Aberglasney’s Malus sargentii Arbour is one of the Gardens most striking features when in full flower. This stunning Crab Apple from Mororan in Japan is situated in Aberglasney’s Lower Walled Garden and is a wonderful sight when it is alive with bees and hums like some kind of natural electric motor. The single white flowers are followed by small cherry-like fruits, which last well into the autumn.
As a feature it is one of the most asked about in the Gardens and people are always fascinated about how you achieve something like this.
In fact building features with fruit is quite easy and they can last for a very long time. The important thing is to start with a good solid structure. We nearly always go for galvanised steel or wrought iron as the structure needs to last longer than the tree. The next thing to do is select a suitable fruit tree, in our case we have used an ornamental crab apple but many varieties will work depending on what you want to achieve.
The next step is to choose the right rootstock for the variety you like; this will determine how quickly it grows. This is important as if it’s too slow it won’t cover the structure and if it’s too vigorous it will outgrow the structure and you will be forever pruning it. The best way to make these decisions is to speak to an expert fruit nursery so that you get the right thing; they can even make one up to order within twelve months.
Planting is also important as you want the stem close to the upright of your structure, so make sure they don’t have huge footings. Use really good topsoil and then annually mulch with manure so that the tree gets away to a good start. The next thing to do is train the tree up the upright by tying in with string. If you have an arch the stems should be flexible enough to bend over it once they have ripened. Prune off all the shoots that go in the wrong direction to three buds and train side shoots along your cross bars. Then each year in summer and again in winter spur prune (back to three buds) all the one year old growth, keep training the main shoot where you want it to go.
Over time this will develop into a really good garden feature giving you fruit and interest, it will also really impress the neighbours!