Most of our trees are supplied as "bare-root maidens" - this means they will arrive as a single flexible stem between 3ft-6ft in height. The height is largely determined by the variety, but the choice of rootstock will also have some influence.
Some varieties will have naturally produced some initial side-branches known as "feathers", others will not and are known as "whips". Whether a tree produces feathers or not is determined by the variety.
The entire tree will be about 2-years old when supplied in the spring of delivery to the customer. The rootstock will have been planted 2 years earlier, and the scion variety is then grafted that summer and grown on for a further 12-15 months. We call this a "1-year" tree but some suppliers call it a 2-year tree because of the time the rootstock has been growing.
Most of our trees have a stem of between 9/16" - 11/16" caliper at a point just above the rootstock graft union. This is generally the best size for transplanting fruit trees - bigger caliper trees may take longer to establish.
We also sell lower grade trees at a reduced price, these are not as well developed at this early stage, but will still grow on to become productive mature trees - they might just take a bit longer. These smaller trees are sometimes preferred by commercial growers and are particularly useful for espaliers and other trained forms.
We generally do not supply older more mature trees, because older trees are much more difficult to transplant successfully.
The size information we provide (such as "small" or "medium") relates to the mature size of the tree - not the size of the tree as we supply it. Regardless of the expected mature size of the tree, as supplied it is likely to be 3ft-6ft in height. On occasion we may cut the tree down in order to fit into our shipping cartons. If this is necessary, it is done just prior to shipping and does not affect the growth of the tree. In most cases you will want to cut the tree back to around 36" - 40" after planting, to encourage branches to form the following summer.
We use virus-indexed rootstocks, which are virus-free at source. We use scion material from a wide range of sources, and this is not necessarily virus-free. However virus infection can only occur during grafting, and is not soil or air-borne - so would usually be apparent on a tree in the nursery long before trees are harvested for shipping. We do not test for fireblight since this is now endemic in most areas. We wash trees prior to shipping to reduce the risk of fireblight spores being transported with the trees. We routinely conduct phytosanitary checks for trees being sent to California, and we can arrange tests for other areas on request (there is a small charge for this).