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.
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!