By Richard Flowers, ACCNP-Green Thumb Nursery-Ventura
Just down the road from where I live, the property owner used his imagination and made the most of a difficult plot of land. This area gets lots of sun and is in between two buildings. The planting area is narrow and a pathway gently curves through the site. The property owner put fragrant star jasmine so it would climb up the trellis that is attached to the wall. He keeps the chosen vine trimmed to keep it narrow so it does not crowd out the walkway and the neighboring building but at the same time provides privacy and fragrant flowers.
What about if you take that same concept as above and instead of using a conventional vine you actually use fruit trees and certain types of roses. Yes, believe it or not, fruit trees like Pears, Apples, Figs, Apricots, and Citrus work very well in a tight, narrow piece of land. Fruit trees will provide you delicious, edible fruit, and flowers. Climbing roses will also fit the bill which will provide you beautiful flower color and fragrance. If your garden space is long and narrow and the width is 4 feet and the planting bed is 2 1/2 – 3 feet wide. Not a lot of plants will grow in this area because they will just be too overpowering and crowded. I may have a solution for you, they are fruit trees and climbing roses, read on and I will explain. In this given area you have delicious fruit like Dorsett Golden Apple, Janice Seedless Kadota Fig, Meyer lemon, 20th Century Asian Pear, and Flavor Gernade Pluot® all trained and grown on espaliers. Farther down the walkway you have climbing roses like Blaze, Fourth Of July, and Josephs Coat growing on trellises. The fruit trees and roses are all pruned low enough where you can enjoy the flowers and fruit for picking. The high density planting serves as privacy from the neighbors while at the same time providing fragrant flowers and tasty fruit most of the year. The espalier fruit trees and roses are trained on a galvanized post and wire system and the plants are attached by way of a simple clip. Growing along the walkway railing are Grapes and a Raspberry hedge all trimmed to be confined in a smaller area. This challenging site was transformed into an area where you will maximize the space while at the same time be functional and useful.
Another situation is also a narrow area right next to a bedroom window, trained up and around the window is a Cecile Brunner climbing rose. The small pink flowers have a heavenly fragrance and provides privacy from the next door neighbors. As an alternative, you could use a Valencia or Navel Orange growing as a hedgerow or trained on an espalier against the wall. The citrus will provide you fruit and fragrant flowers as well as a screening effect all season long.
Climbing roses and fruit trees bring together the best both worlds, combining the color and scent of a beloved flower, the value of home grown fruit, and with the space-saving nature of a vine all while taking up a small footprint in the garden. Adaptability is one of the climbing rose’s and many fruit tree’s hallmark points. They can grow in a container on a patio, cover a fence or wall, or roses can trained into an arch over a trellis. Climbing Roses and fruit trees will do well planted in the appropriate size containers and they will stay much smaller. Try using Climbing Iceberg or another climbing rose of your choice to grow up a smaller trellis which will provide interest and a vertical yet narrow planting. With proper pruning to keep most fruit trees lower, your choices are almost endless: Apple, Fig, Peach, Citrus, Guava, Pluot®, Plum, the choice is yours and have fun with it.
Both Climbing Roses and Fruit trees require a sunny spot all day long, but in a hot climate, a little shade may be needed. A Southern or Western exposure is ideal for them to thrive. It is wise to water regularly as needed, however they are considered fairly drought-tolerant. Check soil moisture by putting a finger in it and making sure it’s not dry beneath the surface. When planting new plants, I suggest using Acid Planting Mix and a good starter fertilizer like EB Stone Sure Start.
To properly add support and grow both climbing roses and fruit trees, it is necessary to provide a little training. They are happiest when their branches are secured horizontally along a surface rather than shooting straight up. It is recommended fanning out the branches along a fence, wall or espalier and securing them onto the structure using hooks, clips, buckles or ties. So the plants do not look unruly and keep them tidy looking any growth that grows away from the main structure will need to be pruned off or redirected to conform to the shape of the structure.
Plants that produce many flexible lateral branches and fruit on fruiting spurs are excellent choices for espaliers. Some of the easiest types of fruit trees to espalier include: Apples, Pears, Cherries, Plums, and Citrus. When trellising climbing roses, like Eden, Polka or America, the first thing to do is to tie the rose canes onto the face of the trellis with a soft twist tie, rather than weaving the rose through the lattice, as this can damage canes and make it harder to keep under control. Second, climbing roses should be snaked horizontally across the trellis rather than allowed to climb straight up. This will promote more blooms from the top to the bottom, creating a striking wall of color.
You can grow climbing roses and fruit trees just like you do other vines growing in a narrow area by training and pruning them to your desired specifications. With the right combination you can have blooms and /or fruit year after year and many times multiple times a year once they’re established
All in all don’t think of a fruit tree or climbing roses as something that needs to have lots of space. Use your imagination, be creative, and think outside the box. I hope I provided you some ideas on how one can grow Roses and Fruit trees in areas with limited space.
Stop by your favorite Green Thumb Nursery, we are the headquarters for all your gardening needs.
Do you like what you see? Sign up for our weekly newsletter to get content like this every week!