Keeping Your Espalier in Tip Top Shape
By Theresa Knutsen: Fruits trained as a cordon, espalier or dwarf pyramid (3-dimensional espalier) are best pruned in the summer to keep unwanted vigorous shoots controlled. If you keep up with the summer pruning, you won’t have to do any winter pruning, except winter damage. In all espalier forms remove unwanted vigorous shoots at the point of origin.
For apples, pears and other long-lived spur type fruits, vigorous shoots arising where you would like to have a fruit spur can be convinced to produce fruit buds by slowing down their vigor. Here at Raintree it has worked well for me to cut those vigorous shoots back to six inches when they are about 8-12” long. Over the rest of the summer regularly cut back to a couple leaves the new growth that arises from the top several buds of that shoot to reduce its vigor. Then in early fall you can cut the shoots back to the fruit buds that have formed near the base. You may need to use a different method where you garden; your local climate has an impact on how trees respond to pruning. Lee Reich’s book “The Pruning Book” (#S327) has an excellent section on how trees respond to pruning, in addition to an espalier pruning section. Pruning and Training Revised, by Brickell and Joyce uses line drawings to illustrate each season's tasks and is based on the modified Lorette system of espalier pruning that works well in England.
Cut back laterals on fan-trained sweet and Duke cherries that are not needed for the framework to six leaves in late July. Pinch out the tip of vigorous laterals on fan-trained peaches at 18” to encourage small laterals for next years fruit production. Pinch out the tips of new shoots not wanted for the framework of fan-trained plums when they have made 6-7 leaves to develop fruit spurs. Refer to Pruning and Training Revised for more specifics on training espalier form fruit trees and bushes.