Espalier Redo

Hello everyone…

I have a crude espalier I started a few years ago. It’s 5 apple trees. Gala, Fuji, Pink Lady, Arkansas Black, and Granny Smith. No live in Zone 9a in south Louisiana.

My issue is I’ve done a crappy job of it and I have some messy wood from pruning and trying to force bud growth where I wanted for my shape - Belgian fence.

So my first thought is to harvest scionwood from each variety this coming late winter and top work (below all existing laterals) these existing trees to get new, young, pliable wood to work with and start again.

Advantage would be the existing 3 year old root system would push growth aggressively.

The other thought would be harvesting scionwood late winter next, digging up the existing trees completely, and starting fresh with new rootstock and graft back each varieties scions.


If I decide the do-over with new rootstock, I’d need a wet soil and southern heat/humidity tolerance to rot, fire blight, etc. Dwarfing or semi-dwarfing also…

Any suggestions?


See photos below. Don’t be fooled the photos…some of that nicer structure is bamboo to tie the growth to…though some branching I have gotten trained.


If you dont like what you have, you can cut them back to three buds. Like you say you will get a big push of growth this year. They will probably be back where you are now, onlt as you desire.

Yes…good suggestion. It’s just so ugly above the graft.

Ideally I could top them below the first lateral… but identifying buds on the thicker trunk is difficult. I am sure there are dormant buds that would be activated somewhere on the bottom trunk… know I’m being a bit funny …I shouldn’t care how it looks down there.

Some of the trees are already pushing new growth of up to 3 inches…if I top them now I’ll lose some of the energy that’s already moved into the wood…but really there should be plenty left to do the job.

I may risk just topping them now and see what happens. I have nothing to lose really.

Here are photos of each tree trunk below and above the first laterals. A mess.

Thanks for the reply.

It’s hard for me to tell what it is that you actually want to achieve (from the fotos) and where the original graft is. But it doesn’t matter. It is plenty early in the year and there are adventicious buds that you can’t see that will push growth. I’d say cut them back and start over. Now you have experience that you didn’t have before. It’s 23 degrees and wind gusts of 33mph here in Illinois, but grafting and pruning isn’t too far off.

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I wouldn’t dig up the established roots unless I didn’t have any other options.

A few of the trees in my Belgian fence have been/are a little wonky. One of them I’m going to cut back to the trunk and regraft. Another I’m planning to regraft on a sucker and eventually remove the current trunk and let the sucker take its place. A couple of others I’ve just done some corrective pruning and let them grow, and they mostly seem to be sorting themselves out.

You have options, in other words, and given a little time, attention, and patience, you’ll likely be able to guide the trees out of this awkward phase.


Thanks for the reply.

I’m leaning towards this idea at the moment Masbustelo, JinMA. Top them just below the first laterals and let them bud out below. I won’t be terribly upset if this is a total loss. If it’s still a mess at the end of this year, I can harvest winter scionwood, top them again next year, and graft the wood right back onto the trunks…that way I have young, pliable, vertically growth to work with.

I had apples before but apple spot took everything on those varieties. These 5 remaining varieties didn’t have that issue yet so I want to work with them.

We had a stretch off 80+ degree highs for two weeks until this past front. Now my forecast for Monday AM is 31°. I’ve decided not to sweat anything in my garden…let nature do its thing. I’m too old to try covering everything. Luckily my summer veg is still small, indoors, and under a grow light.

BTW my stone fruit has already finished blooming (Aprium, Pluot, Pluerry).

Spring comes really early down here.

Zone 9a, south Louisiana.

Have a good spring.


So an update on my espalier issues.

I decided to dig out the apples and plant plum whips to more easily train.

Transplanted the apples to my neighbor’s yard (still not sure they will survive).

Green Egg Sour Plum
Morris Plum
Stanley Plum
Yellow Gold Plum
Santa Rosa Plum.

2-3’ whips, Tyty Nursery.

Not to get the right buds to grow!!!

A followup on the state of my transplanted apple tree stumps.

Sure enough, after a long time, each seems to have woken up. I finally got a horticulturist reply to what I was looking for as far as budding goes.

The visible buds seen on the outside of the bark are called adventitious buds.

The hidden undifferentiated bud cells that are underneath the bark are called preventitious buds, or latent buds.

See two photos of the apples (now my neighbor’s trees). One shows a good leader sprout. I removed all the others.

The next shows the preventitious buds pushing from beneath the bark. They start as little bumps, then bumps with a little color…lighter than the bark then a bit light tan or pink. This one shows severally that are close to breaking open.

FYI. Cool stuff.