The History of the Urban Apple
Neolithic Period (9000 B.C.) Malus sieversii, the primary forest tree of what is today, Western China. Widespread in the Tien Shan mountain range.
Bronze Age (2500 B.C.) The dispersal begins along the Old Silk Road and cultivation of apple trees in near East (Turkey, Syria, & Iraq).
Persian Empire (500 B.C.) Cultivation is widespread. Alexander The Great (300 B.C.) Cultivation is introduced to the Greek World.
Greek knowledge of the art of grafting continues with Roman horticulturalists. Budding, grafting, and rootstock techniques are recorded by Roman writer Pliny. Malus domestica is born!
Roman Empire (27 B.C. – 479 A.D.) Cultivation spread to Northern and Western Europe. Malus sieversii hybridized with native Malus Sylvestris (Crabapple).
Espalier methods are developed as adaptation to growing urban areas. The urban orchard is born. (There is debate that espalier techniques originated in Egypt prior to Roman dominance).
Middle Ages (500 A.D. – 1500 A.D.) Cultivation continued to spread with the rise of Christianity and Islam. Abbey gardens are established throughout Christendom. Orchards are developed in Portugal and Spain. The proliferation of apple cultivation found in the gardens of royalty and commoner alike.
Colonial Period (1500 A.D. – 1799 A.D) By this time The Royal Horticultural Society of England recognizes and classifies approximately 120 varieties of apple. Cider apples, cooking apples, and dessert apples are categorized.
Methods of dwarfing rootstocks for size control begins. Spanish priests introduce Malus domestica in mission gardens
from California to Chile.
Colonists establish the first apple orchard in New England in 1620. French colonists establish orchards in Canada.
Colonists of New Zealand, Australia, and South Africa establish orchards. John Chapman (Johnny Appleseed) spreads the
gospel and apple trees across Ohio, Indiana, and Ontario (turn of the 19th century)
(1800s – early 1900s) Victorian England recognizes 1200 varieties of apple. The greatest diversity of apple cultivation
is realized. 1000’s of small orchards dot the globe.
New American cultivars are recognized and established. Most notable: Jonathan, Wagener, and Golden Delicious.
The McIntosh apple variety is recognized as the first dwarf apple tree.
(1900 – present) The 20th century begins with The U.S. and Canada as the global leaders of apple production. By the late
1900’s, the former Soviet Union is a global player. Presently, China is the largest producer with a majority of crops exported as concentrated juice.
1960’s the Wijcik McIntosh mutation is observed on a 50-year-old McIntosh apple tree giving birth to the columnar style
ornamental apple tree.
From Malus sieversii to Malus domestica to the CONSTANS (CO) gene mutation of Malus domestica ‘Wijcik McIntosh’
we now enter the age of The Urban Apple.
The Urban Apple Columnar Tree Program
“Varieties are created by nature.” - Dr. Jaroslav Tupy
A quarter of a century ago, a new breeding program in the Czech Republic began rolling. The goal was to develop commercially viable apple varieties for high-density planting and mechanical harvesting. Years of research, prolific breeding, and evaluation by Dr. Jaroslav Tupy resulted in the introduction of the Columnar Apple Training System aka CATS. Several goals were set for the CATS program, with a primary focus on the eating quality of the fruit produced. As the program developed, disease resistance gained additional focus, while maintaining a compact columnar formed apple tree. The first selections from the program were brought to the U.S. by Varieties International and were introduced through Greenleaf Nurseries under the Garden Debut brand in 2010. In 2015 Schwope Brothers Tree Farms of Atherton, MO began production.
Schwope Brothers Tree Farms utilizes the B-10 understock in stool bed propagation of our Urban Apple varieties. (The B-10 rootstock is cold hardy, yield efficient, Fire blight tolerant, with good root anchorage and stress tolerance.) The budded stems are then planted in our fields to grow and develop for two years. After two years in our micro-biologically abundant soil of the Missouri River Valley our trees are ready for finishing.
The Urban Apple trees are then bareroot harvested. The bareroot trees are then finished in PlantRight grow bags, lined out in orchards, or lined out for ball and burlap nursery stock production.
The program continues to progress and evolve. Schwope Brothers has 4 new varieties set for release in 2020. Our breeders are currently working with other fruit types, including Pears, Peaches, and Plums. As the future approaches expect to see several new varieties that exhibit the same characteristics established by the CATS program. We are forecasting available finished stock to number in the thousands for 2020, not to mention our abundant inventory available right now through our distribution brands and Colonial Gardens.
The Urban Apple in the Landscape
The Urban Apple is set to become the king of the edible landscape, urban orchard, and therapeutic garden. Maxing out at 2-2.5’ (W) x 8’- 10’(H), this little dude will nestle in nicely to confined environments. Small beds, raised planters, and against structures, are perfect locations for these varieties. Be confident in the sustainability of this vertical selection when specifying the Urban Apple in your designed projects. These bad boys are resistant to Apple scab, Powdery mildew, and Fire blight. Yep, no fungicides needed. These dudes are diploids and will need to cross-pollinate. Any two varieties of Urban Apple will get er’ done. Annual crops of delicious apples are the reward for a selection well made. Urban Apples do require full sun but, require very little maintenance.
By adding Urban Apple to your palette, you are adding a sensory element. Taste! Yep, your projects just got yummy!
Besides it’s columnar habit, delicious fruit, and disease resistance, the Urban Apple blooms blush pink!
Urban Apple Varieties
USDA Zone: 4-9
‘Blushing Delight’ Malus
Fruit profile: Reddish-green fruit with a slightly sweeter crisp flavor.
Fruit profile: Bright red apple with a sweet and juicy flavor.
‘Golden Treat’ Malus
Fruit profile: Produces greenish-golden apples that are tart in early Fall, but get
sweeter the longer they’re on the tree.
‘Tangy Green’ Malus
Fruit profile: Lime green apples with a crisp, tart flavor mix