Both pears and quinces are grafted onto quince rootstocks, such as “Quince A”, “Quince C”, and “Quince Eline”. The rootstocks that exert the greatest dwarfing effect will produce a 2.5-3m tall pear tree and 3m tall quince.
What Are Rootstocks?
Most fruit trees are produced from two trees attached or grafted together, with the bottom part composing the roots known as the rootstock and the top part composing the crown, which can be any variety, providing it’s compatible. You can see where they have been attached at the graft point located at the bottom of the stem. For the most part, the above ground tree remains unaffected, so a Concorde pear attached to a rootstock will always produce Concorde pears.
Rootstocks are selected for their interactions with the soil. Often rootstocks exert a dwarfing effect on the tree it’s attached, producing a tree smaller than it would be if left to grow on its own roots. Rootstocks produce smaller trees as they are worse at absorbing nutrients and water from the soil than conventional roots. While this may sound like a negative, it is actually a huge positive. Trees with dwarfing rootstocks produce earlier in their lives and put more resources into fruiting. Their branches are at a more manageable height and the tree’s ultimate size better suited to the average-sized garden.
Rootstocks don’t just affect size and precociousness (time to fruit), but also disease resistance and hardiness. In the UK, we have comparatively mild winters to other countries, so aren’t interested in cold hardiness.
Rootstocks can be of a completely different species to the plant it is grafted as in the case of quinces and pears. Indeed quinces are in a completely different genus altogether, but are in the same family Rosaceae.
Pear/Quince Rootstock History
In the early 1900s East Malling Research began their project of collecting and labelling traditional rootstocks. They knew that farmers in the Angers region of France used quince as pear rootstocks and brought them over to England. They tested them, finding loads of different rootstocks and categorised them by letter: A, B, C and so on. They found that they were easy to propagate and produced good yields, and have been used ever since. It’s perfectly feasible that more pear/quince rootstocks may emerge. “Quince Eline” is actually a new introduction from Holland, selected for its hardiness.
As with any major outlay it’s always worth testing multiple varieties on multiple rootstocks. You can never be sure how a rootstock will perform in local conditions.
Pear/Quince Tree Rootstocks A-Z
Every rootstock produces a similar dwarfing effect on both pears and quinces, but quinces end up slightly larger.
Kirchensaller is a pear rootstock that produces a tree to the same height as a seedling. Such rootstocks are used to create specimen trees, or can be used to add vigour to naturally small varieties.
Quince A produces trees 3-4m high, about 50-66% of the size of a tree grown on its own roots. Quince trees end up around 3.5-4m.
Quince Eline produces trees 2.5-3m high, about 40-50% of the size of a tree grown on its own roots. Quince trees end up around 3m.
Quince C exerts a similar dwarfing effect to Eline. Eline differs slightly to C in that it reduces fruit russeting and produces a slightly more erect form.
A tree grown on its own roots, and therefore not attached to a rootstock, is known as a seedling. A pear on its own roots tend to grow to about 6m, quince about the same.
Quince Eline needs 2.5m between trees, Quince A 4m and Seedling 6-8m between trees.
Jorge works in the Primrose marketing team. He is an avid reader, although struggles to stick to one topic!
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Jorge is a journeyman gardener with experience in growing crops.