The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Fruit cocktail tree

Fruit cocktail tree

Have you ever wondered about those "fruit cocktail trees" you see for sale in glossy magazines?  Brian Cooper tried out a dwarf tree with five different varieties grafted on --- Elberta Peach, Belle of Georgia Peach, Santa Rosa Plum, Redgold Nectarine, and Moorpark Apricot.
Baby apricots
His tree was pretty big when he brought it home and it fruited the first year.  (The photos above show the tree a year later when it had been pruned and trained.)

Brian wrote "All of the grafts produce fruit, but it is a challenge to keep them balanced so they grow evenly."

His advice is timely since I'm going to be grafting some new varieties onto my pear trees this winter.  I hadn't understood why my orcharding books recommend adding no more than four different varieties to one tree, but Brian's experience rang a bell.  Weekend Homesteader paperbackOf course it would be tough to keep multiple varieties on an even keel so that the most vigorous doesn't take over the tree.

Has anyone else had experience with fruit cocktail trees?  I'd be curious to hear if your results are any different if you stick to the same species for all varieties (for example, four types of apples on one tree.)

Stay tuned for Weekend Homesteader: December, chock full of information on planting fruit trees.  Meanwhile, learn an easy way to roast a chicken in Weekend Homesteader: November.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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I attended the scion exchange for California Rare Fruit Growers and met a man who has an apple tree with 92 different grafts. I have about 5 different varies on my apple tree and I like the fact that each is a different flavor, texture and time of harvest and I would definitely do this again when I get moved to my new place. Two of my grafts are rare red interior colored apples with great flavor and texture. Grafting is also a way to preserve rare almost extinct varies and expand their propagation.

There is also a man in the club who has grated citrus trees with many different grafts but he indicated that the rootstock can affect the flavor of citrus.

Comment by Rosann Fri Nov 18 12:07:53 2011
I'd love to see a photo of your apple tree if you have one! It does sound like if you stick to one species, you might not have as much trouble keeping all of the varieties on an even keel.
Comment by anna Fri Nov 18 13:01:09 2011

I have an apple double graft (Fuji and Granny smith). Still only small, so I can't give any helpful experience. I have read someone say the would not grow a multigraft again. But they seem such a great idea, for limited space, and easily increasing varieties. I can't see it would be such a problem keeping dominant varieties in check.

Comment by John Fri Nov 18 18:21:46 2011
John --- Did that author give any reason that he wouldn't grow a multigraft again? I have to admit that I've steered clear of them because they felt a bit gimmicky. But that's just a knee jerk reaction and I'd love to hear more first hand reports.
Comment by anna Fri Nov 18 19:54:56 2011

I have read a few people recommending against them, on the forums below.
But the only reason I have heard, is it is difficult to manage the strong versus weak graft, and the tree is weaker and less productive in general.

Comment by John Fri Nov 18 20:54:00 2011
I'll go pore over them. :-)
Comment by anna Sat Nov 19 16:55:44 2011

I just found your blog and am really enjoying it. As to your fruit tree dilemma keeping the tree balanced, try Espalier. That way it doesn't matter if the varieties grow at different rates. We have a four way pear on a 4' fence with varieties about 18" apart on the dwarf rootstock. I grafted another 2 way pear this spring that we will Espalier as well. Fruit Salad are typically 'Bud Grafted', so you can put the grafts where ever you want them. My wife and I volunteer in a local community orchard here in Portland that has Espalier apples and pears that are over 60 years old, are over 20' wide and produce like crazy. They are easy to prune and harvest fruit too. No laddes required. Just a thought. Thanks again for your blog. It's a great read that has stimulated lots of projects in our spare time. Please stay safe. Have a Great Day! jc

Comment by Jean Paul Carufo Tue May 4 13:43:13 2021

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