Tag Archives: pruning

Amanda’s tips for apple tree pruning

27 Nov
Getting set: Garden volunteers Hilary (left) and Jean

Getting set: Garden volunteers Hilary (left) and Jean

While everyone else at Wordsworth House may be staying indoors, snug and warm, getting down to their winter work, it’s business as usual outdoors for Amanda and her garden volunteers, as they undertake the mammoth task of pruning our 16 heritage apple trees.

Step one is to cut back any dead or diseased growth to a healthy point. Because we’re open to the public for most of the year, they also have to make sure no branches are sticking out over or obstructing paths between the trees – something that isn’t a problem in most domestic gardens.

The next step is to remove any crossing growth – where the branches are rubbing on one another – or any very low ones that are pointing down into the soil.

Over the years, because the growth was congested when Amanda started working here, she’s gradually removed central branches to give the trees an open goblet shape – it makes them healthier and it looks attractive.

Once all that’s done, it’s time to tackle the main pruning. You start on the branch leaders (the main growth coming off the big branches), shortening them by a quarter, if they have strong growth, and a half if the growth is weak.

Then you move onto pruning new side shoots to between four buds (on weak growth) and six buds (for stronger growth).

Each tree takes several hours and by the time a session is finished, the team are very grateful to get inside for a hot cuppa!

Hard to work: Jean and Hilary get down to business

Hard to work: Jean and Hilary get down to business

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Amanda’s good pruning guide

9 Jul
A young plum fan with slate label

Work-in-progress: A young plum fan

If you have apples or pears trained against your garden walls, now’s the time to prune them. Amanda would normally be setting to with her secateurs, but this year she’s going back to square one and training the actual espaliers.

At the end of 2009 our lovely walled garden was turned into a swimming pool by the great flood of Cockermouth. As a result of all the damage to the brickwork, we lost our Victorian espaliers. This created an opportunity to replace them with varieties that would have been available in the late Georgian period.

The only downside to this rain/flood cloud’s silver lining was that 18th-century varieties aren’t generally available ready-espaliered, so Amanda is learning on the job, teaching herself how to espalier apples and pears and to fan plums and cherries.

For those who have established espaliers, step one in Amanda’s good pruning guide is to get your secateurs sharpened.

She then recommends starting on the main arms, pruning all the new laterals to just three leaves above the basal clusters and completely removing any over-vigorous upright shoots. Next, turn your attention to side shoots, reducing them to one leaf. Simples, as my friend Aleksandr Orlov, the TV meerkat, would say!

By the way, did you know that the word “secateurs” comes from the Latin verb to cut, secare. And the exact definition of an “espalier” is a plant trained around a central trunk, with tiers of branches growing out horizontally on either side.

Sadly, a perchcrow of little brain does not know such things – I had to ask Amanda. And in return for this information, she said I had to include a picture of her rose campion, for no other reason than that it’s beautiful at the moment!

Rose campion

Blooming lovely: Rose campion

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