What Are the Best Fruit Trees to Grow in the UK?
John and Josh grow all of our trees, and with over a hundred years of experience in the family, there’s nothing they don’t know about the subject. They’re two of the most experienced fruit tree specialists in the UK, with an impressive 100+ varieties growing in their fields. So if you’re looking for the best fruit tree for your garden, who better to ask?
We’ll start with an easy one - but not for you! What are the easiest fruit trees to grow in the UK?
For me it would have to be an apple tree. They’re more disease resistant and you don’t need to do much with them - just a little bit of pruning once a year, which I think is more than worth the investment in time. I would pick something like Bountiful or Egremont Russet for eating or Grenadier for a cooker - they’re all compact and heavy cropping without too much effort.
I would choose something that crops within a year or two, so you can see results quicker - with an apple tree you can see a crop in the second year or even the same year you plant it, and of course pears crop early too. The easiest apple to grow? I’d go for Discovery.
A lot of people ask about growing small patio fruit trees - what’s an easy fruit to grow in pots?
That’s not a tree.
I know, I just really like them. For a tree, I’d go for a dwarf apple like Discovery, or a Fig. Lemon, Lime and Orange trees are also a really good choice - in places like Italy, Spain and Greece they’re fine outdoors all year round but in our climate it’s much easier to protect them from the frost if they’re in a pot. You can leave them outside all summer, then bring them indoors through the winter.
Nectarines! Growing in a pot means you can overwinter them indoors, but also you avoid one of the main problems with peach trees which is leaf curl. If they’re in pots, you’re watering them from the base and it’s not gathering on the leaves, which is the issue with trees in the ground - it’s also a great way to protect the flowers from frost and get a better crop. For the same reasons I’d also say apricots and citrus.
There are so many varieties out there that it’s sometimes difficult to choose and most people go for the varieties they’re familiar with. But in your opinion, what’s a really underrated fruit tree that should be grown more?
I think it’s really important to introduce kids to gardening so that they get an understanding and awareness of where their food comes from, and a Fortune apple is great for them. The apples are small, sweet and easy to grow - plus they won’t have to wait years to pick them. Pixie is also very underrated, as are the different varieties of plums. Apricots - any with ‘cot’ in the variety name - are underrated because the ones in the shops can be bland, but a lot of people think they taste better grown here because they take longer to ripen on the tree.
People also don’t realise this, but a cherry tree is really valuable for wildlife and that’s an important thing to consider too.
People tend to grow the same few cherry varieties, mostly red ones, so something like Burlat is very underrated. It’s dark and glossy, firm and sweet plus you can harvest them from the middle of May.
Sunset apples should be better known too - they’re similar to a Cox’s Orange in size and flavour, but they’re much more disease resistant and easier to grow.
What fruit tree would you buy as a present? Totally asking for our readers, not because my Dad’s birthday is next weekend.
It would depend on your Dad’s - I mean your readers’ individual preferences, but something like a smaller growing apple is a good bet - a Fortune, a Pixie or a Lord Lambourne that they can grow anywhere. Golden Delicious too - it’s one you either love or hate, but if people like them, it’s a great tree. And apricots are something different, that they might not have thought about themselves.
I’ve actually just bought a Panachee fig for my grandad because it is so ornamental with the striped fruits and bark, as well as the fruit. And he can grow it in a pot. A family apple, where you can grow a few different varieties on the same tree, is an interesting one too, and a good talking point!
So now we get to the million pound question. What are your top three fruit trees and why?
If I was going to put three fruit trees in my garden they would be Pixie Apple, Laxton’s Fortune Apple and Victoria Plum - in that order!
Pixie Apple is the latest cropping apple you can get, with a harvest in October. It’s very juicy and gives you a heavy crop - plus it stores until April, which is amazing.
Fortune Apple is a bit of an outlier. It’s not very popular but it’s heavy cropping, small and ideal for kids. red striped, early to mid season, sweet flavour, It’s also quite shade tolerant - I inherited one in my garden which gets a lot of shade but it always gives me a good crop of unblemished fruit. Both of those apples are long season and cox-like but they’re easier to grow and probably the most reliable apple trees in the UK.
Victoria is the best plum by quite some way - and I’m biased because I had one in my garden when I was a kid growing up, and it always produced fantastic fruit.
Discovery Apples are one of the earliest to fruit, with a harvest time from late August to September. They’re a nice size, disease tolerant and have a really sweet taste. You can use them for cooking, too.
Brown Turkey Fig grows well - it’s resistant to most pests and diseases and it crops better than any fig in the UK. It’s compact - you can grow it in a pot or train it up a wall - and I think it’s got the best taste of any fig.
Burlat Cherry - a fast growing fruit tree that’s nice and compact, it’s the one that grows best in the UK. It’s strangely resistant to blackfly and the aphids seem to just avoid it, which is an advantage! The cherries are a good size, with a firm bite and really sweet, juicy flavour.