Frank P Matthews
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The 'Greengage of Damsons'. Very reliable cropper with intense sugary flavours and dark blue in colour. Read more
Rootstocks are an essential part of growing fruit trees. This article will explain what rootstocks are, why they are used and which types of rootstocks are grown on our nursery. Information about each individual rootstock will help you choose the perfect one for your tree.
A rootstock is the root system of the tree. Rootstocks have been used for centuries for tree propagation. More recent trials carried out in various countries have resulted in selections that ensure the right qualities for successful growth. To propagate a new tree, fresh wood from the 'mother tree' is cut off (this is called 'scion wood') and then grafted or budded onto the rootstock. Once the union of rootstock and scion wood is made, the selected variety grows up to become the tree. The rootstock can be planted out in the ground or grafted indoors and potted. Rootstocks need to be a compatible variety to form a strong union with the scion wood, e.g. apple trees need apple rootstocks, etc. There are some exceptions where a different type of tree is compatible with a rootstock, e.g. quince rootstocks can be grown with some pears varieties.
For a closer look at how trees are budded or grafted, click here for our budding video and click here for our grafting video.
To read more about the history of rootstocks, click here.
There are many reasons why a rootstock is used in tree propagation:
~ To control the growth rate and ultimate size of the tree. This is useful where space is limited and trees need to be a uniform size.
~ To help with disease resistance: many rootstocks are specially selected as they are resistant to diseases such as woolly aphid or collar rot.
~ To enable trees to be 'true to type' by ensuring that identifiable scion wood can be used to graft or bud onto the rootstock.
~ To help the tree cope with different soil types: some rootstocks are known to perform better with wetter or drier conditions or in soil that is poor quality.
~ To ensure hardiness against colder winters.
~ To encourage more fruit and improved fruit size.
The main consideration when choosing a rootstock for your tree is the size of tree you would like. Each rootstock will determine how big your tree will grow. Other factors such as location, soil type and pruning will also influence the size of the tree so the sizes given are only a guide.
Ideal for patio tubs and smaller spaces as it produces a true mini tree. Height is no more than 2 metres with little support required. Heavy cropping fruit trees may need a permanent stake. Fruiting begins in the first year. Very little pruning needed.
Very productive and usually grows no more than 3 metres. Ideal for cordons. This rootstock provides good growth control with high productivity. Trees will need some support because yields are heavy and fruit size is particularly good.
Good for bush trees and cordons in limited spaces. A useful rootstock for those wanting compact, free-standing trees. It is best grown with a permanent stake to improve stability. Requires good quality soil.
A robust rootstock, producing a tree about 4 metres tall. 10% less vigorous than MM.106. Resistant to phytophora, collar rot and woolly aphid. Perfect for bushes and half standards. Espaliers and other forms of trained fruit where large walls need covering should be selected within this vigour range.
Excellent, general purpose apple rootstock. Produces a tree 4 to 5 metres tall. Suitable for bush, cordon and half standards of most varieties. Staking only required on sites which are exposed. Woolly aphid resistant. Larger, more robust tree form, bushes and half standards are grown on these rootstocks. Espaliers and other forms of trained fruit where large walls need covering should be selected within this vigour range.
A tough, vigorous rootstock producing a tree about 5 to 6 metres tall. Ideal for half standards and standards. No staking required. Although slower into cropping, the fruit will be high quality. Trees grown on these rootstocks are not suitable for containers. Available to buy bare-rooted in winter.
The best rootstock for traditional orchards. Produces apple trees about 6 metres tall. Ideal for full standard trees and straight leads (trees that have no had their leader pruned out). Although slower into cropping, the fruit will be high quality. Trees grown on these rootstocks are not suitable for containers. Available to buy bare-rooted in winter.
Produces trees about 3 metres tall. Ideal for commercial orchards, gardens and patio pots. This rootstock provides good growth control with high productivity. Fruit is a good size and quality.
Trees on this rootstock reach 4 to 5 metres. Very productive and fully compatible with all sweet and flowering cherries. A useful rootstock for those wanting compact, free-standing trees. Perfect for bushes or half-standards. There is enough vigour for covering walls as fan-trained trees.
A vigorous rootstock that will ultimately produce trees 6 metres tall or more. Ideal for large specimens or traditional orchards. Although slower into cropping, the fruit will be high quality. Trees grown on these rootstocks are not suitable for containers. Available to buy bare-rooted in winter.
Produces a tree 2 to 3 metres tall. Crops within the first few years. Prefers soils that are not chalky.
Similar size to Quince 'C' but more productive and copes better with cold winters. Produces smoother fruit with less russetting. Tree reach 2 to 3 metres tall. Crops within the first few years.
The ideal rootstock for bush and half-standard trees. Ultimately growing to about 4 metres. A useful rootstock for those wanting free-standing trees. Also perfect for fan-trained trees and espaliers. Prefers soils that are not chalky.
Specifically used for perry pear varieties. Produces a tree about 5 metres tall. The name is misleading as it is a more dwarfing version of the vigorous Pyrus communis and not actually a dwarf rootstock. A tough rootstock that produces good quality, uniform fruit.
