Urban/column apple tree

I’m surprised I’ve never seen mention here of anyone growing the column style apple trees, aka urban tree, apartment tree, etc. This style seems to be growing in popularity and I am a bit curious about them. Yesterday I went to a local nursery and they had one that was just awesome! It was absolutely loaded with baby apples and looked almost like a solid column of green. It was so thick you could barely see the trunk and was about 6 foot tall- just really neat.
I understand that this would be purely for fun and only for appearance since (I assume) a more traditional style would be more productive. It sort of reminds me of a free standing, vertical espalier.

Anyway, I just wondered if anyone here grows any trees this way and/or if anyone has any insight into the process. Is it very difficult to create? Any big advantages/disadvantages? What do you all think about this style?

If you aren’t familiar, here are a few photos:


That isn’t a style rather a genetic trait. Haven’t heard any reports on fruit eating quality. But for heavens sake if you get one thin off most of the apples. If left as thick as the last photo I know the quality will stink.

Thanks Fruitnut…Obviously I know almost nothing whatsoever about these other than they look neat…which is a pathetic basis for making a decision and why I posted here first. I really thought they were just regular trees trained to that growth style, not specialty trees bred for it. In fact, the one I saw at a local nursery just said “Yellow Delicious”.
I’ve seen countless photos of these things with beautiful, very large, perfect apples all packed on like sardines. I therefore am very suspicious of many such photos. Its amazing what they can do with photoshop these days! So even the photos I posted may be suspect.

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I just planted some a year ago that I bought from One Green World.

My understanding is that it all started with a sport of Macintosh, so I would hope the better ones are at least comparable to more common Mcintosh. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wijcik_McIntosh


I have two in the ground, Cityman. The area I have them in is about 6 feet by 3 feet against a fence. They fit nicely. Three years in and last year I got apples from both (one is Blushing Delight, one is Tangy Green) after thinning them down to about four apiece just to try them. I don’t have s sophisticated palate I think because I like them, especially Tangy Green. A mild flavored Granny sort of taste. For me, they kept in the fridge for about two months; may have kept longer but I ate them! I will let them fruit a bit more this year.

They have put on about 20-22 inches height wise in three years. Essentially I think they are spurs that are on M26. I don’t have mine staked as they are in such a protected zone - as they get taller, I may have to amend that.

I wouldn’t pick them over a something else if you have room…but my whole property is smaller than some of y’alls garden beds (~61 x 104 feet, for the house, driveway, pool and sheds!). Its a nice eating change from the avalanche of (what I think is) N. Spy apples. Got CAR, but Immunox x1 dose fixed that easily; second spray is like insurance. Oddly enough those apples are completely untouched by bugs. Zip.

As a living fence with some purpose they would be a great landscape choice.

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I planted three different ones in 2012 and they were scarlet sentinel, golden sentinel and northpole. This past fall I added a tasty red urban and will maybe add a couple more urbans this fall. Scarlet sentinel is around 3’6", golden sentinel is 6’ and northpole is 5’6". I gave them last year off from any pruning and this year scarlet and golden bloomed this spring for the first time. Northpole has still hasn’t bloomed yet, hopefully it will next year. I got these because I wanted some apples but as far as I’m concerned as far as apples go they are near the bottom of my list just because I’m not crazy about apples.

Pruning is simple for these trees! Markus Kobelt, the founder and breeder of the Swiss fruit tree nursery Lubera has quite a few good short videos on how to do this as well as other trees. I’ll attach a link to his pruning a columar apple tree. Hardest thing is to translate metric to us conversion…since he talks in cm’s.lol
Markus Kobelt pruns a Malini columnar apple tree

I’ll also attach some of my pics of the trees so you can see what they look like.
Scarlet sentinel

Golden sentinel



Thanks for the awesome photos and information. Very helpful! Good luck with your trees.

Lovely flowers all apples have!

My two are Surrounded to within an inch of their lives…

I thinned to clear king or two equals per cluster, will see what June drop gives me in terms of keepers. About 14-20 on each tree is my goal.

funny…and probably necessary!


You are right, all of the columnar trees started with a single sport of McIntosh. From that tree, they have been bred with many varieties, but they all contain at least that Wijcik McIntosh gene, and a few others.

A while back, I spent a fair amount of time on the web trying to figure out the patent and trademark status of the columnar apple trees. I have a North Pole apple that I planted about 2001. I wanted to make a new one, to use in my new yard. As far as I could tell, North Pole is past its patent, but I don’t know if it is trademarked. Some nurseries mark the “TM” and others don’t.

The other thing that intrigue me was the idea to create a columnar apple tree multigraft, with one variety on top of the other like a multi-flavor ice-cream cone.

If I was young, I would interbreed the columnar apples with red-leaf crabs or something like Redfield, which has reddish leaves, pretty white-red flowers, and red inside the fruit. It would be easy to select out the red-leaf offspring, and the columnar trait might make itself known in a few years.

