Espallier Fruit Tree Questions

geezdad(7b)April 16, 2012

I would like to make a "living fence" containing plum, pear, and apple trees. The space I have to work with is roughly 36 feet long. I would like a 4-tiered horizontal cordon with cordons at 18, 36, 54 and 72" above ground.

Last spring I purchased the following trees: Plums:

Santa Rosa Plum Standard (#9428)

Burbank Elephant Heart Plum Dwarf (#14095)


Hosui Asian Pear Dwarf (#4141)

Morettini Pear/OHxF333


Queen Cox

Honeycrisp Apple Semi Dwarf (#8466)

The first horizontal cordon is growing well and I am now starting the second cordon. The trees are currently in containers but will be planted in the ground once I have things figured out.

My original idea was to graft each pair of trees together so that I would have three combination trees (two horizontal cordons of each variety per tree): Plum (Santa Rosa/Elephant Heart)

Pear (Hosui/Morettini)

Apple (Queen Cox/Honeycrisp)

Each tree would be 12 feet wide for a total of 36 feet.

What would the best way be to do the grafting? Should the main trunk be grafted onto (between the second and third cordons) or would it be better to graft onto the side branches? Would the trees even grow 12 feet wide?

Or would it be better to have separate trees (each 6 feet wide)? This seems a lot easier and more prone to success.


The Santa Rosa and Elephant Heart plums will pollinate each other, right? The Santa Rosa ripens mid-July and the Elephant Heart ripens in September. Is that OK, or should I replace one with something better? If so, what?

I was told the Hosui Asian Pear and Morettini European-style pear will pollinate each other. Is that right or is there a better combination? I would prefer both an Asian style and European style.

Is the Queen Cox really self-fertile? The Honeycrisp may have been a bad idea. I see now that it is for zones 3-6 and I am in zone 7b. Having just one apple tree would be OK if that's all I need. Or would it be better to pick another complementary variety? If so, what?

Thanks for any help you can give me. This is a long-term process and I want to get started correctly.

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blazeaglory(10 SZ22/24 OC Ca)

Honestly that seems like ALOT of grafting. It sounds well in theory but (no insult intended) unless you are a pro at grafting I would suggest planting them. You would get better coverage and would not risk losing the trees. Grafting is all good but I would try practicing on a smaller project or practice on some branches first. And if you do graft always try to graft a branch for a branch (as at the base of a cut branch). There are many methods but I think that would be easiest. Some have suggested grafting at the newest growth but I think you could get away with a little lower down on the tree. I dont suggest it this time though it is up to you :-)

Also I think Santa Rosa is pretty much a standard pollinator for plums so you should be OK with Santa Rosa.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2012 at 12:38AM
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I think I will plant individual trees and not do the grafting--simpler is better.

If I leave out the Honeycrisp for now (it doesn't seem to be growing as well as the others anyway), I could have 5 trees each 7 feet wide:

  1. Santa Rosa Plum
  2. Elephant Heart Plum
  3. Queen Cox Apple
  4. Hosui Asian Pear
  5. Morettini Pear

If the Queen Cox apple needs a pollinator, I could graft something suitable onto one of the horizontal cordons.

Anyone know if the Hosui Asian and Morettini pears will pollinate each other?

blazeaglory: Are you saying that the Santa Rosa and Elephant Heart will pollinate each other, or just that the Santa Rosa will pollinate the Elephant Heart?

    Bookmark   April 17, 2012 at 12:45PM
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blazeaglory(10 SZ22/24 OC Ca)

Hi geezdad. I know Santa Rosa is self pollinating and I do know it will pollinate the elephant heart. But as far as the elephant pollinating the Santa Rosa for maybe better fruit and a bigger yield? I do not know. I have wondered that question myself. My answer would be "yes" but I am very unsure of this question.

As for apples and pears. I have never grown them so I have no experience with such fruit:-)

I think you will do alright planting them individually. In the future you can always graft what you want after the trees have established. Start small:-)

    Bookmark   April 17, 2012 at 12:52PM
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I second the "plant the trees now". Training the espaliers for that many trees is a major undertaking in itself. It will take at least 4 years to establish the basic framework, possibly more depending on the rootstock vigor and other factors.

Once the framework is in place you may even want to wait for some fruit before you do anything else. Then you can always cut a cordon back to two or three buds (have to keep something for replacement if the graft fails!) and graft another cultivar you covet. You could eventually have a spectacular selection of fruit spread out over a long season!

    Bookmark   April 17, 2012 at 11:30PM
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blazeaglory(10 SZ22/24 OC Ca)

Hello geezdad. I have always liked the "belgian" fence. Here are some pics. Check it out

Here is a link that might be useful: Belgian Fence

    Bookmark   April 18, 2012 at 2:01PM
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I like the idea of a Belgian fence. But I think for where I want to put it and with multiple types of trees, the horizontal cordons would look better.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2012 at 1:18PM
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blazeaglory(10 SZ22/24 OC Ca)

Keep us update I would like to see your finished product!

    Bookmark   April 19, 2012 at 10:13PM
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Sounds like fun. I bought a 3 tier apple espalier and saved me years of work. If I had the room I would try to do my own one next.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2012 at 1:16PM
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