Espalier Apple Trees Rework - 2016 Updates

Google “Critical temperatures of frost damage on fruit trees by Utah State Extension service”.

It shows the pics of various stages of apple buds and other friuts.

HollyGates, the scion looks like its too far in the rootstock and the cambiums are not matching up. They usually need to be so the scion makes a little lump when taping them up.


Too young still. Nothing happens fast in the apple world.

Next year for sure though.

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Thanks for the feedback @applenut. Do you think I should open them up, reset, and rewrap them? They have only been on a couple days…

The wood in your pic looks greener and juicier than mine.

That’s a great picture! Wish I had seen that when I started grafting.

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Yes, they’re probably not going to do anything.

The stuff in the photo had been refrigerated a couple months, I cut the ends off to reveal fresh wood to make it easier to see.

Thanks; here’s from another angle showing the distinctive “hump” you should end up with. If it’s flat or concave, your scion is too deep into the rootstock and the cambiums aren’t touching.


For the past couples years of playing this grafting game, was always unsure of what’s the proper alignment so I lined them with a steep X crossing to ensure some point of contact but your demo picture set me straight for good. I’ll use this alignment from now on…

Thanks Applenut.

Well, I unwrapped the 6 cleft grafts this morning. Some looked ok, others were definitely too far in radially, axially, or both. So I reset and rewrapped the questionable ones. One thing to note is that as the scion and stock get closer in size, the “bump” becomes less pronounced. I think the biggest size disparity I had the scion was still like 70% as big as the stock.

I still feel a lot more confident about my W&T grafts, but we’ll see how many of these clefts take.

Excellent pictures @applenut, thanks so much for taking and posting those. They illustrate the key factors beautifully.

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Mike, thanks for the comment. This is a bit of a challenge for me because I’m training the trees as they grow out one year, then cutting off a cordon to graft onto the next year. In some cases this year I grafted onto the main center vertical, with the idea to grow the tree onto the upper trellis wires as the new variety; these will get as much vigor as the tree has to offer.

The other two situations are on espaliers which have horizontal cordons, and one with 30 degree or so angled up cordons. The angled up ones should be ok on getting vigor probably, but I’m sure what to do with the horizontal ones. Since I grew last year’s limbs out along the wires, of course the pieces I want to graft into are now horizontal. I suppose the best thing might be to select shoots 10cm or so below the wire, grow them up at 45 degrees with no bending. Then the next year cut them below the wire and graft there at the 45 degree angle. Then when the scion starts growing it can be trained to the trellis.

If I didn’t mess up the grafts too much (see discussion with applenut in this thread), I suspect they will grow ok since they are near top of the tree and fairly close in to the leader so probably will get enough mojo. I’ll definitely let you guys know what happens with these.


I just googled it and the information was all there, I just never bother to study it carefully! Thanks.


Holly, As they grow, and I am expecting that they will take, they will tend to grow to the vertical. Fight the temptation to tie them down to the wire.

You will have plenty of time to bend them after leaf fall late in the year right before they go into winter dormancy.


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I don’t have that bump in my cleft grafts, I am cutting more to the center of the scion (I use a thinner wedge) so it is more a perpendicular-to-bark cut as opposed to an angle. Since since the scion is also usually smaller than the stock I almost always have the opposite in fact. So, I would focus more on the cambium alignment which as you can see is perfect in applenuts pictures.

Kevin, I notice in the pictures you have of the scion insertion that you leave bark on the narrow edge, and I have always cut that edge enough to remove the bark- in fact, it’s a knife edge. Now you’ve got me thinking I’m doing it wrong, and since you know what you’re doing I’d like your opinion, please.

As long as the bottom is narrower than the top, it doesn’t matter what you do on the bottom; it will never grow or fuse. The cambium contact is everything.

How the spark of life jumps that gap between cambiums is still a mystery to me; the finger of God in play.



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I like that term, “The finger of God”!


Thanks for sharing. I used this photo as a guide earlier today.

So, …Spring has sprung and here’s updates from my espalier apple trees. I’m back to pinching just this morning after long enough waiting for some flower buds to show. Apparently, none for this year!

I padded myself on the back, “next year, next year…”! :disappointed_relieved:

A bit closer look, plenty of greens and nothing else!


How long have you been at this?