Italian plum pruning advice

I planted him in 2018, as a gift to my partner who loves plums and had just finished their first round of cancer treatment. the tree has been vigorous, it got nearly 15 feet tall the following year and needed to be cut back severely so I could reach. it was one of the first bunch of trees I planted here and I did not know enough to ask about root stock etc. it is a semi dwarf Italian plum, that’s all I know.

in 2020 I tied and twisted the limber branches to shape it in a form I could reach and open it up. in 2021 I continued with this and only pruned long upright growth.

last year it set thousands of blossoms, then a handful of fruit, which mostly dropped. we did get a few to taste and they’re wonderful. tart, sweet, and juicy. small and purple with yellow flesh. they were lovely. I did no real pruning, I simply cut real vertical new growth back to a few leaves. I did prune all the growth that was at the top, to keep it within reach of my short arms with a small ladder.

this year it only bloomed at the very end of each branch, no flowers were evident anywhere within a few feet of the trunk. these few dozen flowers dropped and I can see no fruit yet. (I need to inspect in a week I think and double check). I do not want these branches to be so long, but I’m unsure and uneducated about how exactly to prune to get it to produce closer to the trunk, or on shorter branches. all I’ve done so far this year is cut out one large branch that was crossing another (it had no blooms) and pinch back the end of any tall vertical shoots. I’m not even trimming them back, just taking the tip leaves off, as I’m very afraid to damage its fruiting ability. I’ve not tightened or moved the branches that I was training along the fence. they are how they’ve been for 2 years

can I cut back these long branches without damaging it? did it overproduce and just needs a break? it’s still fairly young, so I have no plan to ever remove it (plus the sentimental value of this tree can’t be overstated).

some photos. any advice or help appreciated and I’ll try what I can.

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you can see one branch was broken in one of the photos. that is from last year and an unfortunate wheelbarrow accident

The shape almost looks like an espalier,or an attempted one.Yes,the branches can be cut back some.That fork in the middle looks bothersome,but not sure if I’d remove one of those,to make a single trunk.There might not be much growth,up high.

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Your tree is special also because it’s so close to the fence so it won’t naturally make a nice 3d shape. I agree with @Bradybb that “espalier” came to mind upon first looking at the photo.

Give this a read, you might aim for “fan espalier”. One thing is I see the top right side growth arching severely leftwards. Is it trying to escape shade?

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it was tied that way the year I tried to shape it and now it’s solidified in that pattern. the curve branches.

I’m looking at the fan espalier info now.

I’ve got a lot of new growth, and it looks similar to this. it’s in bunches along where there was previous leaf.

should I prune or pinch this back to about here? I want it to fruit again, next year, and don’t want to hurt any fruit buds. but it can’t just be a leaf creature.

I’m going to let it go to its own desired shape for a few years- and only cut hard on top growth. it needs to stay relatively short, as I’m very short. plus any crossing/ingrown branches. otherwise no more pruning or training. I’ll let it get some strength then run at it with an eye to air flow and space instead of trying to shape it so hard.

Convert it to the fan espalier as suggested. I’d prune back any branches growing toward or away from the fence also. I bought my Italian prune in 2019 and it only gave me three plums last year that the critters got and only 1 left this year after some wind storms shook them off…had around 10.

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it’s already close to flat- I pruned everything facing out and back as much as I could last year. it’ll be a loose fan even growing wild!