This single (and quite colorfully blossoming) tree grows 40 different varieties of peaches, plums, apricots, nectarines, cherries, and even almonds — but just how does it do it?
The making of a “Fruit Salad Tree”: Prunus Edition
I have several Prunus trees growing in my young food forest garden, but as I walk about in the neighbourhood and in plant nurseries, I often think “I could never conceivably plant all of the trees I would like to plant.” There are over 430 species in this genus, and countless cultivars: including almonds, peaches, plums, cherries, apricots, sloe, bird cherries, and nectarines — all those sickly sweet things with a stone in the middle.
Mirabelle plums are endemic to the wetlands around where I live, being re-seeded prolifically by birds. I know by observing them in my biome that they tolerate the Danish wet, cold, coastal climate. Thus, they are a natural choice for a hardy, disease-resistant rootstock. Finding the right Prunus rootstock for your biome means engaging in similar observation and experimentation: what are your local species? How do they tolerate your climate? Are they compatible with cultivated members of the genus?
My next step is to go around and ask the neighbours for scion wood from their Prunus trees, or deftly slip broken branches in my pocket when I am at the greenhouse (I’m on a budget, after all). These can be grafted on to the Mirabelle rootstock, and, pending compatibility and the strength of the graft, produce their unique fruits on one branch. Prunus species cross-pollinate each other, bloom at different times, and have an array of different blossom colours, meaning such a “fruit salad tree” will have bigger, more vigorous fruit, a longer blooming period, and a number of different colours.
Similar trees can be accomplished by grafting members of the Citrus genus (oranges, lemons, grapefruits, limes, tangerines, citrons, etc.), the Malus genus (apples, crabapples), or between the Cydonia and Pyrus genera (quince and pears).
A citrus fruit salad tree
In theory, you really only need four trees, and you can cultivate hundreds of species of fruit in your own backyard!
To get started, here is a “Grafting 101" tutorial. May this inspire you to great Frankentrees of your own!