.

Alan, I am in a river valley that was prime orchard land 200 years ago (all the old plats show fruit trees all around me). So I might be in a particularly good spot. I have not missed an apricot crop ever.


Thanks, Scott, that’s what I figured. Guess I’ll keep pondering what to do with that spot, it’s screaming for something!

There are very few locations outside of CA that can claim the same. And there are many many areas in CA that can’t crop apricot every yr. Now if you only didn’t have so many production issues!!

Maybe paw paw? It can be planted under trees shade and still bear fruits, no disease pressure is a plus.

I was thinking that, I have a few planted lower in the yard. Maybe a persimmon, also? I’ve seen some photos of neat espalied persimmons.

anything short-lived is definitely not worth the effort. Figs may live a long time and are disease-free for the most part, but a hard freeze in colder areas could result in die back.
contorted jujubes are probably the better alternative, living several hundred years and quite cold and pest resistant.
you could braid them while shoots are tender/semi-tender and still pliable, being a close cousin of figs.
and unlike apricots and others in the rose family, it will continue to bear fruits(in the same year) even when all of its old wood/fruiting spurs have been trimmed

you may further contort or stretch across to reach and wind onto a neighboring jujube branch. Just started playing with them this year and quite pleased with the cosmetic effects. Something to look at during the lull of winter. Only problem with figs and jujus are that their roots could be invasive, and if you have an old garage, the concrete slab may have cracked over the years which could be wedged further apart.

[quote=“ampersand, post:1, topic:2575”]
Disease resistance/low spray is ideal; I have no problems with spraying but tend to procrastinate until it’s too late. I’m hoping to add some earlier season fruit (July-August) to my orch-yard; have lots of later season fruit varieties but not much early stuff except berries.
[/quote] as with figs, you don’t need pesticides on jujus, and contorted jujus are some of the early -types

Jujubes are intriguing, but the garage side is also the main path to rear of the house. Thorns would not be welcome there since it’s a rather narrow path due to the pear trees on the other side.

you could try ant admire, silverhill, and
sherwood, they are practically thornless.

btw, among those, ant admire fruits the earliest, and grows fast once established

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That’s a great situation. What surprises me here is that I’ve lost plenty of apricots on sites that should have been excellent, including right on the edge of the Hudson River about 30 miles north of NYC (a site that never had a crop frozen out, I might add). This happens often after relatively mild winters and without any notable weather anomalies.

I’m glad I have another piece of wall perfect for apricot where I placed a Tom. I’m curious to see how much better the quality will be than the Alfred, which has been excellent even though it is not a highly touted variety for quality.

That could be good from a production standpoint, but I thought their flowers smelled bad (rotting meat, I think). That could be a problem if this is a main pathway.

Even without the thorns and invasive roots, you may only want to do this near the South corner to ensure they get enough sun. The same goes for Persimmons, though at least there is no danger of thorns there.

Both jujubes and persimmons are very ornamental, with nice clean looking leaves (compared to other fruit), so if questionable production is OK, this could be the way to go. I’ve been particularly impressed with my Tam Kam kaki’s appearance. But, it dies back somewhere between -3 and -8 F (I found out the hard way). Putting it up against the house could help with that though.

Bad smelly flowers is what I heard too. But it’s only happen for a few weeks per year. If it’s a main pathway (to the back yard) but do you use it everyday for access or only once a weekend? I have never had a big flowering pawpaw so that my idea should not be relied upon. Just a thought if I’m in your shoe… :grinning:

Doing some thinking the past few days…gooseberry could work there. Should be fine with the morning shade/afternoon sun. I’m not too worried about the thorns since they are so small.

Any thoughts on this? Varieties preferred? I’ve had some Hinnomaki that were pretty good, but I worry about premature defoliation (more for appearances than plant health). Jahn’s Prarie is supposed to be pretty disease resistant and still good to eat as per Edible Landscaping.