Columnar Apple Trees
Columnar Apple Trees - Ideal For Small Spaces
What are columnar apple trees? As the name would seem to imply, they are apple trees that grow straight up and do not branch out. Columnar apple tress are dwarf apple trees which seldom grow higher than 10', and can be pruned to be kept shorter. Imagine a tree that is perhaps 6' tall with a dozen or so full-sized apples clustered about the narrow trunk. The spread of the tree may not be more than a foot, probably less than the diameter of the container the tree is sitting in.
Columnar apple trees are ideal for a patio, or any location where you might want an apple tree that takes up very little space. Depending on the variety you choose, you can have apples that taste like Golden Delicious or McIntosh. These are not little trees designed to just to be conversation pieces, the apples are delicious.
Prune To The Height You Want - Unless you allow columnar apple trees to grow to their full 10' height, or plant several, you're not going to get a huge harvest, but that's hardly the point. A few choice apples growing on a small patio will, because of the lack of numbers, taste all that much better.
Most of these types of apple trees are hardy in zones 4 through 9. If grown in containers they are not apt to be as hardy when kept out of doors in the winter, particularly if the soil in the container should freeze. If one has a greenhouse or a well sheltered area close to the house, they may do just fine. In mild winter areas this should not be problem.
There are two main varieties of columnar apple trees on the market, with perhaps more to come. The Northpole variety is the one tasting like a McIntosh and the Golden Sentinel is you "columnar Golden Delicious".
Unless you purchase on of these apple trees locally, they are usually shipped bare root. It's important to keep the bare root plants in a sheltered location, especially a location out of the wind if the tree is not to be put in its permanent location right away. It's also a good idea to store the tree in a cool or cold location. If stored in a warm room and then planted out in cold weather or cold soil, the tree may do poorly and may not even survive.
Of the two varieties, the Northpole ripens earliest, usually in early September, whereas the Golden Sentinel is usually not ready to be harvested until later in that month. Both varieties bloom in April with the Northpole usually blooming slightly earlier.
Large Apples, Small Root System - Since the columnar apple trees consist of a regular fruit tree branch grafted onto a dwarf rootstock, the root system is going to be small with respect to the size of the apples. Consequently, the tree will have a tendency to be top heavy and will need to be staked, whether the tree is planted in the ground or in a large container. Otherwise, a "bumper" crop could cause the tree to lean and fall over, pulling the roots right out of the soil. Even though the root system is not what could be considered extensive, a container needs to be of sufficient size to contain it, and also large enough to accommodate the stake or stakes. This is seldom a challenge that cannot easily be overcome.
You may not be able to find these trees in a local nursery. If you can't, and have to order online, expect to pay between $15 and $25 per tree, plus shipping. That really isn't too much to ask for such an interesting tree. Whoever developed the first columnar apple trees either did it by mistake or was thinking outside the box.