3 mature Espalier Pears trees instead of a couch

mmayerctSeptember 26, 2008

Hi there,

I'm new to the forum. I was on my way to purchase a much needed new sofa, when I got sidetracked at my local nursery. I've always wanted to attempt to train espaliers, but there in front of me were 3 gorgeous mature (4 tiers each) espalier pear trees...on sale. I went weak in the knees. So, "goodbye new couch, hello fruit trees". Here are my questions:

1. The trees have arrived and will be planted within the next day or so. Each is about 5 1/2 feet tall, and 3-4 feet wide. The trunks are about 3 1/2 inches wide at the base, 2" further up. I was planning to plant them about 8 feet apart. Does that sound right?

2. The nursery said, though not essential, they recommend a wire/wood post support for the first year until the roots get established in their new home, then no support is needed after that. Does that sound right?

3. Here are my two location options: a). my first choice is a west--and very slightly south-facing-- location with good midday-to-afternoon sun, no large trees nearby. b) a south-facing location (full sun), but a neighbor's huge ancient maple trees behind the site (closest about 20 feet away, furthest 40 feet away). Neither of these locations is against a wall, but my yard is pretty protected against high wind.

4). The nursery said to add Organica Plant Booster Plus 8-2-4 in the hole when these get planted. Make sense?

5). I plan on getting my hands on the AHS's Pruning & Training book, but is there anything I need to do immediately? I'm hoping to have all winter to study up.

Many thanks,


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Ah, heck, how can you pass up a deal like that. Besides, you can get a couch from a tag sale, at the Salvation Army store, whatever, for a little bit of nothing, and reupholster it yourself in a couple of afternoons, it's not really all that hard to do.

I would DEFINITELY support those trunks with good, sturdy stakes for a few years, it would be a shame to have them snap off in a storm.

I would go with site "A" if the maples at site "B" are silver or Norway, since their feeder roots extend well beyond the dripline of the canopy and really can suck the life out of any surrounding plantings (trust me, I have both in my yard). If the maples are sugar or red maples, I think either site would be ok.

    Bookmark   September 26, 2008 at 11:46PM
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Thanks for such a quick reply, denninmi! I think I've decided to go with location A.

    Bookmark   September 27, 2008 at 10:15AM
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Also, don't add anything in the hole except the dirt you dug out of it. Take that stuff and scratch it in the surface and then water well, then cover with a thick layer of mulch.


    Bookmark   September 27, 2008 at 11:35AM
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I too am new to pears, and learned the hard way this morning on precious flowered young branches that they cannot handle training like apple or citrus or whatever can - they BREAK very easily! So learn from my mistake and don't weight as heavily, bend as steeply, as you might otherwise expect. In view of this disappointing observation it seems to me buying trees with some training by a more experienced hand was particularly good fortune for you.

    Bookmark   September 27, 2008 at 11:53AM
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plant-one-on-me(MI 5b)

I would give up the couch any day! Great find.

    Bookmark   September 28, 2008 at 7:37AM
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Yesterday, when the nursery guy was planting one of my mature espalier pear trees, he nearly snapped off a lower branch...very sad. Is the branch doomed? It is not completely detached. Is there anything I can do to save it? The nursery will replace the tree as a last resort, but it is such a beautiful specimen, I'd love to keep it. Thanks!

    Bookmark   September 29, 2008 at 6:55AM
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The snapped branch on one of your mature espalier pear trees is only the beginning of your troubles. I cannot imagine why a nursery would tell you that espalier trained trees need only temporary support. All espalier trees need permanent support or they will no longer be espalier. And that support needs to be strong. You will also find that purchasing large, mature trees was not such a good idea. You had better get right at constructing a support trellis, although it would have been far better to have the trellis in place before planting. When you tie up your branches, bear in mind the fragility of pear branches, illustrated by your planting experience as well as the above comments by Tomatozilla.

If you do not provide support to the lateral branches, they will all be gone in a short time, certainly as soon as they begin to set pears. And you will have to prune with some frequency to maintain the espalier growth pattern.

In my view, it would have been far better to purchase one or two year freestanding pear trees on dwarfing or semi-dwarfing rootstocks, training them to open centers with branches at roughly 60-76 degree angles.

Indeed, it might have been better in the long run to opt for the couch. At least with a couch you could be pretty sure of producing some couch potatoes.

    Bookmark   September 29, 2008 at 10:39AM
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Would 2 x2 or 4 x 4 wood posts with 12-15 gauge wire work?

    Bookmark   September 29, 2008 at 2:09PM
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My 3 espalier Anjou pear trees are doing well. I did wind up supporting them with wooden poles and black very strong aircraft line (strong enough to pull a plane). The black color of the wire makes it pretty much disappear. Every year I reattach the branches on the guidelines and they have all held their shape beatifully. I realize finally I need a pollinator (duh). Blossoms/fruit get less and less each year. Any suggestions as to variety and how far away it needs to be planted? Is it too late to plant now (May) in Connecticut Zone 6a or should I wait until fall? Many thanks for the advise.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2013 at 11:04PM
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I've found this from Colorado State U. Look like you have a number of choices. Be careful to choose a more disease resistance one.

I only have Harrow Sweet and Blake Pride.

Did you get a couch?

Here is a link that might be useful: Pollination of Fruit trees

    Bookmark   May 18, 2013 at 6:30AM
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hi Maureen - I'm not suprised that I'd come across someone who is taking up pear tree espalier like I am right about now. I rented a van after delivering a couch to my daughter's new place: (true story) and picked up 1 Pyrus Commmunis "Anjou". and 1- "Red Clapp" They are young and branches look ready to train. The tree person at Connon Nurseries (Ontario) zone 5b) recommended for best pear pollination a Pyrus Communis" Red Clapp" So I'll pass that on to you. But I want to know from you or some kind soul-- what is the preferred distance for planting between the three trees. (I'm getting another very soon) --I do like the black wire idea you have. What are you using for ties.-- the newest branch friendly tie discovery I'm hearing is velcro strip Thanks and best of luck with your espalier

    Bookmark   August 7, 2013 at 9:00PM
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