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Pears - Espalier trees

UK Garden Centre - Information about Espalier trees

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A maiden tree will form one pair of arms each year, which can be grown on to any length. Espaliers can also grow to any height and will often be seen covering the entire wall of an old house to a height of 9m (30ft) or more. Long ladders must then be used for picking fruit and pruning at the top. In the garden, the topmost arms should be about 210-240cm (7-8ft) from soil level so that the cultivation can be readily carried out.
After planting the maiden, make a nick in the bark above two buds, one on either side of the stem and pointing in opposite directions, to make them ‘break’. These will from the first arms or tier. The leaser shoot is allowed to grow away. Next season, in early spring, another two buds are selected on either side of the stem, and so on, selecting a pair of buds each year which are spaced about 40-45cm (16-18in) above each other.
At first, the new wood growing from the main stem will tend to grow upwards. It is advisable to fix canes to wires, first at an angle of 45°, to which the shoots are fastened. The canes are gradually brought to the horizontal position, and then fastened to the wires.
The first tier will grow to about 1m (3ft) on either side of the main stem in a year. The following year, early in August, to encourage the formation of fruiting spurs, which will bear fruit the next year, all shoots growing from the arms should be pinched back to 10-12cm (4-5in) of the main stems. The plant will then form fruiting buds instead of making excess wood. As the arms continue to grow, at the end of each summer, cut back the new season’s wood to about half way, to a bud which will form the extension shoot to grow on next year. This may continue for several years, until the arms are about 180cm (6ft) in length, so that with espaliers it is desirable to plant them 3.5m (12ft) apart.
As pears bloom about two weeks before apples, many varieties should not be planted in frost-troubled gardens unless they are planted against a warm wall. There are, however, several which bloom late and in most years, will miss late frosts: they include Fertility, Dr Jules Guyot, and Winter Nelis.

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