[nafex] tip bearing apples, espalier subjects

Nell Lancaster nlancaster at rockbridge.net
Mon May 14 18:15:42 EDT 2001

Hi all, Nell here.  Thanks so much for all the responses to my question 
about >> cultivars that come to mind as tending to tip bearing? <<  

As usual, after sifting the wealth of available information I find I 
understand even less about the subject than I thought I did!  Probably I 
should grow more fruit and think less, but in my defense I've been mulching 
strawberries with pine needles *while I think... <g>

My interest in the subject of tip bearing was sparked by realizing that 
this was the characteristic that some of the literature had been warning 
against in selecting fruits for espalier growing, in favor of spur bearing 
types (so you don't have to choose between keeping to the espalier form or 
pruning off the fruit.) I took that to mean grow apples and pears instead 
of cherries or plums, having the same understanding as Derry Walsh:

>> As far as I can understand, most apple trees are spur-bearing.  Quite a 
few are both tip-bearing and spur-bearing (Jonagold).  Only a small 
[percentage], I think less than 1%, are strictly tip-bearers. <<

So I didn't pay much attention to weeding out any candidates on account of 
their being tip bearers.  But the GRIN database Joe Hecksel pointed to 
seems show that tip bearers make up more than a tiny fraction of apple 
cultivars, if the Geneva collection is representative and if I understand 
their habit categories correctly:

 code   tree bearing habit  (standard example)  # accessions of the type

  1     columnar  (Wijcik)                       18
  2     Type I spar  (Starkvionson)             294
  3     Type II semi-spur  (Empire)             585
  4     Type III standard  (Golden Delicious)   615
  5     Type IV tip bearer (Rome)               146  (8.7%)
  6     weeping  (Red Jade)                       7
(above from  http://www.ars-grin.gov/cgi-bin/npgs/html/codes.pl?115105

>> Based on data from GRIN collection at Geneva... Click on the bearing 
type you are interested in and you will be sent to a page with cultivars 
with that characteristic. << Joe Hecksel)

Nowhere could I find an explanation of how the habits are defined, or 
apples assigned to them.  Am I right in assuming that code 4 / Type III 
standard means "spur bearing", i.e. "standard apple bearing habit"?   I was 
also confused by that code 2 / Type I spar; at first I thought "spar" was a 
typo for "spur", but then I thought of airplane wing spars and could sort 
of visualize that as a tree habit (though not a very desirable one).

Some of you may have such a wide experience with apples that the list of 
example varieties calls up vivid images.  If so, I'm in awe.  Do the mental 
pictures "fit" with the categories? And which categories if any would you 
recommend for espalier growing?

You can see I'm in deep mud here.  But I went ahead and looked up the 
apples mentioned as tip bearers so far in the thread.  Their habit codes 
are beside them, along with who said what. (nf = not found in the GRIN 
habit database)

Albemarle Pippin (aka Yellow Newtown) 3, Foxwhelp 2, and Calville Blanc 
[d'Hiver] nf - out there right now with little clusters of fruit at the 
tips. (Don Yellman, northern Virginia)

Jonagold 4, Spigold 4 and Freedom nf - seem to tend that way (Don Y.).

Northern Spy 2 - the most commonly planted tip-bearer in south coastal BC. 
(Derry Walsh, British Columbia)

Cortland 4, Barnack Beauty nf, Crimson Beauty 4, Filippa nf, Golden Russet 
4, Maiden's Blush nf, Red Beauty of Bath 4, and Winston 4 - listed as tip-
bearers in Crawford's Directory. (Derry W.)

Fuji 3 and Gala 3 -  heard or read they are tip-bearers (Derry W.). 
  [Re: the "tip bearing habit" of Gala, Golden, etc., these fruits are 
  typically much smaller as flower buds are not mature.  Or, the largest
  fruit comes from 2-3 year spurs. (Ed Fackler, Indiana)]

Paula Red 5 -  growth habit is so willowy I call it the 'Tree from Hell' 
when it comes to pruning. I now am trying summer pruning to try to control 
it a bit. (Victoria Caron, New Hampshire)

Spokane Beauty nf and its sports: Eve's Delight nf, Starking Giant nf, and 
others - Strong tip bearer ... A fair number of people grow it around here 
as it is the main variety that wins giant apple contests. (Lon Rombough, 

Tydemans Early Red 4 - We grow; a very nice apple. (Jerry Koerner, Alaska) 

another golden apple whose habit is almost identical with Paula Red - I'll 
look it up and add it later. (Vic C.)

Of these, only Maiden's Blush was on my existing list of espalier 
candidates. About the only unmixed message I'm getting is that I don't want 
to consider adding Paula Red! (Or is it Paulared?)

Don mentioned >> Cox's Orange and E. Spitzenberg, also generally regarded 
as "antiques", have extensive spur blooming all up and down the interior 
branches, and they are still quite young trees. << and asked >> What are 
you thinking of planting? <<

Esopus Spitzenberg, as it happens, which isn't found in the GRIN data.  I 
understand Cox's Orange Pippin is just too hard here, so I wasn't 
considering it . They code it a 2, which makes me want to know more than 
ever what a "spar" habit is...

Other espalier possibilities:  Roxbury Russet 3, Smokehouse 4, Virginia 
Gold 4, Winesap 4, Yellow Transparent 3.

Gordon Nofs, Michigan, noted that the tip bearers like Cortland 
consistently produce the biggest apples, suggesting a method to its tip-
bearing "madness".  I bet that bigger apples do sell better.

Sam Franc asked about the influence of climate and/or culture: >> I do a 
lot of summer pruning rather than waiting for winter. I don't have any tip 
bearing.  This is on the Oregon coast, a cool marine climate. My ripening 
dates are a lot later here than you people back east report. In contrast, 
blooming time is earlier here. <<

Any comments about possible influences of culture?  Espaliers are summer 

Nell Lancaster, Lexington VA <nlancaster at rockbridge.net>
zone 6b,  western foothills of the Blue Ridge mountains


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