Trained Fruit

A greengage I trained into a fan, coming into flower.

One of my favourite pastimes in the garden is pruning and training fruit bushes. I have trained apples, pears, cherries, plums, gooseberries, currents and a grape-vine. They are in various forms, including espallier, step-over, fans, single, double and triple cordons, standards, zig-zag and ladder. (see my list of trained fruit forms here)

Fruit training is a garden art. It is both functional – maximising fruit yield in a small space – and decorative. Many forms have been developed to allow an otherwise large tree to be confined to a wall, or other small space, maximising the fruiting shoots that receives sunlight. The patterns created by these forms are far superior to the mere frippery of topiary and can be quite breathtaking assailing the senses with striking forms and their underlying practical ingenuity.

Red current (fan), Apple ‘Sunset’ (4-tier espalier) and Gooseberry (standard)

The winter skeleton of well-trained fruit adds welcome structure to the garden when most deciduous shrubs are looking bleak – particularly when their bare geometric branches are topped with fine lines of snow. In spring the emerging blossom brings them to life, often out performing all other shrubs in the garden with their eager display of flowers – keenly attended to by grateful early bumblebees. Training, of course, aims to maximise flower and hence fruit, whereas the untrained fruit tree may consist of mainly unproductive foliage.

Then of course there is the fruit. Presented to you at eye level. Easy to admire and pick when it has reached perfection. One further boon of wall trained fruit is that it so much easier to protect from birds and squirrels than the usual tree or large bush.  I trust I have convinced you of the merits of fruit training, and hope you are inspired to read on and explore the links below which will give you a tour of my collection. Do enjoy!

Two tier espalier cooking apple provides plenty of fruit in a tiny space. 12ft long and 3ft tall, North facing.

Read more about Trained Fruit

Learn more about Trained fruit-tree pruning


Some of my trained fruit (Spring 2021)

A section of fence with trained fruit (2021): Triple apple cordon Fiesta, Fan trained pear Conference pear, Double apple cordon Pitmaston Pineapple

8 thoughts on “Trained Fruit”

  1. Dear Keir,
    I came across your blog and its fantastic. I like the huge variety of everything you grow, the way you’ve designed your garden and combined everything together. I’d like to grow my own fruit and veg successfully in our garden but so far its been hit and miss. I also have a few young espalier trees but scared to prune them myself ;( Will you be able to give a consultation at all please? Thank you!

  2. The two-tier apple espalier is fantastic! Each project individually is so unique. It is a pleasure to gaze upon such talent in the garden. It is so lovely when kind people share their knowledge with others, like sowing perfect seeds, the harvest will be abundant. Thank you for sharing, looking at the various projects is like looking through a window of an exclusive bakery 🙂

    • I’m glad you found some inspiration here Elise! Thank you so much for your kind words, they mean a lot… encourages me to plant some more of those ‘perfect seeds’ 🙂

  3. I’ve been growing fruit for a good while now, but what a lot of new ideas for interesting forms. Thank you for sharing your garden, and inspiring me to move mine on a bit.

  4. Hey,

    Came across your website and it’s such a lovely read! I have an unruly cherry tree that I have not trained for two years, am now more inspired to attempt it this spring.



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