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This espalier system is possibly the most versatile to learn as it can be applied where the horizontal cordon espalier cannot ie - apricots, plums, peaches, nectarines, and berry bushes such as blueberries, gogi, currants, citrus and many others.
The espalier fence is setup using horizontal wires, with 3-5 wires. Also a lattice or mesh can be used. The spacing of the wire is not critical, but placing a wire below the main branch level will not be used. Have some bamboo stakes available to act as splints.
We'll use this simple espalier for this example.
Most new growth is vertical, ie up to the sky. In this system, we need to bend down the branches and fix them onto the rigid espalier trellis. The best way to do this is to fix the branch to a sturdy bamboo stake (5-10mm diameter) at minimum three points along the length of the branch. This will allow you to bed the branch and fix the bamboo (not the branch) to the espalier wire. Sometimes branches need to be bent only part of the way to their new position to avoid snapping the branch. After 3-4 weeks, they can be bent further will less risk of breakage.
1. Plant your tree. If your tree is a single stick (a "whip"). If the tree you are planting has two or more branches, see the notes below.
2. Prune to where branching will begin. This will be usually 30-40cm above the ground. Take care to note where the graft is.
3. (Year 1) After one growing season, prune to 2 leaders. This can be done in early Autumn, or in winter. Tie the two leaders to bamboo poles in three places and bending down form a shallow "V". Perhaps bend out in stages over 3-4 weeks to avoid snapping the branch.
4. (Year 2) Growth usually occurs vertically, so expect shoots to form along these two angled leadeds (see picture below left). The growth at the tip of the outer leaders can be bent down and attached onto the bamboo splints to lengthen these. Do this in late summer after the growing has slowed. Select two of the central leaders and attach bamboo splints to them, preferably in at least 3 positions along the shoot. Cut the remaining vertical shoots to 2-3 buds. There will be room now to bend the two selected leaders outwards, again be wary of snapping. In the example image (below right), only one leader (right) has been bent out. The left one will grow for next year. The outermost leaders can be bent lower a this stage, almost to horizontal, to make room for more leaders.
5. (Year 3) There will be more vertical growth. Repeat the process of bending down the vertical shoots at the end of the existing leaders to extend them, or prune these back if the tree is getting too wide. Bend the existing leaders a little further outwards to make room for the new leaders. Select two more leaders from those close to the centre of the tree, attach bamboo to them. Prune off other leaders and small branches that branch off further out. Leaving 5cm of these branches or 2-3 buds, will form fruiting spurs. Bend the two new leaders outwards being careful to not snap them by doing it in stages if necessary.
6. (subsequent years) repeat as in step 5. A usual fan shape can fit 6-7 leaders. However, 10-20 or more leaders are possible, requiring diligent and repeated pruning. After some years, the repeated pruning to 3 buds from the shoot can form a cluster of small branches. These need to be thinned out if they get too cluttered allowing new spurs to develop, as well as removing dead wood.
The tree that's being planted may already be branching. If the height of the branching is suitable, then one can skip a step and already form a shallow "V". Should the branching be lower down (20cm from ground) or higher up (eg 1m high) it's preferable to prune the branch off flush rather than start with something that is not ideal.
If the tree has already got 3 or more branches, it would be tempting to just tie them out into a fan shape. Unfortunately this doesn't work so well, as the central leaders dominating and the outer leaders staying weak. Instead, pune to two branches and allow these to become established.
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