question about pruning dormant red currant

appletree729May 16, 2013

Hello everyone...

I'm attempting to grow an espaliered red currant along a fence in my garden - it arrived as a dormant, bare root plant and I placed it in what I think is a good spot with good growing conditions for currants.

My question is about pruning this first year. The plant came with 3 main upright stems. Is it okay to choose the strongest looking one and prune away the other two? Again, it is dormant right now so my thinking is that this will not hurt it and will allow it to concentrate all of it's energy on growing that main stem, which will eventually reach the top of the fence (only 3 feet), where I will then prune the top and hope that it forces 2 side branches that I can train along the top of the fence.

Just don't know if I should leave those other two stems or not while the plant is getting established..

Any tips or thoughts? I have found a lot of information on how to prune espaliers but most of it is for fruit trees which already have a main trunk and are not a shrub like the currant.

Thanks so much!

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mrsg47(7)

I must say, I have never seen an espaliered currant, (doesn't mean they don't exist). When most currants arrive they are really mere twigs, and you are told through different nurseries 'prune hard' the first year they are planted. This has always worked for me. Currants are really quite easy to grow. I would prune off both extra branches and prune one third off of the remaining twig. What type of currants are they? Flora, you are a currant 'expert' this grower needs your help, please add your ifo. Mrs. G

    Bookmark   May 16, 2013 at 8:32AM
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appletree729

Thanks so much. Mrs G!

I've attached a photo of the espaliered red currant that was the inspiration behind my wanting to try this. It looks really nice as all of the fruit hangs down like little jewels.

To answer your question, it's a 'rovada' red currant.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2013 at 8:40AM
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appletree729

So I will prune the two branches off, leaving the one main branch as the 'trunk'...

I'll hold off on cutting that one back though - wouldn't that force it to branch out at the top? So I was going to wait on that until the stem reached the desired height then I'll clip it and hope some side branches are formed to trail along the top of the fence. right?

sorry for all the questions - pretty new at gardening, and definitely new at espaliers!

    Bookmark   May 16, 2013 at 12:23PM
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drew51 SE MI Z5b/6a

I would pick your main branch and NOT trim it. The other two i would cut back to 2 or 3 nodes. Keep them small as a replacement if the cordon fails.
Yes, I too am growing a cordon, and I too, just started it. I'm growing two of them. It will not be as long as the one pictured. Which is an awesome specimen grown by a well known garden journalist. I'm using "London Market" and "Laxton's No1" red currant cultivars. I guess since dormant go ahead, I would otherwise trim them late winter/early spring before bud break. Not really sure best time to trim? Mine are not dormant, they were received actively growing with full leaves. Hey let's keep each other updated on progress!

    Bookmark   May 16, 2013 at 1:08PM
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flora_uk(SW UK 8/9)

I'm afraid I just have my red currants as bushes and have never grown an espalier one. I'm just a bit surprised it's still dormant in May. Mine are in flower and beginning to set fruitlets.

I have seen them grown as cordons but not espaliers. I imagine the technique would be the same as any espalier. Have you thought of doing a fan to get more fruit from the same space? You could do that if you already have three growths. Or a multi layered espalier rather than just a single tier?

Here is a link that might be useful: Redcurrant cordons

    Bookmark   May 16, 2013 at 2:19PM
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appletree729

Oh - thanks for the tip about leaving a couple of nodes on the ones I'll cut back - I hadn't thought of that but it's a good idea for sure.

And yes - I am NOT planning on trimming the main cordon. If I understand all of this correctly, that will not help me achieve the one, main 'trunk' that I'm after but instead will encourage branching which I don't want quite yet.

I'll keep you posted! And keep me updated on your progress as well:) Thanks again...

    Bookmark   May 16, 2013 at 2:20PM
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mrsg47(7)

I see!!! Its beautiful, yes, your pruning direction is correct. Mine was not and for a shrub, sorry!

    Bookmark   May 16, 2013 at 2:44PM
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drew51 SE MI Z5b/6a

You can head the main branch, just use a modified leader to continue. And if it splits, remove the other split. Not a big deal. It may even be desirable to do to stimulate growth. I actually have the book "The Pruning Book" by Lee Reich. And that is his rovada currant pictured. He goes over how he did it. I think the info is online too. OK, well I just read the section and he does not trim the main branch at all. Till it reaches the top. Lee say summer prune any laterals that develop on the two splits, he prunes to 5 inches. Then in winter prunes these laterals to 2 inches. I guess once established you just keep doing this. I guess you would prune ends to keep at desired length.
On my two, I didn't trim other branches, but he says summer pruning is OK, so once mine establish (they have only been in the ground a few days!) I will prune them down to a few inches. I read in another book about keeping spares, as the cordon can and at times do fail.
The idea here is to make it look pretty. it's not about production. A bush will produce more. I have 6 bushes growing too! 2 red, 2 white, and 2 pink!
Here is Laxton No 1 with Jesse the wonder dog on guard against currant snatchers!

This post was edited by Drew51 on Thu, May 16, 13 at 16:02

    Bookmark   May 16, 2013 at 3:56PM
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drew51 SE MI Z5b/6a

Here is the "London Market" red cultivar just put in yesterday.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2013 at 3:59PM
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appletree729

Nice Drew! Hope they grow well for you - I'd take a photo of mine but it literally just looks like someone poked a stick in the ground. Someone else had wondered why it's still dormant in May - it just arrived in the mail from the nursery as a bare root, dormant plant. Hopefully it's not actually dead! we'll see I suppose.

Thanks again to all for sharing your wisdom:)

    Bookmark   May 17, 2013 at 10:16AM
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drew51 SE MI Z5b/6a

I thought I would update my plants. Here's Laxton's No 1

It has about 12-15 inches to make it to the top. it's growing well, even has a few flowers

Here is London Market. Only about an inch short. Most of the new growth has been at the base.

I removed most of the new canes at the base, hoping it will concentrate energy into the cordon

The cordon looks bare, but it is growing. Just not leafed out yet.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2014 at 4:54PM
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