There are 2,500 varieties of apple trees in the US but, sadly, most of us don't have room to grow that many. If you have space to plant even one tree, though, you can harvest several varieties of fruit—thanks to the miracle of grafting:
Photographs by Marla Aufmuth, except where noted.
Above: An Apple 4n1 Multiple Graft tree from Yamaguchi's Nursery in Cupertino, CA has Golden Delicious, Red Delicious, Gala, and Fuji apples growing on a single tree. For more information and prices, visit Yamaguchi's.
Above: Each multiple-graft tree starts with root stock, a hardy variety onto which others can be grafted.
Above: There are several grafting techniques. Here's one way to graft a new variety onto root stock: During a dormant season, split a host branch with a knife. Open the split with a screwdriver or similar tool and hold it open to Insert twigs—or scions— into the groove. For step-by-step instructions, see Small Kitchen Garden. Photograph via Small Kitchen Garden.
Above: Multiple graft fruit trees are also available from Stark Bros., which sells a semi-dwarf 2-N-1 Pear Tree and a 2-N-1 Plum Tree, for $28.99 apiece. A Pear-Fect Assortment Tree, with three varieties, is on sale for $59.99 from Stark Bros.
Above: How many years does it take for a new tree to begin bearing fruit? For an apple tree, from two to five years. For a sweet cherry tree, it can take from four to seven years. For other varieties, see Stark Bros.' Years to Bear Fruit list.
Or visit someone else's orchard. One of our favorites is Fishkill Apple Orchards: A Family Farm Goes Sustainable.
N.B.: This is an update of a post originally published August 30, 2012.