Espalier Apple Trees Rework - 2016 Updates

I also feel that if a tree is too vigorous for the space you are trying to keep it in, it has a hard time settling down to bear. For instance I have a sweet 16 on G30, which has always been the most vigorous of my 7 espaliered apples. It just wants to keep growing tons of wood and not fruiting. Whereas the other trees that are less vigorous either because of rootstock or variety have slowed down much sooner and started bearing. In fact some of them I am worried about ever filling the space allotted to them. This seems like a somewhat tricky thing with espalier. But M111 seems way too big for a smallish space. Maybe a big area would do better with M111.

Fedco used to advocate just planting everything on full size rootstock and pruning for size control. This may work in some contexts, but I feel that it is asking for difficulty in espalier if you have a tree that wants to be a lot bigger than the space you want to keep it in. Maybe it would eventually settle into fruiting, but it could take a really long time.

This year that one too vigorous tree of mine has at least a couple flowers but not many. I am going to try bark scoring on the trunk at flowering time. If that doesn’t work next year I’ll try partial ringing. I’m afraid to kill it and have to go back to zero in that spot, but it is annoying to have to cut all that rampant growth off the tree every year and not be getting any apples from it!


Replacing that with one on dwarfing rootstock might just get you fruit quicker even at this point.

I’m pretty sure now that there’s still no flower for 2020! Both trees are in good shape, except the flower bud part!


Up close of the Hudson with 2 grafts on top rung


An up close of the Fuji Red, again with some other variety ( 2 years old) grafts…


Wow, you must be going crazy from the lack of fruit! How frustrating.

I did the trunk scoring the other day on my espalier that is still having trouble flowering after 6 years. About 100 degrees arc around the trunk in two places about 50mm apart vertically, on opposing sides. Just sliced through cambium with grafting knife. We’ll see if it does anything. There are actually a couple flowers on this tree this year, but very few and it still wants to grow vegetation too much.



Maybe do a bunch of ring cuts at the base of the tree like the Chinese did with the Jujubes or persimmons to get them to fruit?

I have been suggesting notchign below the buds



I just don’t understand what is going on with your trees. You see my espaliers and you seem to have been doing exactly what I did so I can’t figure.

Here are some crazy thoughts that bounced around in my head.

  1. Sunlight - Although from the photos light does not look like it is lacking.
  2. Fruit buds grow on two year old or older wood. When pruning to shape, are you removing ALL of the current growth and not leaving anything? Again does not look likely.
  3. Nutrients. Maybe you need to feed the tree with a NO nitrogen - high phosphorus/potassium fertilizer rich in micronutrients (by the vegetative growth you seem to have plenty nitro available) .

I remember reading (@alan please chime in if I am mis-remembering) vegetative growth caused by a high nitrogen load can overwhelm the fruiting mechanism -

I can’t think of anything else except vooodo



U have to start producing fruit buds. there are special methods for this. most important is summer pruning and skip winter pruning.

Vertical branches u can remove because they grow to fast.

In summer (21 of june) u pinch all horizontal branches at 8 leaves. The last leave have to be a bud in the ground direction. If the bud have a upwards direction it will grow to strong.

Mostly the last 2 buds start to grow. U remove after 4 weeks the most upper branch and the other u pich back to 2 buds. In august and September there can start flowerbuds in the first 6 buds. If not u repeat the pruning at 21 june next year at leave 8.



  1. There’re about 8-10 hours of sunlight/day
  2. In 2015-17, I pruned all leafy points down to 3, 4 leaves at the base. In 2018, I left things grow naturally and pruned twice in the summer. In 2019, I pruned sporadically due to my busy schedule. Nothing happened!
  3. I put fruit-tree fertilizer spikes in the first 3 years after planting. After that, I put nothing in.

If you think a “NO nitrogen - high phosphorus/potassium” regime for it, then what commercial brand or ratio that I should look for? My peach, plum and pear trees received the same no fertilizer treatment just like the apples, but I have their fruits up my ears except the apples.

This year, I’m going to prune them just like 2015-2017 again. Hopefully, those arms are more mature now to have pity on me next year! :cry:


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I’ll try out your suggestion!

I don’t know of the Hudson variety, but Fuji flat out likes to make wood and doesn’t take kindly to being kept smaller than its rootstock “wants”. What rootstock are your trees on?

Fuji is also as determined a biennial bearer as they come and a fine candidate for the French axe system of tying down shoots below horizontal to coax fruit production. When I used to grow it, I pruned the tree to a weep and that helped inspire annual bearing.

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Hi @Roland,
Would you recommend this for tip bearing trees as well? I am doing espalier but was recommended heirloom trees for my climate that seem to be tip bearing… making my espaliers more creative to say the least! Last year as a test, I left a few vertical branches on the tree, trimmed back in early summer enough to grow new shoots, and a few buds. Those are the ones that flowered. It seems like I tricked the trees into thinking they had terminal buds.
Now, I’m trying to figure out a system for these vertical branches so they don’t get out of control. If I trim to 8 leaves in the summer, does that leave enough fruiting wood for buds to grow from for the following spring?

My 89 year old Dutch teacher is his full life busy with espalier fruit trees. He have so mutch knowledge how to manipulate the growth of fruit trees.

