Why are American Backyard Orchards So Ugly?

I wrote a blog today explaining my ideas about underplanting, and some misconceptions we have about it.

Looking for input.

Dear Reader,

As you know, I love planting multi-grapht espalier fruit trees in my backyard. I plant them first and foremost to produce the kind of fruit our family likes to eat. If one is not interested in growing a certain fruit, or baking with it - I suggest growing something else.

My backyard currently has six trees, including a special Nadia cherry/plumb hybrid. I have a four graft pear tree growing in another part of my years. Graphing, cloning and cross breeding stone fruit trees have far-reaching implications for my tree sculptures, such as biodiversity, food culture, and most importantly the symbiosis of human kind’s relation to nature.

In the past, stone fruit is grown for one purpose: what the masses want to buy. That’s it. Fruit are picked too early, placed in a dark cool spot to ripen, then put on the shelves. Wrap your minds around this: there are hundreds of varieties of peach, your local supermarket will sell four, maybe five if you are lucky. Wouldn’t it be great if we could have one peach tree with six, seven, eight or more varieties of peach on one tree? Wouldn’t it be nice if each backyard had at least one multi-graft tree in your backyard?

I love multi-graph espalier fruit trees. An espalier is any tree which has been trained to grow in two dimensions. Espaliers can be pruned to grow first branches low, then grow level by level, to a great height but next to no depth. This mean it it will not shade out other trees, particularly grown on a fence. As grafted stone fruit

My trees are my art, multigraph espalier trees are a way to express my art. The structure is beautiful, they flower at different times in various shades of white, blue, pink and beige.

For the backyard orchardist (non-commercial) why are American people so hell bent on making their backyard orchards look as ugly as possible? What is so hard about planting small fields of lavender under fruit trees? What is so difficult about planting Dalias, Roses, Azalias or some other beautiful underplanting? The purpose of this blog is to shift common paradigm that space under a fruit tree should be kept clean because many plants grown under a tree will not survive. Nothing could be further from the truth. Many plants benefit the tree for many years to come.

I hope we start considering making our little orchards a little more beautiful this spring and summer. Who doesn’t enjoy a beautiful orchard, flowers, and a well manicured lawn.

6 Likes

I have always been interested in landscaping my yard for eye appeal along with easier maintenance but when I planted my back yard orchard I mostly focused on getting it established and fruiting. Now I’m looking at it thinking about what I can do to make it look better. Over the next couple of years I plan to work on making it look better. I have noticed that a few posters have done superb jobs of blending it their orchard to the landscape. Bill

2 Likes

I would have no qualms about making my orchard look nicer but there has always been the raging debate about how planting under a tree robs nutrients and water away from the fruit tree itself and I’ve contemplated if its worth it or if scientific studies have been done to confirm or deny this theory.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

22 Likes

In conjunction with that, home orchardists also have a problem keeping their trees manageable due to over fertilizing mature trees, which would seem to encourage underplanting. It’s clearly a complicated issue with different inflection points.

Seeing your post reminded me of how well I liked your picture of your orchard and sign. I made my own sign but unfortunately the other part of my orchard has a long way to go. Bill

concur with Conway. I think an orchard should have some tall grasses, weeds, wild flowers on the side, and all sorts of pollinators. It will have beautiful soil, even though you can not see it. and to my eye, an effective deer fence is beautiful. I was pedaling through the city yesterday to go cut my hair, I ran into a 12-points buck that was no less than 300 lbs. any fence that stops that is beautiful.

3 Likes

My orchard is off on one corner of my six-acre property. I have each plant labeled and I garden exclusively with woody-plants.

I have too many photos… so here’s a few. We all garden with the plants we like.

Dax

44 Likes

@Barkslip

That is one beautiful relaxing scene

Feeds your stomach as well as your soul.

Mike

2 Likes

I am leery of planting flowering plants under my fruit trees in that they would attract bees at a time when I need to spray.

that is why I am re-thinking my idea of planting Aliums around the orchard perimeter.

Mike

5 Likes

Thank you so much, Michael.

It’s been fun.

Dax

I’ve never been into fancy landscaping, nothing against it. Maybe it’s because I’m a man, but the only flowers I give a crap about are the blossoms on my fruit trees.
Call it ugly if you want, My orchard, My way.

26 Likes

I love it, Steve. That’s serene to me.

Dax

2 Likes

That’s not ugly. I like your orchard. Few of the old sayings are more true than: Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

6 Likes

That orchard looks great! I really like the surrounding land as well. Bet you get a ton of fruit don’t you.

Drew

Different people have different ideas about what constitutes “beautiful”, and different ideas about how much effort they want to put forth to achieve that idea. Lots of folks would rather be cooking, working on their car, playing basketball, or watching tv in their free time than dividing plants in the garden, even if they happen to think an arboretum like yard would be nice to look at.

Where I live, most people’s back yards are about as big as is necessary for them to flee out the back door if the house is on fire and no bigger. Even if people have a back yard bigger than that, it is often paved over or filled with a dilapidated above ground pool and rusty, broken chain link fence. So (at least in my opinion) even some grass and an untended fruit tree would be a huge improvement in the beauty department!

1 Like

All I can say from looking at those photos is, WOW!

do like I do! the flowers are in the next field.

@Naomi94, you almost lost me from the get go by assuming that I knew how much you love planting multi-graph espalier fruit trees in your backyard and then posting click-bait back to your blog Still I read on hoping to see examples of the good, the bad and the ugly, :wink:

I think bare dirt, busted up fences and cheap garden sheds are ugly, and any fruit tree in bloom is stunning.

A quick search on Edible Ornamentals might make you re-think your assertion.

1 Like

What about a cemetery in your backyard?

13 Likes