by Leslie Cox; Tuesday; January 24, 2017
A Brief Introduction into Fruit Tree Forms
Fruit trees can be pruned into almost any shape. Based on tree placement, its growth habit and time constraints, you will have to select which pruning form best suits your purposes.
Bush: A widely used and productive form. Suitable for almost all fruit trees if adequate space permits. Framework branches fan out from a short 2.5 – 3 ft (75 – 90 cm) trunk. The leader is pruned to open the tree in the centre and allow for evenly-spaced multi-branching around the upper third of the trunk.
Spindle bush: This is a high-yielding form popular in commercial apple orchards. Main branches are low which gives the tree a wide-based cone-shape. Branches are trained horizontally and are supported by wires attached to a sturdy stake when heavy with fruit.
Pyramid: This form is used mainly for plums as maintenance pruning suits their fruiting habit. Tapering the branches to the top of the tree allows plenty of sun to reach the fruits on lower branches. A few small 6 – 8 ft (1.8 – 2.4 m) trees can be planted closely together in smaller gardens utilizing this pruning technique.
Dwarf pyramid: Suitable for modern dwarf cultivars of pears and apples. The small, compact form keeping trees to 5 or 6 ft (1.5 – 1.8 m) suits planting them in rows or blocks.
Fan: This heavy-bearing, decorative form is suitable for many fruit varieties, but especially plums, peaches and figs. The main stem should be short and the fan effect is achieved from branches, which are the ‘ribs’ of the fan, radiating from two low branches that are angled only slightly upward.
Espalier: Ideal for pear and apple varieties, but not stone fruits. Usually two- or three-tiered, this is a high-yielding form with a formal decorative impact. From the main trunk, the pairs of branches should be as opposite one another as possible and of equal length.
Palmette: A less rigid variation on the espalier form where the opposing tiers of branches are angled slightly upward, nicely disguising any slight lack of symmetry in the tree.
Standard: This form requires the most vigorous rootstock to support the clear trunk of 6 – 6.5 ft (1.8 – 2 m) in height. The crown is formed as for the bush form, but with a larger spread. Harvesting and maintenance is difficult is more difficult with this form. Not suitable for most gardens. More suited to a large orchard operation.
Half-standard: Smaller version of the standard form. Not really suited to fruiting varieties, but pleasing on an ornamental type of tree, if space allows.
Cordon: A suitable form for apples and pears as a number of cultivars can be grown in a small space. Grow against a wall or on post and wire.
Double or “U” cordon: Ideal form for soft fruits, such as redcurrants. Needs strong corrective pruning as it often grows strongest at the top of the two main arms. Easy to grow against a wall.
Multiple cordons: These forms have three, four, or more vertical arms. Requires intricate training and maintenance, but the effect is as decorative as the espalier form. Suitable for apples and pears, although the three-armed (triple) cordon is not suitable for certain heavier fruited and yield-bearing cultivars.