Wow, a fruit tree arch......what IS that? 

I've heard of growing fruit trees in the home garden in columnar form or as an espalier, but never heard of a fruit tree arch.  Simply put, it's an arch designed to support fruit trees, one planted on either side, until they meet at the top.  How cool is that?

Imagine walking under an arch of apple blossoms in spring, sitting on a shady bench under a canopy of green in summer, and finally walking by, picking a crisp, ripe apple in fall.  In my mind, there are few gardening ventures more tempting. 

And guess what?  With the right trees, it's really not that hard!  Thanks to the recent trends in urban and vegetable gardening, there are several different types of columnar apple trees available. Just to name a few:

  • North Pole
  • Red Sentinel
  • Golden Sentinel
  • Urban Apple

These trees grow 8-10 feet tall and only 2-3 feet wide and produce fruit all along the trunk on short spurs.  No pruning is required, other than removing any occasional winter damage.

As with all apple trees, you will need to plant two different varieties that overlap bloom for cross-pollination in order to produce fruit.  If there's a crabapple tree within 100 feet of where you plan to place your arch, that will work, too.

Choose a site in your garden that is well-drained and receives at least 6 hours of sun.  Plant one tree on each side of the arch.   As apple trees are grafted, be sure to keep the graft union above the mulch or soil line to prevent shoots growing from the rootstock.

As the trees grow, just attach the trunks to the sides and top of  the arch with a flexible tie that won't cut into the bark.  Nylon pantyhose will work for this purpose as well.

As with any fruit tree, at some point you may need to treat for various insects and disease.  Your local cooperative extension service can advise you as to the best controls.  Compared to a full-sized tree, though, any maintenance will be far easier to complete, and no ladders required!

Don't want the mess of fruit - there are other choices for your garden arch 

If your one-a-day apple requirements are otherwise already met, perhaps you'd like to grow something different on your arch. 
Evergreen choices:
     Try shrubs like camellia, pyracantha, loropetalum, or weeping blue atlas cedar, or vining plants such as winter jasmine, confederate jasmine, crossvine, trumpet honeysuckle, or English ivy. 


Shady location:
     Yellow flowering kerria, climbing hydrangea, schizophragma (Japanese climbing hydrangea), chocolate vine (also evergreen) or arctic kiwi will perform nicely.
Other edibles:
     Thinking fruit seems too troublesome but you still want to grow edibles ?  Cherry tomatoes (with some attachment), various types of pole beans, runner beans with glorious flowers of bright red or soft pink, or malabar spinach will look great in the garden and on your plate.
Annual choices:
     Moonflower, morning glory (try one on each side for day into night flowering), thunbergia, and hyacinth bean vines are easy bloomers to grow from seed, and may re-seed themselves in succeeding years.  For those where they are hardy, angel's trumpet, bouganvillea, mandevilla, clerodendrum spp., and golden dewdrop (duranta) will make a spectacular display from year to year.
Classic choices:
     And let us not forget the all-time classic, clematis intermingling with luscious climbing roses.  Lest you think the rose will be as difficult to manage as the fruit, worry not.  Recent breeding has produced new disease resistant varieties that virtually negate the need for spraying.

  • Winner's Circle is a vigorous, deep red blooming climber from Will Radler, breeder of the reliable Knock Out roses.  With black-spot resistant deep green foliage and almost constant bloom, this one lives up to its moniker.  Introduced by Radler for 2017 is Fruity Petals, a repeat flowering climber sporting charming coral pink blossoms with yellow centers.
  •  Also relatively new on the scene are varieties from German breeder Kordes, with very good disease resistance, and believe it or not--fragrance! 

Older, classic climbers traditionally have more fragrance than newer, more disease resistant cultivars. 

  • Zephirine Drouhin, an old-fashioned favorite, boasts a heady damask fragrance, bold, bright pink ruffled flowers, repeat blooming, and tolerance to shadier conditions and powdery mildew.  Hold on to your hats, folks--it's also nearly thornless.  Now all you have to do is figure out how to pronounce it!

Find information on other vines through our article Using Vines in your Landscape