New Home - Unloved Espaliers/Cordon

Hi all. First post so please be gentle! For info I’m completely new to gardening and growing fruit in general so forgive me if my questions are a bit basic or my terminology not quite accurate.

I’ve recently purchased a new home that has a medium sized garden with a variety of fruit trees. Although it’s likely I’ll have questions about how all of these trees should be maintained (3x apple, 1x cherry, 1x pear, 1x plum) I’d like this first post to specifically focus on the apple trees!

I know the previous owner was a keen gardener but I understand the past few years weren’t his best and much of the garden was neglected beyond the occasional mow and some hedge trimming. As a result, I have 3x apple trees that in my view look a bit uncared for and could do with some TLC.

Based on my research so far, 2x of these apple trees may be espalier, with the 3rd looking like a cordon. They definitely haven’t been pruned within the last 12 months, although I expect it’s probably longer. I’ve labelled each picture so you can see which tree I’m referencing (I’ve linked to these as I can’t upload as a new user).

Tree 1: Sits at the bottom of the garden. Last year it fruited well, had 100+ apples most of which were left to drop and ended up on the compost heap! It looks very overgrown and has a LOT of vertical growth (water sprouts?).

Tree 2: Sits in the middle of the garden. This one is slightly smaller than tree 1 (it also looks nicer as I’ve just de-weeded the surrounding area and mulched!). I don’t think we got as much fruit last year but again it looks very overgrown and has a fair amount of vertical growth.

Tree 3: Sits at the top of the garden. This tree seems the youngest (Apologies for the awful photo - we’re having building work done). It doesn’t appear as overgrown and fruited excellently last year.

I’d appreciate guidance on whether my observations are correct and if they are how I should tackle them (for reference in the UK we’re in early spring, temperatures are starting to warm - we’ve probably seen the last of the severe frost until October now). I’m quite happy to put the time into sorting these and would love to end up with something more akin to some of the other espaliers I’ve seen on this forum if these tree’s are recoverable!

Thanks in advance,

rest of the images are here:


hi @steves, can’t give you any advice on the pruning as I’m a novice myself…I will say you do have some very nice looking healthy trees there. I’m sure some of the more experienced members of the site will be able to help you get them sorted in short order.

1 Like

Check out @tomIL threads for what espalier trees look like when properly trimmed. The time for trimming is the middle of winter.

Thanks for the links. Interestingly I’ve actually already read both his posts twice over and it’s what inspired me to start a post of my own! I guess my question is - how can I get my trees looking more like @tomIL 's or perhaps the question should be - can I ever get my tree’s looking more like his? I’m almost tempted to maintain these trees, but start a fresh tree if I can find the space so I get a chance to build my own espalier from scratch.

How from far from scratch? That tree what ever the original apple or root stock has done well in your environment. You cant just cut it down and plant in the whole the whole root area has to be excavated. then your looking at least 2-3 year before the tree has any significant size and 10 year maybe to get back to this level. I would graft a desirable branch on that broken one in the lower right.

I wouldn’t want to rip out an existing tree… I’d find a new spot to start a new one from scratch. I’ll get reading on grafting as the lower tier is looking a bit sorry for itself. It’s difficult knowing where to start with these trees, theres so much growth coming outwards into the garden its hard to really make sense of the structure behind it.

Something tells me I’ll be in for the long game with these, perhaps 3 years of careful pruning before they start resembling their original intended shape etc.

Here’s a picture from the drop of apples from the lower tree from last autumn. No idea what root stock or type of apple I’m dealing with here…

1 Like