Back to experiences with columnar apples, they do have a nice shape. They do require pruning to maintain the single-trunk columnar shape, although if not pruned, they still have a nice shape like a Lombardy poplar. I think a Lorette style of pruning might be effective, pruning new growth in mid summer back to a couple of inches, but I have not tried that yet.

This is North Pole in 2009, at 8 years after I planted it.

Here it is in 2012.

Then I was unable to do much gardening / orcharding after surgery, and neglected it. Here it was Jan, 2015, after 3 years without pruning.

And Jan 2015 after pruning.

As for fruit bearing characteristics, here is my experience with North Pole -

:apple: Very floriferous.
:apple: Requires thinning. Easy due to the tree size and shape.
:apple: Alternate year bearing.
:apple: Apples are fairly small, McIintosh-like, OK flavor.

My neighbor has a massive, unpruned, full size, unmaintained and ancient apple tree. That tree is a coddling-moth epicenter. As a result, my apples have been very wormy. This is the first year I’ve tried bagging, which should work. But because of the extensive pruning, it only had 2 flower clusters. We’ll see how the 2 apples taste.

I have 2 small new ones, Scarlet Sentinel and Golden Sentinel. They were 2 feet tall when I bought them, and 4 feet tall now. I have tasted an apple from Golden Sentinel. I thought it was delicious, but I am no apple gourmet.



Thank you for linking that video. I have been making up pruning columnar trees as I go along.

The flowers seem to be mostly at the spur tips. So to keep fruit on the trees, the ends of some spurs need to be kept.

I cut off side branches that interfere with the single-cordon shape. A matter of taste. Might keep the growth better exposed to sun than letting multiple leaders grow.

Nice pruning Bear.

Hi ! Would you say Golden sentinel is scab resistant? Also, would you compare them to Yellow delicious? Thanks!

I dont have scab problems on that tree, but its not a big problem in my yard anyway.

I think they are more crisp and a bit more tart than Golden Delicious. The columnar ancestor is a sport of MacIntosh, which may be why. I like these better than Golden Delicious. Also, mine tend to have a pink blush on the sunny side of the apples and tree.

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I had a good crop of Golden Sentinel this year. I haven’t had a golden delicious in a long time so I can’t compare to that. I did not thin and have about 3 dozen apples of various size, mostly small. Mine started dropping before the seeds were brown. They have been enjoyable to eat. I still have a few on the tree but most have some rotten spots. Otherwise, pretty clean for disease.

I also had fruit on the Urban Apples Tasty Red, Golden Treat, and Blushing Delight. I’m not positive these were all correctly labeled. The one labeled Tasty Red had maybe 18 apples and still has a few apples left. They got red on the south/west side. Sort of like a Granny Smith taste to me and the whole family liked them. Several had a worm crawling around the seeds. I had 3 apples off the tree labeled Blushing Delight. It was a week or so that I ate them. They were enjoyable but I do not remember exactly what they were like. There are 2 apples on the the Golden Treat, nice size. Except for the worms on Tasty Red, these were all nice, clean apples. I usually only spray for aphids and japanese beetles. I used sulfur a few times this summer as many of trees had powdery mildew.

The Golden Sentinel is supposed to be on M7 and is about 9ft tall. Scarlett Sentinel/M7 is about 5 ft tall. Northpole/M7 is 8ft tall. The 4 Urban Apples on M26 are all 5-6ft tall. All planted spring of 2015 from Raintree. All were about 36" tall except for the Golden Sentinel which was closer to 4 ft and thicker caliper. I assume it had another year in the nursery… I also have Maypole, Emerald Spire, and Scarlet Spire planted in 2016. Those are all about 6ft tall. Maybe MM106 rootstock from Stark? They were 3-4 ft tall when planted. Many have taken on a multi-stemmed candelabra shape. I will prune those back this winter to the more columnar shape you see in the marketing photos.

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I do see some red spots on the blushing delights. I also have a bunch debris on them that may be snail poop. I keep finding many small snails up in these trees. The backyard tends to be wet and always have tons of snails and slugs in the garden.

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We carry Tasty Red, Tangy Green and the golden one also where I work. Came in from Monrovia Nursery. I tried to tag a Tangy Green today for a client but find they are mis-labeled! Both remaining trees have red apples on them not green. Perhaps they are Tasty Red? I will have to give it a taste test but not able to sell them as Tangy Green.

ChickenLittle Over at Habitat-talk.com is doing his own research project Columnar Apple trees. From his notes of Urban Apple series the Tangy Green and Blushing Delight are the us names for the Goldlane and moonlight cultivars, both where developed in the Czech Republic and bred with scab resistance in mind.

Lubera nursery in Switzerland has a whole line of columnar trees, they call them “Malini”.

They’re also starting to produce citrus in Switzerland (silly people…).

Is there a difference between the “Scarlett sentinial” and the “Blushing delight”? The both look the same.I have a tasty red and a blushing delight i ordered from gurneys.I also got a north pole feom one green world cause they burnt me on pawpaws.

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