Talk me out of a potential long term mistake? Belgian fence with apples

Hi! I have learned so much here already, but I need some help with a few things. I just purchased my first home, it’s in Zone 8a in Dallas, Texas. I have a ton of great ideas for container and raised bed planting, but the one thing is weighing me down during my planning process is I’m not sure I’ll have success with my Belgian Fence plan for my apple trees.

Seeking advice with the following:

  1. The apple fence will be 8 trees, about 2 feet apart, along a west-facing fence. There are no obstructions blocking the sun, so they’ll get the hot afternoon sun. That’s my first worry here in Texas. I don’t have East-facing space available, which would have been my preference. That and the fact that I’ll be planting where St Augustine lawn used to be. First question, is the following video the correct advice to take for planting since we have heavy clay with poor drainage in the lawn? I’ll remove the grass then use the native soil for the raised beds (mounds). The video mentions to not amend the soil, so I’ll follow that advice.
  1. For the life of me, I can’t definitively confirm if the varieties I’ve chosen are spur or tip bearing. To what extent does that matter? My understanding is that very few apples are true 100% tip bearing…
    Preferred varieties:
  • Gala
  • Pink Lady
  • Honeycrisp
  • Red Fuji
  • Mollie’s Delicious
  • Ozark Gold
  • Braeburn
  • Golden Delicious
  1. I’m concerned that with a Belgian Fence, if one of these varieties fails or is slow-growing compared to the others it’ll ruin the structure. Do you think that is likely to be an issue? Do I need to cut back on the number of varieties and instead plant multiple of the same variety to increase consistency in growth? I was hoping to get as long of a harvest season as I could, with good tasting varieties, hence the 8 types.

  2. I’m planning on getting small bareroot plants. I have not found a great place that lists rootstock. Any recommendations? I’d be looking primarily for the ability to tolerate drainage issues as much as possible. Maybe this ties to number 3, but if I found all those varieties on the same rootstock, that would help with growth consistency, right?

Thank you very much for your time and advice!

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I can share some info regarding my Belgian fence although can’t answer some specific aspects
of your questions.
Question 1: re poor drainage. Because of my poor drainage, I have my 6 trees planted in a long raised bed. The soil is still plenty wet in the winter but at least no standing water. However, my other semi-dwarf trees, planted in open flat ground, seem to do fine even with a day or so of standing water now and then. My conclusion is that apples are very tolerant of wet soil
I got my trees about 10 years ago from Raintree. They were sold as Belgian fence starters. Each was pruned to a low Y shape, just little stubby things about 2 ft tall. Although I might have been afraid to cut a whip back so drastically, they grew perfectly into an extended Y shape.
Question 2: You are right that very few apples are tip-bearers. Tip bearers will not work well for espalier because you are always pruning off the tips.
Question 3: It’s true a few varieties were more vigorous than others, but you are so on top of the pruning and shaping that you can make it all look good. I did have one tree die at 6 years. I filled in the spot by just encouraging a lateral from a neighboring tree. Hard to tell the difference after a few years. I think having different varieties is delightful! I guess if you wanted a perfectly shaped wall you would choose all the same variety.
Question 4: I got my trees before I even knew about rootstock choices. In general, I know that trees trained to espalier do better on semi-dwarf rootstock.

Good luck - it’s such a fun project and conversation piece!!


@cdamarjian – Thank you for the wonderful feedback and tips. You just made me 300% more confident in the idea! One more question - for the raised beds did you just use the native soil around the beds to fill it in? Or did you amend it at all? From what I’ve seen, not amending it should be fine, right?

Thanks again!

While native soil is fine, in order to come up with enough material for the bed, I used compost plus aged manure to get the volume I needed.
You should get a soil test just to make sure your pH and NPK are within range. If your native soil is within range, just top dress with some N-rich source each year and you will be good!

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@fruitfruitfruit How is the Belgian fence going so far? What varieties did you end up planting?