For espalier fruit trees I got there are a few very important rules:
a) Growth rules of Vöchting and Koopmann.
b) First establish the lower or outer branches (depending on type of espalier shape) before u start the next layer. If not, these branches will always be weak and give less fruit.
c) Pruning in winter gives extra growth.
d) Pruning in summer can produce fruit buds.
e) 1 kg fruit reduces 1 meter of growth.
f) By bending horizontal the growth reduce.
g) By bending vertical growth increase.
h) Buds in upwards direction grow fast (mostly we don’t want this).
i) Buds in horizontal or downwards direction grow slow.
j) Growth can be reduced by root pruning.
k) Growth can be reduced by sawing a cut of 1/3 deep in the branch (sometimes 2 on each side but at 20 cm height difference). Do this when buds just wake up.
l) Rootstock and quality of ground influence growth and size of the tree.
m) By notching u can wake up buds. Do this when buds just wake up.
n) Length cuts through the bark give extra thickness and growth. Do this when buds just wake up. Use this for example when main branches are not symmetric in thickness.
o) Fruit buds are produced because of slow growth.
p) 1 fruit needs 20 leaves to get the perfect tasted and aroma (pear and apple).
q) Apple have to be in full ‘wind’. In front of a fence/wall it’s too hot and less air circulation, what can give extra deceases.
r) Pear can grow in front of a fence/wall. Some varieties are better for full sun and other for more shade.

Waterspouds grow vertical and strong on top of branches. They have to be removed in may by pinching at 2 a 3 leaves. Pinch these the full summer. If there are still left, prune them in winter fully to the branch. Don’t leave a stomp and side buds.

So to get back to your problem. You’re apple trees are trained in a horizontal espalier shape. They do not produce fruit buds.
Probably u prune to shot and because of this u wake up new growth bud no fruitbuds. Every time u prune there will be 2 ore more new branches and u again u prune them to short hence u get more short branches. U get a big wood cluster with small branches but not fruit.

Fruit buds on apple exist on “vruchtzetels” fruitclusters:

A established vruchtzetel exist on the main branch and is in winter 15cm long with several types of fruitbuds and fruit wood. The last bud of the vruchtzetel is a normal bud that produces new growth in summer (1)
The fruitwood can exist from long fruitwood with at the end a fruitbud (2), short fruitwood with at the end a fruitbud (3) or flowerbuds (4).
At the end of summer the young branch (1) will be between 50 to 70 cm. The young branch is feeding the fruit with sugars.

The goal of a vruchtzetel is to produce quality fruit at the first 15 cm of the main branch.

Vruchtzetels are produced as follow:

  • In june there will be new growth from the main branch. All new growth in 45° angle or lower can be converted to vruchtzetels. There can be 8 to 10 vruchtzetels per meter branch. All other growth will be pruned back to a stomp of 0,5cm (kroonsnede).
    In the week after 21 of June the growth of the tree will stop or slow down for a week. This is the moment to start producing fruitbuds.
  • All new growth that will be converted to a Vruchtzetel (fruitbranch) is pinched at 6 to 10 buds (depending on the varieties fruit tree).
    (a pear that produce short fruitwood will be pinched at 6 buds (like conference), a pear that will produce fruit on middle long fruitwood will be pinched at 8 buds (like Doyenne de Comice) and a apple will be pinched at 9 to 10 buds.)
    The last bud have to be in the downwards direction. If not remove the last bud and pinch to a further bud what have downwards direction.
  • From the last two buds new growth will start to grow.
  • 6 weeks later remove the upper new growth completely. The lower new growth at the end pinch to 2 leaves.
  • In winter there will be 6 to 10 buds at the vruchtzetel and at the end there wille be some Young branch without fruitbuds (nr 1 in the picture). Mostly its longer as 35cm.
    Prune the first young branch (nr 1 in the picture) of the vruchtzetel (it’s the one we pinched to 2 leaves last summer) to one bud in the downwards direction. (if not, remove a bud and prune further to a downward bud).
  • The next summer there will grow fruitwood at the beginning (the 6 to 8 buds) of the Vruchtzetel. (short wood with thick buds)
  • Pinch in June like last year.
  • The next winter prune to a bud just behind the fruitbud. Now you create a Vruchtzetel with fruitwood.
  • Every year make shure only the last bud of a vruchtzetel is a normal bud with new growth. Only prune this new growth in winter. These leaves will feed the fruit with sugars and make the fruitbuds will not be converted to normal branches.
    If the new growth in winter is longer as 70cm there can be made space for more fruitbuds at the Vruchtzetel. If the new growth is smaller as 50cm there have to be fruitbuds skiped.

If this all will not work there is also a different method to create fruitwood. It’s called Lorette snoei. This can only be used by specific varieties and there have to be a very strong growth.


@Roland, good read.

If you have the time, could you share how to do Lorett snoei? I have an espalier apple on a vigorous rootstock. Would this be appropriate for this method?

Maybe we can go on in this toppic for Lorette snoei:

Place some pictures of youre trees. Overall pictures and details.


Thank you, this is a method I have never heard of. Sounds interesting.

Roland, you mention ‘length cuts’. Do you mean to slit the branch going with the grain? The long way on the branch?