Masterful packing, that’s how:
I designed the orchard by thinking about my trees in groups of four. I ordered 1 group of plums, 1 group of European pears, 1 group of sweet cherries and 2 groups of apples. Each quartet was designed to have staggered ripening time and compatible (ideally the same) root stock. In the case of the apples, scion vigor was also considered. The more vigorous varieties are grouped together and the less vigorous are grouped together.
After the trees arrived, I collected the four trees that made up each grouping and heeled them in until I could get them in the ground.
When I was ready to plant, I hammered a central tree stake into each of our prepared 5′x5′ tree beds and planted a quartet in a square around each stake. I left 18″ or so between the trees. Before the trees leaf out too much I’ll tie them all in to the stake. My theory is that the trees will pull against the stake in all directions relatively evenly, so one stake should support the whole group.
I labeled each tree with its variety on a permanent tree label (ask me how I know that you really, really need to do this right away after planting) and cut each of the trees off about 18″ off the ground. It is a curious feeling to pay a lot of money for what are, essentially, fancy sticks and then, once you have stuck those sticks in the ground, to cut them off at the knee. We had friends for dinner over the weekend and I think they found our “orchard” of sticks less than terribly impressive.
Final result: mini-orchard!