Just thought I would add some Info to this thread as I’m planning/researching this design and have been looking for the same info re: Spur bearing vs tip bearing. Here is what I’ve been gleaning from the web:

Spur bearing:
Beverly Hills
Dorsett Golden
Cox’s Orange Pippin
Emneth Early
Egremont Russet
James Grieve
Lane’s Prince Albert
Red delicious
Golden delicious
Macintosh/ McIntosh
Peasgood Nonesuch
Candy Crisp
Lady in Red
Sturmer Pippin
Tydeman’s late orange
Belle de boskoop

Tip bearing:
Cornish Gilliflower
Granny Smith*
Irish Peach
Pink Lady

Partial tip bearing (some will also bear on spurs):
Bradley’s Seedlong
Worcester Pearmain

  • I later found a different website that said Granny Smith was spur bearing (lecooke nursery), but it also referred to it as Granny Smith Spur, so not sure if there are some out there which are specifically grown as spur and some others which are not? choosing not to use it for now just in case, as the nursery I use does not list it that way.
    ** sfgate listed Fuji as tip bearing

Source info from
Waimea nurseries (New Zealand), Chicago botanic gardens,, trees of antiquity, Dave Wilson nursery, gardening know how, Sfgate, Royal horticultural society,

And then there is this list (which of course I only found after visiting all the other sites):
They list over 1,000 Spur and Semi-Spur and 350 tip bearing varieties.

Sigh. All that info and I still haven’t found the answer to the variety that I have = Crimson Gold.

If anyone has tips or links to “how to“ videos or sites that specify how to set up the trellis/fence I’d appreciate it. I am seeing a lot re: spacing of trees/recommended varieties, but am more concerned about spacing of posts, securing them properly, and whether wire, mason twine, or bamboo is best to string between them for support structure.



I have a Belgian fence that I started about five years now, though I ended up extending the fence and moving a few things around during that time. Some of the trees are setting fruit for the first time this year. Just for reference, I’m on the border of zone 5 and 6, with loamy sand soil. I am not super experienced, but here’s the way I set things up.

I started with scion and rootstock (mostly G41). My first trees were bench grafted, but after that I switched over to grafting to rootstock that’s been in the ground for a year, and I’ve gotten better results that way.

The Belgian fence now consists of twenty-five trees planted two feet apart, south facing but partially shaded by large maple trees (city street trees). The trees are planted in an area that I mulch annually with wood chips. They’re only about six/seven feet back from the street, which is not ideal, but we have a fairly small yard so that ended up being the best layout I could come up with. I’ve planted a border of perennials between the trees and the street (mostly irises and daisies at this point), planted daffodils along the line of trees, and a variety of herbs along the path between the trees and our house.

I set up the trellis using eight foot black locust split rails for the end posts with garden t-posts set at eight foot intervals in between them. I strung two wires on the t-posts at two feet and four feet and constructed a trellis by tying bamboo to the wires in a criss-cross pattern. (My parents have bamboo at their house so I used/am using mostly that.)

The first course of bamboo took the lattice up to a bit above the second wire. As the trees have gotten bigger, I’ve started adding a second course that will go up to a bit over six feet. Overall, the trellis is somewhat fiddly to set up, but it has lasted pretty well and has been effective for training the trees (though I do occasionally have to go back and adjust things when the “diamonds” get a little out of whack).

One useful thing about the trellis is that the bamboo lattice helps to fill things in visually until the trees grow out.

I selected and arranged the varieties in the fence with an eye to having tasty fruit, a range of flavors and harvest times, and attractive, generally healthy trees. I’ve moved things around a bit and there will probably still be some adjustments to come, but the current lineup is:

Edward VII
Court Pendu Plat
Hunt Russet
Roxbury Russet
G41 rootstock to be grafted next year
Roxbury Russet
Kidd’s Orange Red
Pitmaston Pineapple
Adam’s Pearmain
Gray Pearmain
Black Oxford
Westfield Seek No Further
Wheeler’s Golden Russet
Westfield Seek No Further
Black Oxford
American Beauty
Reine des Reinettes
Kidd’s Orange Red
Orleans Reinette
Hoople’s Antique Gold
Orleans Reinette
G 41 rootstock to be grafted next year (likely to Hunt Russet)
Cornish Aromatic
Old Nonpareil

