The family fruit tree is one of the greatest innovations for growing fruit in smaller spaces because it enables a range of varieties to be accommodated within one tree.
Instead of the tree being devoted solely to one type, which is of course normally the case, the Nurseryman cleverly grafts two, or even three different varieties onto different branches, all of which develop to give one main branch of each cultivar. Usually these varieties are selected not only to cross pollinate, but also to ripen over different parts of the season so you will get an extended picking in time. A family tree could almost be described as a mini orchard within one tree!
You can’t mix and match different types of fruit within one tree because the varieties have to be compatible with the rootstock used. Family apple trees and family pear trees are the most commonly encountered, and sometimes family plum trees which can also ring the changes with the inclusion of a Damson or Greengage [which are closely related to a Plum]
Pruning is exactly the same as with an ‘ordinary’ tree.
Family trees are usually grafted onto more vigorous stocks, such as MM106 but because the tree is supporting three different grafts vigour is often reduced and family trees are often seen at just 8-10’ in height. It is also possible sometimes to buy Family trees on miniature rootstocks but these are often less successful as the tree needs a certain amount of vigour to support the different varieties.