Espalier Apple Trees Re-worked


Attached are a couple of before and after photos that show my methodology.
These were done just this past weekend. Although it would have been nice if the "before’ photos came up before the “after”.

A close look will reveal that these particular have been repeatedly cut but have not yet decided to become fruiting spurs. They may never decide so eventually these dry up and are lopped off. But as you can see from the photos earlier in this thread, many eventually succumb to the reality of “fruit or die” :blush:

All of those started out just like these.



I suggested to notching under each bud you want to encourage to fruit. Maybe a bit less risky then scoring the whole trunk.

I’ll get to them in a week or two. I’m currently is super busied with work schedule. Getting out of the house by 5 or 6 and get back way past sunset! No way to do any gardening stuff… But I try to visit the forum whenever I have time, like now. And it’s time to take shower, go to bed! Grrrr…

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I’m not sure if this thread is the place to ask this question, but I know that you guys know the answer. I am planning on doing an apple espalier against a wall. My question is: How many inches out from the wall should the tree be planted?

I found this for you. It would seem to be 8" to allow for trunk growth

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Hi Tom,
Very nice tree. I have one question though how far away can I plant 8-10 feet tall fruit tree from wall? 5 feet? How far away is yours?
Thank you

I bought 2 young Asian pears trees this year and planning (hoping) to train them as espalier. As a newbie in fruit tree growing, I was reading through this whole thread. Several terms kept coming up that I wasn’t sure what they meant (“3rd/4th/5th leaf”, “pinch off”, “notch”). Would you be able to tell me what those terms mean?


“3rd leaf” is a fancy way of saying the tree is 3 years old, or you’ve had the tree for 3 years. Every spring your tree puts out a new “leaf.” “Pinch off” usually refers to pruning very young growth that is so tender you can just use your fingers to pinch it off. Notching refers to at least a couple methods. Probably best to do a search on that topic. Ever see those toy wooden snakes that can wiggle back and forth because they have notches cut in the wood? You can move branch angles by notching out some wood and pulling the branch to close up the notch.

I believe the term, first leaf, second leaf, third leaf, etc. refers to how long your tree was planted in ground, not the age of the tree.

Say, you planted your tree this spring, your tree is in its 1st leaf. Next year, it will be a 2nd leaf tree. (the actual age of your tree is usually older. It could be one, two or even three years old by the time you bought and planted it).

Google “how to notch a tree”. It is easier to read the explanation and see an illustration.

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If you get a dwarfing apple rootstock 5 feet would probably work good. In general atleast as far away as your tree will be tall is a good idea. Alot of the apple dwarf rootstocks are not as vigorous or rough on your foundation, you can always copper paint your foundation or put a rootblocker in if your concerned.

A complete newbie to fruit tree growing, I planted 4 espaliers (2 apple and 2 pear) 4 years ago. The apples are a Sainte Germaine and a Royal Gala and the pears are both Williams. I bought 1 year old whips, but I have no idea what the rootstock was (read up about the importance of this too late!) I did tell the nursery I wanted to espalier the trees.

I found a wealth of information on the initial training, but now that I have a reasonable framework I am completely lost as far as pruning is concerned.

Thank you @tomIL for starting this thread - it is really useful. I have definitely been doing all the wrong things regarding pruning so I would like to ask for suggestions from you all. I will post some photos of the St Germaine apple to show my dilemma.

What I realise from the advice given in the post is that I am not pinching it out - all I did was give a gentle (very!) pruning in July. So I will definitely do this this summer to control the vertical growth.

But please could you give me some help with the pruning that I will be doing this February?
I have some very big stubs. Should I cut them right back - just short of flush - for example where I have marked with the magenta line in the photo below?

As a new member I cannot post more than one photo, so I will post another of the entire tree in a second message.

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A photo of the complete tree


I do not have espaliered fruit trees but have read a lot about it. Look like you have a lot of work to do.

Here’s the update thread. Espalier Apple Trees Rework - 2016 Updates - #35 by HollyGates

Also, @MES111 has very successful espaliered apple trees. Hope he will chime in to give you advice.

Here is my best of list.

Regarding your pruning I would Cut at the red lines and keep the green lines. So on the left your cutting the thick branch in the background and keeping the thin branch in the forground. In addition you have to pay attention to active and dorment buds, those are the gree circles. When cutting you need to count out 2 or 3 active buds on a branch and cut above them. Nothing at all will regrow from your purple cuts.

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Thanks so much for the links to other posts @mamuang and @lordkiwi.

@lordkiwi ; many thanks for adding the pruning lines. I thought maybe I should be taking out that big thick branch completely - hence the cut right back at base - because it just seems to be getting thicker and longer with no flower buds close to the main stem. Do you recommend that I cut it at the red lines, then pinch back new growth after the third leaf in spring to control it?

At the end of the horizontal branches there is less heavy growth (photo below). Here I should cut back the side growth to 3 active buds?

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Your cut points are good. I might however cut the lower right branch longer and try notching at the buds to encourage fruit buds. Why I would leave it long is to give my self more chances.



I have never done any notching - read up more about it now and I will certainly try as you suggested. Thanks @lordkiwi

I don’t have as much experience as some people here with espalier, but I’ve been growing up 7 espalier apples on my back fence for 6 years now. Also, a lot of this stuff is not able to be completely right or wrong and people follow different philosophies about shaping and pruning principles for espalier.

My feeling on your picture is that I would cut the big branch cluster on the left as you have drawn in purple. Yes, the general idea is to cut with three buds left over on the stub, but I think if the side stub is more than 1/2 the diameter of the main branch, it could stand to be removed entirely. This is from my interpretation of a guideline @alan has espoused elsewhere and I think it makes sense. Otherwise your whole structural layout will eventually be compromised. In your case that cluster is almost as big as the main branch and not going to get any smaller. Especially if you cut it in dormancy, there is some chance your main branch will pop some latent buds into shoots which could eventually turn into spurs or new stub branches. Though there is also some chance that won’t happen and you will end up with a bare spot. I guess I’m more willing than some to sacrifice a few potential apples for the next season in return for keeping the long term shape on track.

I could also see cutting the part on your right purple line, but I could also see leaving it and cutting the shoots to three buds.

BTW - very nice stone wall!


Thanks for the comments @HollyGates. I think you are right about that branch on the left - it is actually thicker than the main horizontal branch now and I do worry about comprising the tiered layout.

I’ve found a photo of the same part of the tree which I took last year and this is how it looked after pruning in February 2019

It’s rather startling to see how much it has grown in one year! Incredible how the little branch to the right of the main trunk has grown in one year too!

It makes me realise how correct the advice that winter pruning encourages growth is! I’m definitely going to pinch back more this summer. Is that what you have done on your trees?

Our house was built in 1723, hence the glorious stone walls - the espaliered trees are against one of the outbuildings which provide a lovely backdrop for my traditional French vegetable garden.


@thepodpiperdo you have any experience with tip bearing varieties? I’ve been cutting all of mine back but have recently wondered if they are not the spurring kind.

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