As the list shows, I tried to balance having a nice mix of varieties with having some order in the arrangement, so you have the pairs of Black Oxford and KOR and then also the pairs of Roxbury Russet, WSNF, and Orleans Reinette. And each of the things that I doubled up on was something that I wanted to have more of. (Roxbury Russet and Orleans Reinette because those were the apples that my wife and I liked best out of the antique apples we’ve tried, KOR because it was something that should fit with my daughter’s tastes, Black Oxford because of its rep for being a good keeper, and WSNF because it’s super local for us and supposed to be an exceptional apple.)

That being said, my experience has been that even trees of the same variety planted at the same time in the same place and trained to the same trellis will not grow exactly the same. And just in general, you would have to be both more expert and more maniacal than I am to get individual trees to grow in a perfectly balanced way, much less a whole row of them. But I’m ok with that, and the overall pattern of a longish Belgian fence will cover up a lot of imperfections. (I don’t even notice the gaps where there’s just a stub of rootstock at this point unless I’m looking for them.)

One additional note: in my admittedly limited experience, information about whether trees are spur-bearing, tip-bearing, or partially tip-bearing is not entirely reliable, or perhaps more to the point, not entirely applicable when it comes to whether a variety will work for espalier, especially when it comes to older and more uncommon varieties. For example, Adam’s Pearmain, which lists as partially tip-bearing, certainly does form spurs and has been one of my first varieties to flower and set fruit. (Also, different sources provide different info on these things: Keeper’s Nursery in the UK lists Adam’s Pearmain as spur-bearing and sells it in espalier forms.) So, just because you see a variety listed as partially tip-bearing doesn’t necessarily mean that it won’t work for espalier.


@JinMA I was curious about how your Belgian Fence is coming along. Could you post a few pictures?

This is a great discussion, and I have to agree that trying to decode which varieties are tip vs spur is challenging! Ultimately, I ended up not taking that into consideration; maybe I’ll regret that…

Here’s my lineup I started in February 2021. I have to say I am thrilled with how well things are progressing here in north Texas! It has far exceeded my growth and health expectations.

Mollie’s Delicious
Pink Lady
Seckel (pear)
Moonglow (pear)
----climbing rose-----
Magness (pear)
Warren (pear)
Granny Smith

I’m doing two ‘sections’ of Belgian fence. 4 apples + 2 pears on each side, symmetrical, with a climbing rose in between the two sections. I have NOT trained them yet. I am letting 2 to 3 branches per tree grow without training for the majority of the first season, then I’ll tie them down in a few months. The climbing rose is fairly out of control right now…and I’ve planted lots of flowers in between all the trees to provide some extra interest while it’s taking shape.

One tree (leftmost in the picture) developed an orange fungal disease, and I had to cut it back hard, but it’s coming out strong again with new branches. I also bought a backup in case the disease is still affecting the tree.


Looks great. I love the lights - and the dog! (Golden retrievers know how to strike a pose…)

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Wow that sounds like an incredible Belgian fence! Thanks so much for the detailed reply. I think I may be able to set up something similar (wood/t-posts/bamboo). My neighbor just offered me some bamboo and I like what you’re saying about the bamboo filling in the visual field while the trees grow in.
That’s an amazing variety of apples too!
I’m not quite that brave, I am pre-training some yearling apples in pots and will probably end up putting whichever varieties seem to be growing at the same rate into the fence. But wow!


@fruitfruitfruit any updates?

I’m trying to decide between Belgian Fence and En Arcure for my 25 apples which will be delivered in a month. BF is stunning visually! En Arcure seems easier and should bear earlier.

My fear is as yours, that it will not fill in well enough, trees will die and create voids, etc. I hope yours is doing well!