Ideal for large, traditional orchard trees. Can reach a height of 6 metres or more. Although slower into cropping, the fruit will be high quality. Trees grown on these rootstocks are not suitable for containers. Available to buy bare-rooted in winter.
Ideal for large, traditional orchard trees. Can reach a height of 6 metres or more. Although slower into cropping, the fruit will be high quality. Trees grown on these rootstocks are not suitable for containers. Available to buy bare-rooted in winter. A selection of Pyrus communis that has a more consistent vigour and form.
Produces a tree about 3 metres tall. Good fruit size, yield and winter hardiness. A useful rootstock for those wanting compact, free-standing trees.
Particularly good for apricots. Trees reach a height of about 3 metres. A specialist rootstock for improved fruiting yield and fruit size. A useful rootstock for those wanting compact, free-standing trees. There is enough vigour for a good fan-trained tree against a wall.
Compatible with apricots, peaches and nectarines. More tolerant of heavy wet soils with better anchorage. Larger, more robust tree form reaching about 4 metres. Bushes and half standards are grown on these rootstocks. Fan trained trees on large walls can be grown with this rootstock.
A robust disease resistant, free standing and non-suckering rootstock for plums, gages, damsons, mirabelles and apricots. Grows well on a wide range of soils and conditions. A useful rootstock for those wanting compact, free-standing trees. There is enough vigour for covering walls as fan-trained trees. About 10% less vigorous than St. Julien 'A'.
Produces a tree about 5 metres tall. This is fully compatible with all plums, damsons, gages, peaches, nectarines and apricots and many ornamental prunus species. A useful rootstock for those wanting productive, free-standing trees. Also ideal for large, fan-trained specimens.
Ideal for large standards in traditional orchards. Trees on this rootstock can reach 6 metres. High quality fruit appears after the first few growing years. Not suitable for containers. Available to buy bare-rooted in winter.
All our vines are grafted onto 'SO4' rootstock which is vigorous, suiting a range of soils and UK climate conditions.
Description: Shropshire Prune, also known as the 'Greengage of Damson' is the Native of the West Midlands. A small hedgerow damson, very reliable cropper with intense flavour, delicious cooked into puddings, jams and for gin! Dark blue in colour, firm sugary flesh. Very similar to the damson variety 'Westmorland'.
History: Originates from Shropshire, UK in 17th Century. Thought to be wild seedlings gathered and cultivated. Recieved an Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society in 1998.
Dessert fruit of plum quality. Oval, blue/black with attractive bloom. Can drop from the tree in August.
Small round to round oblong, blue black with a good bloom, best for culinary use. Self Fertile.
The Classic German ‘Hauszwetsche’ sweet prune for traditional ‘plum cake’ and fresh eating.
Very small with a blue-black bloom. Good quality cooker. Hardy and regular cropper in northern districts.
Your tree will have been pruned prior to despatch so there should be no need to prune straight away. The only exception is a bare root maiden which will not have been pruned. Some varieties will benefit from being pruned later – please see the variety specific information.
We would advise watering your tree when planting and then regularly during the first summer in the ground. Thereafter the level of watering will depend on the soil and weather conditions. It is best to not let young trees dry out.
A free booklet with simple instructions will also be included with your order.
You can also find more information in the ‘Advice’ section of our website. Click here for ‘How to Plant a Container Tree’ and here for ‘How to Plant a Bare Root Tree’.
Trees should always be planted as soon as possible. The only exception would be bare root trees if the soil is very frozen or waterlogged, in which case heel the trees in until the ground is ready. Bare root trees must be planted before new growth appears in spring, this is usually in March.
If your tree is to be kept in a container, then we’d advise repotting into a larger container as soon as possible. Please check to see whether the tree is suitable for a pot before purchasing.
Yes, you can collect the trees from the nursery. Please select the ‘Collect’ option when placing the order. We will email you as soon as your order is ready for collection, we will then need at least two working days to prepare your order.
The delivery charge is calculated according to the number of boxes needed to send the trees. One container grown tree will need one box; bare root trees vary but we can usually get about three in a box. The total delivery cost will be shown when you place the order.
We currently do not deliver to any addresses outside of mainland Great Britain.
We will notify you by email when your order has been despatched. It will usually be delivered within three days from notification.
Our boxes are 2 metres tall and 30cm square.
We are unable to offer a scheduled delivery service as we cannot guarantee an exact delivery date. We can aim for a specific week if you let us know.
Our courier company will leave the package in the safest place if there is no one there, so there is no need to sign for the delivery.
Container grown trees are available from August and bare root trees are available from November. We always aim to deliver your order as soon as every item is ready for despatch.
If the whole order is ready when purchased, it usually takes between 5 and 10 working days to arrive.
See below for a guide on when bare root trees are usually ready for despatch.
Early November – Two year old plums, cherries, apples and then pears.Late November – One year maiden plums, cherries, apples and then pears.Late November/Early December – Ornamental prunus, sorbus, thorns, malus and then pyrus.
This is an estimate as the lifting of bare root trees is very weather dependent.
If you are unhappy with your tree when it arrives, please email email@example.com within five working days and we will get back to you as soon as possible.