Espalier Summer Pruning

Yesterday, King of the Hill and I spent an amazing day learning how to summer prune apple and pear espaliers at Painswick Rococo Garden in Gloucestershire.

It was an amazing day, and we learned a lot about training and maintaining espaliers, which we hope to apply to the apple espaliers that we planted last winter, and a couple more that we hope to add to the garden in time. (I suspect that espalier fruit trees could become rather addictive…).

The picture above shows the neat result of King of the Hill’s first espalier after pruning – I don’t have a before photo, alas, but there was a lot of chaotic growth to prune off to reveal its shape like this.

The intention of summer pruning of espaliers, usually undertaken during July,  is to tidy up the season’s growth and allow more air and light to reach the ripening fruit. More architectural pruning is usually done during the winter. The course was brilliant, not only in teaching us what to do, and why; but also in giving us the chance to see and experience it in action which has given us untold confidence to look after our own trees.

I didn’t take nearly enough photos of the day, being completely immersed in the garden. For a more informative description of the key principles of summer pruning, please take a look at Gill’s great post after attending the same course last year, as I don’t think I could do it justice. I found her post (and hence lovely blog) in the spring while trawling the web for more information on espaliers after we planted ours, and it was how we learned of the course which we immediately booked for ourselves; so thank you, Gill, if you see this!

The day passed too quickly, and all too soon it was time to get on the road home, so we never found the opportunity to thoroughly explore the far reaches of the garden, and sadly never even got to the kitchen garden, but the planting that we saw during the day was wonderful and carefree.

There were swathes of salvias, resplendent in white and blue. And the amazing architectural cardoons, humming with pollen-coated bees.

Not to mention stands of echinacea, pathways lined with honeysuckle, roses, cranesbills and oh so many glories! We shall have to return on another day to do the garden justice, for further inspiration. And to keep an eye on those espaliers that we pruned.

Thanks to Chris Hitchcock, head gardener, and Bill Whitehead, fruit tree specialist, for their guidance and knowledge. It was an amazing day (and such a lovely change from a day in the office)!

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6 thoughts on “Espalier Summer Pruning

  1. Dear Sara, You really do appear to have had a most enjoyable and instructive time on your day’s course at Painswick. It is always great fun to learn new techniques or, indeed, to be inspired to try something different.

  2. Hi Sara, yes thats the next job for me to do next week, i do love anything espalliered, pyracantha, magnolias etc the structure is somehow reassuring, we grow a rosa alchemyst through our espallier apples, which gives a good display after the apples have flowered but does make pruning just a little bit more complicated….King of the Hill seems to have done a good job!

    • Thanks Michael, he did a great job. I hope mine weren’t too shabby either but seem to have managed not to take any pictures of my own results 🙂 It was a great way to build up confidence though so we can hopefully train our own espaliers well – although it will be years before they need the level of pruning that these ones did! It is a magnificent way to grow apples, especially in smaller gardens – oh for an orchard! I’ve only really seen espaliered fruit, so it’s interesting that you mention pyracantha and magnolias among others, hmmm… And I love the idea of growing a rose through the apples once the trees are a bit more established.

  3. That sounds like a garden and class I should love to visit. I do not have espaliers but do so admire them. Thanks for sharing your day and enthusiasm. I am happy to have found your blog on blotanical. ;>)

  4. Pingback: GBBD – September 2011 « Hillwards

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