Calling the espalier experts

I picked up a Rubinette apple on M26 from raintree and want to espalier it across a section of my garden fence. Here is a picture of the tree next to the fence:

I read a bunch over the weekend but I’m not real clear how to start my espalier journey. Where should I prune or cut to get the tree to start growing out? Can I bend the existing branches down to get outward growth? I am going to put my eye bolts and metal wire in this weekend but wanted to confirm the correct pruning locations before screwing them in.

I am far from expert, but if it would be my tree, I would bend low left branch to horizontal position, will be watching bud on the same level on the right, if it will start to grow then use it as opposite branch on first level. Both top long branches have too sharp angle to be bent and also space between layers will be too small, so I would cut them to outward bud where it would make sense to have second level and train new grows to the second layer. That small twig on the left I would probably cut completely. If I want more layers, then I would keep the top and watch the new grows to select future branches. Let’s see what experts would say!


Sorry for the delayed response but I just noticed your post.

The central leader should stay unpruned until…

The two uppermost branches should still be flexible and should be tied down to the horizontal. Their ends will start growing upwards anyway. Throughout the season you continue to tie them down to the horizontal as they continue to put on growth.

Pulling the side branches to the horizontal will cause the central leader to boost its growth. Find 3 buds on the central leader where two are on each side then a third one above them that is facing out towards you. Head the central leader right above this third bud. This third bud will be the one that will become the leader. The side buds will become your next set of horizontal arms on the espalier. Repeat next spring by heading right above the next set of three and create the next level etc. year by year until you have all the levels you wanted.

The very lowest branch can also be tied down even though there is not another opposite. The very smallest can be pruned off completely.


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Mike has way more experience than I do, so his advice is worth more. But I would probably chop most of the top off, down to the right facing bud above the long branch on the lower left. Then that bud would grow quickly and turn into your new leader. The point of cutting it that low would be to stimulate your desired right facing branch on the lower rung. I’d also shorten the long branch on the lower left until a right facing branch could be made to catch up to it. That big right facing bud lower on the right maybe. Possibly put a little notch above that right facing bud you want to grow but it would most likely go on its own if you headed it off above the lower branch, plus more latent buds might come out and you might like one of those better.

But depending on where your next wire is going to go you could head it off below that new wire; unlikely those top branches are where you want them and anyway they are awfully acute angles.