Espalier Apple Trees Rework - 2016 Updates

Hi Tom, thanks for keeping up this thread - reading the one from last year on your espaliers was so educational for me. I just grafted the first new varieties on 5 of my espaliers last weekend. Added Centennial, Bramley’s, Callville, Chestnut, and Karmijn. This weekend I hope to put on a scion of a random (probable) seedling from around Five Islands, ME that makes great tasting russets with little disease and bug damage.

Here is a pic of me grafting some extra scion on some extra B9 rootstock (which I got to try to repair some damage on one tree), and one from yesterday of flower clusters on my Roxbury Russet espalier. I’ll probably let this tree keep two apples, as I did last year, since I can’t resist the temptation of tasting some fruit. Looks like I may be able to finally taste Gold Rush, Opalescent, and Sweet Sixteen this season if things go well. BTW - you may not see the flower buds for another few days even if they are going to come since the growth on your pics is still so early.

My first time with cleft grafts; hope they take.

I’m looking forward to seeing how your trees do this season!



Thanks for the encouraging words. I hoped to see some flower clusters too. In pears, peaches, plums and cherries, the flower buds pops out before any leave. But then I have no clue if this is the same with apple so when I see leaves unfurl to about quarter size, my hope diminished by the day!

Oh well… If not, then always next year, huh?


1 Like



I would NOT tie the grafts to the horizontal just yet. Let them grow and callous vertically before bringing the branch down.

After grafting is the one time you want the most vigorous vegetative growth you can get. Let these scions grow out .

As discussed in various other threads here, tying to the horizontal will inhibit vegetative growth.

Right after grafting is too soon to encourage fruit buds.


Tom, apples leaf out and then go to “tight cluster” stage which is JUST passed where you showed the picture. The leaves form the first rosette and then you’ll see the cluster of blooms in the middle if there’s going to be one. I was really disappointed not to get blooms on almost ANY of apples this year, but they are way, way behind yours in size and shape and have a lot of catching up to do so I’m trying to not be too disappointed.

I have no clue so that’s something new for me to learn then!

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.

1 Like

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.

1 Like

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.

1 Like

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.


1 Like

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.