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Too late to espalier?

turmericturmeric Posts: 822

Hi, a friend has put 2 apple trees and a peach tree hard up against a fence and left them! The idea was to espalier them but that was about a year ago and she never did anything about it. She was asking me if it was too late now?  Each tree is about 4ft high.  Each apple has 5 or 6 thin branches coming from the top quarter and the peach has 3 or 4 of the same.  The branches do not line up and point in all directions.  If it's too late to espalier could she prune just the branches away from the fence or should the trees simply be taken out and moved to a better position (ie. away from the fence!). Many thanks.



  • stone fruits (plums, cherries, peaches, apricots etc.) need fan training, you would have to see if you can get a fan shape by removing unwanted branches, leave it a bit thin to allow new growth next year to fill in the gaps.

    The espalier needs two solid branches as low down as possible for the bottom two branches of the espalier (the first tier) and a bit of trunk to produce the leader branch for next year (that forms the foundation of the next tier of branches that will be growing in 2017)and then you need to remove the rest of the tree, it'll look bloody drastic and pretty awful till growth starts next year but once you get on top of it then it should be fine. If you haven't got branches below about knee high then you can prune below the bottom branches (leaving just the trunk) and it will regenerate but don't expect apples till 2017.

    moral of the story is prune as you want it when you plant it.

  • turmericturmeric Posts: 822

    Makes sense Verdun and treehugger.  I think the problem for her is that she hasn't done anything sooner.  The peach has a main stem about 3ft high without any branches, then, if I remember rightly, about 4 short branches (6inches long?) coming just from the top like a very small tree.  I could suggest she fan it but the fan would have to start 3ft off the ground which would look odd surely?

    The apples are similar in that they do not have the necessary lower branches to espalier.   I tried to bend the lowest ones (about 2.5ft from the ground and not opposite each other(!)) but they wouldn't bend to 45degrees.  Above those are various branches, none of which are opposite or necessarily at the right height spacing to espalier and, guess what, most of them face the fenceimage.  My first thought was to move the apples away from the fence and train them as trees.  Not sure what to suggest to her with the peach.  It seems to be the shape of a small tree with just the short branches at the top so I'm wondering if it can actually be fanned?  Do they all have to be fanned or has she bought something that is meant to be trained as a small tree considering it has a bare, 3ft trunk?

  • Sounds like it might be best to take the apples back to a foot (30cm) tall and let them regrow, I wouldn't move them.

    Peaches need to have the heat of a wall, so pruning in situ might be also be a good idea

    a photo of the offending trees might make it easier for us to give advice?

  • turmericturmeric Posts: 822

    I'll be popping over to hers later this week so will take some photos then and see what you think. Many thanks again treehugger and Verdun.

  • turmericturmeric Posts: 822

    Morning everyone.  Got absolutely soaked this morning but managed to take a few photos.  The peach is the first photo then the two others are the apple trees.  Any suggestions? Have to say the peach looked quite sad today.








  • turmericturmeric Posts: 822

    Eeek! That's a lot of tree to lose on the apples Verdun.  But then if she's looked at those trees like that for the last year or so maybe she's not that attached to them.  Many thanks for the quick response, I'll pass your suggestions on to her. 

  • turmericturmeric Posts: 822

    To me the apple branches seem too high to start espaliering (is that a real word?!).  I agree with you Verdun, I would be tempted to cut back to encourage growth from lower down otherwise if she starts the fruit from 3ft off the ground she'll only have 3 ft of fruit before she can't reach it to pick it. I'll suggest both ways to her Verdun and let her decide.  At least she has options then.

    The peach confuses me. When you buy a peach with the intention of fanning it is it usual to only have one main stem?  I would have thought it should have 3 or more stems to create the fan shape from the ground.  Do you think it would produce new branches that she could fan out if she cut it back to about 6inches from the ground or is that too risky?  I have no experience of peaches except for eating them! So apologies for my lack of knowledge.


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