At one time, the luxury of home grown fruit was only possible for gardeners with big gardens. Then dwarf rootstocks were developed, producing trees suitable for quite small gardens. Now an increasing range of dwarf apple and pear trees are available in pillar form, ideal for patio gardening.
These small trees are normally grafted onto M106 dwarf rootstock and grow to a maximum height of 5-6 ft (1.5-1.8m). As they produce only short side shoots they grow as narrow columns only 12 -18 inches (30-45cm) wide. They give an attractive display of spring blossom to brighten up the patio or to flank an entrance, and a useful crop of tasty fruit.
- Ballerina and similar pillar trees are very easy to grow.
- They prefer a sunny position, but avoid windy spots or frost pockets where the blossom can be damaged.
- They are small enough to make spraying, netting against birds and harvesting very easy without using a ladder.
- Almost no pruning is needed – just keep them tidy if they start to spread a bit.
- If growing them in plant pots on a patio, use a good rich compost and top dress each spring with a layer of fresh compost and a high potash fertiliser to ensure a good crop.
- Some fruit trees are self fertile, but most require another different but compatible variety nearby (say within 50 metres) as a pollinator.
- Compatible varieties are those which blossom at the same time, classified in lettered groups (some growers number the groups). Apple trees will cross pollinate with others in the same group, and usually with one from the group immediately above or below.
- The only self fertile Ballerina is the crab apple, Maypole, which will also pollinate compatible eating apples.
Ballerina Fruit Trees
Varieties in the Ballerina range include:
- Maypole. A crab apple tree. It has carmine flowers followed by bronze leaves and large purple fruit. Self fertile. Pollination group B.
- Charlotte. An early cooker with large apples. Green with a touch of red; sharp tasting. Will store well into the New Year. Pollination group C.
- Flamenco. A late dessert keeper. Fruit predominantly orange/red, crisp and sharp tasting. Stores into the New Year. Pollination group D.
- Waltz. A late red/green apple, sweet and of good flavour. Will keep past Christmas.
- Polka. Early bright red apples on green background. Excellent flavour. Pollination group C.
- Bolero. An early green apple with a slight golden red flush. Crisp and juicy. Pollination group A.
Other Dwarf Pillar Trees
Some suppliers like Gardening Express in Britain now offer traditional fruit tree varieties with a dwarf habit like ballerinas. These include:
- Gala. Small red dessert apple with soft flesh. Can be prone to scab. Partly self fertile. Pollination group D.
- Braeburn. Very popular “supermarket” apple, with an excellent taste, good crispness and a green skin flushed golden red. Only suitable for the warmer parts of the UK. Self fertile. Pollination group E.
- Golden Delicious. A garden dessert apple variety for the warmer parts of the UK with a gold/green skin. Fresh from the tree it is a crisp and juicy apple. Pollination group D.
- Doyenne de Comice Pear. Doyenne du Comice is one of the finest flavoured and most popular dessert pears with a smooth russet skin. Pollination group E (Conference and Williams pears are suitable pollinators).
Other Forms of Dwarf Fruit Tree
Although Ballerina type trees are ideal for the patio, other forms of dwarf tree take little more space, are available in a wider range of varieties from specialist nurseries and are useful as pollinators.