Peter Cun­dall:

One of the most ef­fec­tive ways of growing fruit trees is as hedges or screens and this pro­vides an added bonus of cre­at­ing gar­den rooms or fences, writes Peter Cun­dall

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - NEWS -

Branch out with a fruit­ful hedge.

Some­times there’s not enough space for fruit trees, es­pe­cially where gar­dens are small. We can help solve this prob­lem by growing a sur­pris­ingly wide range of fruit trees in con­tain­ers.

Citruses, es­pe­cially small-growing va­ri­eties such as Meyer lemons, or ap­ple, pear or peach-nec­tarine trees grafted on to dwarf­ing stock make ideal tub plants. They are per­fect for growing on sunny decks, bal­conies, pa­tios and even on paths or steps.

Some of the most ef­fec­tive ways of growing fruit trees is as hedges or screens. A huge range of fruit trees can be close-planted and then kept clipped and trained to grow flat against sup­port­ing frames.

In the 1950s I started gar­den­ing in Tas­ma­nia and oc­ca­sion­ally came across an un­usual, but highly at­trac­tive, dense hedge. From early to mid-win­ter, large num­bers of egg-sized green fruit would ma­ture and fall to the ground, where they re­mained un­til they rot­ted.

One day, out of cu­rios­ity, I picked up one and tasted it. The green­ish-coloured pulp was de­li­ciously, sweet. It was my first ex­pe­ri­ence of a pineap­ple guava, yet this fruit was mostly wasted in those days be­cause the plants, then called Fei­joa sel­l­owiana, were grown pri­mar­ily as or­na­men­tals and most peo­ple rarely both­ered to sam­ple the fruit.

One of the most at­trac­tive con­sisted of 10 plants and with reg­u­lar clip­ping in late win­ter grew no higher than 1.5m. On breezy days the plants – now called Acca sel­l­owiana – be­came even more at­trac­tive as the dark green, glossy leaves were blown up­wards to re­veal sil­very-grey

Citruses, es­pe­cially small-growing va­ri­eties such as Meyer lemons, or ap­ple, pear or peach-nec­tarine trees grafted on to dwarf­ing stock make ideal tub plants

un­der­sides. Even the slight­est gust caused the en­tire hedge to briefly and dra­mat­i­cally change from green to sil­ver.

Crab-ap­ple trees can be trained on wires to grow flat as es­paliers. Oc­ca­sion­ally they need to be cut back hard to force new growth from be­low. If long branches are tied down so they are forced to grow hor­i­zon­tal rather than up­wards, they not only bear more fruit, but also pro­duce denser fo­liage.

My own favourite crab-ap­ples for this pur­pose in­clude Jack Humm, Golden Hor­net and Gor­geous, all mak­ing ex­cel­lent screen­ing plants.

They carry masses of very ed­i­ble, bright scar­let or yel­low fruit, some re­main­ing hang­ing into the mid­dle of win­ter.

Birds feed off the red fruit but are slower to get stuck into the yel­low ones. These trees can eas­ily be kept to a height of less than 2m and each plant has a reach of 4m.

Le­mon trees are more ex­pen­sive but when planted at 3m or 4m in­ter­vals they even­tu­ally cre­ate fan­tas­tic hedges. Eu­reka and the slightly thorny Lis­bon can grow up to 5m. Both bear fruit all year round.

A le­mon tree hedge in full fruit is an in­cred­i­ble sight – and some­times very prof­itable. They need reg­u­lar sum­mer

wa­ter­ing and feed­ing. A top­dress­ing of pel­letised poul­try ma­nure dur­ing early spring and again around mid-sum­mer works won­ders.

Peach and nec­tarine trees can be trained to make ex­cel­lent screens. All branches that can­not be tied in to grow side­ways are kept cut off. Con­se­quently the trees con­tinue to grow, but re­main flat, es­pe­cially as loose branches are tied into sup­port­ing wires.

Every few years, older branches are cut back hard to en­cour­age the devel­op­ment of replacement, fruit-bear­ing wood. Light sum­mer prun­ing af­ter fruit­ing keeps these trees un­der good con­trol.

The same method can be used with smaller plum trees such as Golden Drop and Green­gage. The great ad­van­tage of fanned fruit trees is the ease by which the fruit can be har­vested. Ap­ply­ing net­ting to pro­tect the fruit from birds is also made eas­ier when trees are trained as fans.

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