Ready Trained Trees Explained

Here at Ornamental Tree Nurseries we use traditional methods to create trained fruit trees in many different forms.

Our most popular are espalier fruit trees which can be mistaken for pleached fruit trees. The fruit trees are trained into tiers, usually 2, 3 or 4 tiers high. This can be done with apples or pears. The tiers are laid out with the first at 18 inches above ground level and each subsequent tier 15 inches apart. These espalier fruit trees can be used to separate spaces in the garden when trained along wires by creating a garden screen. This looks particularly effective when used to screen a productive kitchen garden from the ornamental area of the garden. Espalier pears and apples can also be trained along wires on a fence or wall. This trained form takes up minimal space whilst providing good crops of fruit that are easy to pick. The espalier tree was popular in the middle ages where it was often planted in the walled gardens of castles to create interest and provide fruit. Espalier fruit trees were also a popular choice for Victorian kitchen gardens. Most espalier trained trees will be able to obtain a height of 200cm which is roughly 6 tiers. An espalier tree can be expected to spread to a maximum of 450cm in width when trained to 6 tiers. If you choose to train your espalier tree to just 3 or 4 tiers the spread will be a little more, this is because the height and spread is based upon how much ‘tree’ the rootstock can support.

Another popular form is the step over tree, also referred to as step-over or stepover. Step over apples and pears consist of 1 tier at 18 inches above ground level. These dwarf fruit trees are often used to border a kitchen garden, raised beds and pathways. They are named step overs as you can quite literally step over them. They look lovely when under-planted with strawberry plants and need very little room to thrive. These small fruit trees are an ideal choice for children or those with little room and still produce good crops. A step over pear or apple tree will gain a spread of up to 150cm in 20 years but can be controlled with pruning.

The fan is a beautiful form that just like the espalier trained trees can be used as a garden screen or grown against a wall or fence. Cherries, plums and gages, quince, peach and nectarine are generally available in a fan trained form. Cropping fruit from a fan trained tree can be easier than cropping from an upright tree form, it is also easier in my opinion to protect your fruit from the birds by netting with a fan trained fruit tree. The form of a fruit fan is a short stem of around 18 inches followed by several fanned out branches. A fan tree can be expected to reach 250cm x 250cm in 20 years although this size can be reduced easily with pruning.

Cordon trees and pillar trees are a very compact way of growing fruit. The pillar is planted in an upright position; it consists of a single stem and is pruned tightly to keep the spread to a minimum. Pillar apples or pears are a great choice when space is minimal. They can be planted in borders or against a wall or fence. If you are planting more than one pillar pear or apple then a minimum space of 100cm should be given between plants. A cordon is a single stem apple or pear tree that is tightly pruned just like the pillar, but planted at a 45° angle. These cordons can be planted along a fence or on wires to create a screen. Cordons are a great way to produce lots of different apple or pear varieties in a small space.

U cordons are a highly decorative form of apple or pear training. The U cordons that are trained on our fields have a clear stem of 18 inches before a single tier of 15 inches in width, it is from the ends of this tier that a single stem is trained upwards to create a U shape. These attractive trained fruit trees can be grown against a wall or fence or used to separate space in the garden. A maximum height of around 150-200cm can be expected.

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