Golden Transparent Gage

Gages are the posh cousins of the common-or-garden plum. They are finer in every way and in the UK, somewhat harder to grow, needing more warmth. Compared to plums gages are rounder, often smaller, more delicate and sweeter. The famous greengage is just one variety but there are yellow and blue ones too. The variety I grow – Golden Transparent Gage – ripens to a beautiful amber skin with red-flecks and soft, translucent, golden flesh. It’s a ‘transparent’ gage meaning if you hold the ripe fruit up to the sun you can sometimes see the stone inside.  [You can read more about the history and qualities of this  and other gage varieties here.]

Whilst Golden Transparent Gage is probably the most delectable fruit in my garden, my tree is reluctant to set fruit, even after producing the wonderful spring blossom you can see in the photo above. Perhaps it is still too young, or perhaps the cold springs and summers we have had lately have not suited it? So despite having trained and coaxed it along for 4 years I have only tasted a half-dozen of its fruit so far, but they were exceptional – succulent, aromatic and syrup-sweet.

As you can see I have trained it as a fan, but with a zig-zag stem. This was achieved relatively simply by taking one of the long new shoots that appeared each year from the middle top branch and bending it down into position – one year to the left, next year to the right. The image above shows it after some 4 years of training.

Training & Pruning

Plums, gages and cherries should never be pruned in the winter as spores of the deadly silver-leaf disease is carried on the rain and enters through cuts and wounds. I’ve seen a group of mature Japanese cherries mis-pruned by the council and all of them were dead by the end of the year due to silver-leaf. So all pruning and training is done in the summer.

Training involves bending last year’s new shoots into place to create the main framework of permanent branches, tying them to canes to produce the main backbone of the fan shape.

Pruning consists of shortening all side shoots that come from the main framework to four or five leaves – it is on these side shoots that next year’s flowers, and therefore fruit, will form.

Training History

I purchased the tree in 2008 as a 2-year-old part-trained fan with 5 stems (from Keepers Nursery). Initially I tied bamboo canes to keep the whippy stems in a simple fan-shaped position. By the spring of 2008 I had started to establish the basic shape

April 2010

If you look carefully at this photo you can see how the zig-zag stem was created by bending the leader (the strong central shoot that grows from the top branch each year) alternately to the left one year then right the next. In this way one new tier of zig or zag can be added each year, until the required area is covered. Notice also that forks from side branches have been created (i.e. instead of pruning them out, tying them in) to fill in spaces in the fan further from the trunk.

One month on the leaves have emerged. Several new shoots have started to grow away.
By mid-summer the new shoots have become very long and it’s time for summer pruning. (Step-by-step details here)

After summer pruning (June 2010)

Spring 2012

[Edited Feb 2021]. Two years later…

Here it is in full flower 2012 – an iconic picture of a fan-trained fruit tree if ever there was one! (Click for full-resolution version)

Unfortunately, it was only another year or so before I decided to remove this tree. The problem was suckering. The roots threw up strong new shoots several feet way from the trunk — some in my neighbour’s garden, some between the bricks of my path, and others even in the vegetable beds.

I replaced this gage with a pear tree which I also trained as a fan. It was much less troublesome (no suckers) and has proved to be very productive and beautiful. You can read all about it here.

6 thoughts on “Golden Transparent Gage”

  1. dear mr Watson, I am looking to acquire a few scionwood of the “golden transparent gage”. If you do have in stock please let me know .

  2. Dear Mr Watson, found this post on Orange Pippin Trees pruning advice. Excellent advice, clearly communicated Thank you. I am hoping to make zig-zag fans from two Old Gage trees that I have just purchased from them as maidens. The only thing that I do not quite understand from your post is how to do the first prune of a single stem whip, in order to start the zig-zag form? do you have time to clarify for me? Am I going to cut across this single stem, wait for new stems then reduce these to two – one to form a first lateral branch and the other to train into the new leader in the zig-zag form?

    • Hi Jon, Thanks for your kind words. Yes, you could do exactly as you say. Alternatively, you could bend the maiden and tie it in as the first tier. In my experience it will produce strong shoots from close to the bend which will try to become the new leader. One of those can be bent the opposite direction to form the next lateral on the opposite side. I can’t say which method will be best just try one and see! I have to admit that I have never started from a maiden. I usually buy a 2 or 3 year plant that is either partly trained or has 5 or 6 stems untrained. Either way my first job usually involves cutting out all but three stems that are partly in the right direction and working with them!

  3. Dear Mr Watson
    I was planning to espalier train a fruit or nut tree against a wall, then I read advice that a single tree looks better fan trained. Then I saw this stunning photo of your zig-zag fan and I would like to attempt it. Do you think it would work with an almond tree, or a quince?

    • Hi Penny, yes! Both of those trees should be fine fan trained. Just watch out for the vigour – normal fruit trees come on dwarfing root stocks. If your plants are too vigorous you will find them hard to manage. Personally, I’d give it a go. I’ve learned not to be too precious about fruit training. I have so many on the go that deciding one failed and digging it out is exciting as it means I can start training something new.

      I have to admit that the particular style of fan training I have used for my cherry, gage, plum, pear etc have been very much determined by the initial plant that I started with (I have usually purchased 3 year old plants which already have several branches). I look at the initial shape, With the aim of cutting out the central leader and perhaps the top one or two side shoots. I work out how many branches are pointing roughly the right way to bend into a fan (usually 2 or 3 to each side), then tie these in and cut out the any branches pointing the wrong way. The idea of how to proceed comes from here but might only really emerge after one or two seasons pruning when I see how the plant is responding. This make-it-up-as-you-go-along method suits me just fine as without a hard and fast destination it can’t really “go wrong”.

      If, however, you want to achieve a specific form the text-book method would be to start with a 1 year old whip. From there you can create exactly the shape you want, but it will take longer and need more care.


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