Apricot trees

Apricot trees make an interesting addition to the garden. With their pink blossom in early spring, red-tinged new leaves and shoots, large glossy green summer leaves and bright orange coloured fruit they make attractive trees. But most importantly of all, home grown apricots ripened on the tree are far superior in taste to apricots sold in shops. If you get a bumper crop you can make apricot jam, which is truly one of the loveliest of jams.

On the negative side the British climate does not particularly suit apricot trees. They are much more at home in a continental type climate with warm sunny summers followed by a steady decline in temperature during autumn and a cold winter. Confused by our erratic autumn weather, they may fail to prepare for winter and suffer from die-back once cold weather eventually arrives. Unseasonably mild weather in late winter can cause them to come into blossom too early when there are no pollinating insects about or the blossom is at risk from later frosts. Some of the modern varieties, bred specifically for our type of climate, suffer less from these problems. Growing apricots in warm sheltered gardens or against south facing walls also helps, particularly in less favourable parts of the country. Growing apricots is very worthwhile but you need to accept the risks of die-back and irregular cropping.

We offer a good range of both modern and traditional apricots trees for sale at Keepers Nursery. Click here for a guide to choosing apricot trees.

How to choose apricot trees

Here are the most important things that you need to take into consideration when choosing apricot trees:

Variety. All the apricot trees that we supply are varieties that are considered suitable for growing in the cooler UK conditions. Some varieties like Moorpark are ones which have been grown in this country for many years. But some of the best are modern newly introduced varieties like Tomcot which have been bred specifically for growing in cooler climates.

Rootstock. Apricot trees are grafted on rootstocks and the choice of rootstock is important because it determines the ultimate size to which your tree will grow. It is important to choose a rootstock suitable for the space you have and the way you wish to grow the tree. At present no suitable dwarf rootstocks are available for apricot trees. We use some of the medium vigour rootstocks which are used for a wide range of stone fruit as well as a newly introduced apricot specific rootstock called Apricor. Here are some guidelines for various common situations:
  • Medium to large size tree in a lawn or other grassed area. Semi-dwarfing WA-VIT or Apricor rootstocks or semi-vigorous St Julien A rootstock.
  • Pots and planters. Semi-dwarfing WA-VIT rootstocks can be used. Restriction of the roots by the pot will keep the tree small. It is also best to start with one year maiden trees.
  • Special restricted forms. Semi-dwarfing WA-VIT and Apricor or semi-vigorous St Julien A rootstocks can be used for fan training apricot trees depending on the eventual size of the fan required.
Tree Forms. Apricot trees need to be pruned and trained to become attractive and productive trees. However pruning should be kept to a minimum just to develop and maintain the shape. All pruning should be carried out during the main growing season from early May to August and avoided in the dormant season. We supply untrained one year old trees known as maidens which can be trained into any suitable form. We also supply two year old trees which we have already started training towards a particular form. If you want to order a two year old tree ensure that it is in a form that suits your purpose. You would normally not be able to re-train a two year old tree into another form. Here are some guidelines about the various tree forms:
  • Bush trained trees. Open centre goblet shaped trees with relatively short clear trunks of 3ft/1m normally on semi-dwarfing rootstocks suitable for small gardens.
  • Half standard trees. Open centre goblet shaped trees with medium length clear trunks of 4ft/1.3m in height normally on semi-dwarfing rootstocks suitable for medium sized, large gardens or paddocks.
  • Restricted forms. These are intended for growing against walls and fences. They are both a way of growing fruit in a restricted area and an attractive decorative feature. Apricot trees are not suitable for espalier training and we only supply fan trained plum trees .
Cropping season. Apricots ripen from late July to mid August. They do not keep and need to be eaten straight off the tree. If you plan to grow more than one variety choose varieties that ripen at different times to avoid getting all the crop at the same time.

Blossom . Apricot trees are one the earliest fruit trees to come into blossom in the spring. Their pink blossom adds colour to the garden in March.

Pollination. All apricot trees are self-fertile which can be grown successfully on their own. However, because they blossom very early there may be very few or no pollinating insects to carry the pollen to the female parts of the flower. This can result in irregular cropping. One remedy is to hand pollinate.