Espalier pear branches too close together?

kebleDecember 26, 2012

I splurged and ordered a two tier espalier pear for Christmas. It arrived last week and I am concerned because the horizontal branches are only 9 inches apart. Everything I've read indicates they should be at least a foot apart, preferably more. Both branches had outgrown the bamboo support canes and were growing upwards so the tree looked like a double U form. I was able to extend the cane and tie the branches down. Am I supposed to try to force the branches further apart? I have had very satisfactory service from this nursery in the past and will obviously call and ask when they are back in business in the New Year. But meanwhile I am fretting and scouring the Internet for advice so thought I would come here and ask for help. Thank you in advance!

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alan haigh

Pre-made espaliers are a suckers bet, unless you know the source and know the rootsock. More often than not they are on standard rootstock (with pears) and as is the case with your tree, not properly trained to begin with.

A main point of espaliers is that spurs receive full sun exposure so I consider a foot much too close with at least 2 foot separation a strategic necessity to realize full benefits of an espalier system.

I would remove the top tier and form a new one of of next years by allowing a central water sprout to develop at the point of the cut made to remove upper tier.

Espaliers are trained by mostly summer pruning but allowing new wood to continue to grow vertically through the season and tying down as needed when dormant to realize desired form. Major structural pruning like removing the upper tier should be done while dormant. Late winter is often recommended in colder climates with pears.

If your pear is on seedling rootstock or a nondwarfing clone you will probably need more space than you expected for the tree to be fruitful.

    Bookmark   December 27, 2012 at 10:36AM
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keble

Thank you, harvestman, for your post. My pear is a conference on Quince A rootstock. According to the description in the catalogue, the branches should be 13 to 15 inches apart! The thought of taking out the second tier and starting again fills me with dismay as I justified the high cost by rationalising that I was paying for two years training. Interesting, I am in England and posted same question on a UK fruit growers' forum. Most of the responders felt I was worrying about nothing.

    Bookmark   December 27, 2012 at 1:45PM
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alan haigh

Well, you aren't worrying about nothing, but I didn't know you were in the UK. Because your tree is on quince, branches could naturally be closer and the closeness of the branches won't stop you from getting fine fruit.

I just have a different attitude than you about pruning and training because I prune many hundreds of trees every year and have no hesitation to retrain most any fruit tree. I understand how you would have a different attitude with your single pear tree.

    Bookmark   December 27, 2012 at 3:23PM
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