Growing your own orchard is a lot of fun and rewards you with mouthfuls of summers ripest peaches, nectarines, apricots and plums. You also know what has been applied to the soil and sprayed on your trees, like us you may want to grow your fruit the organic way.
Lavender and Thyme Cottage has over 40 fruit trees including many heritage varieties, mostly espaliered. There are many espalier shapes at the cottage with my favourite no doubt, the pear candelabras. The other espalier shapes are fans, diamonds and the traditional tier shapes. Espalier allows smaller gardens such as our 1/4 acre plot, to have an increased number of varieties per m2 than a traditional orchard. We use lots of lavender and strawberries in the garden to bring in the bees and have garlic planted underfoot as a healthy deterrant for bio-control.
The orchard trees at Lavender and Thyme Cottage are wonderful producers, we aim to treat them with lots of love and care. The trees provide our family with lots of healthy vitamins, minerals and all those good for us- antioxidants. Please go and plant yourself a tree or more!
List of fruit trees grown at Lavender and Thyme Cottage;
- Almond ‘All-in-one’
- Apple ‘Monty’s Surprise’/ ‘Ballerina Polka’/ ‘Liberty’/ ‘Baujade’/ ‘Royal Gala’/ ‘Braeburn’/ ‘Golden Delicious’
- Apricot ‘Moorpark’/ ‘Trevatt’
- Cherries ‘Burlat’/ ‘Dawson’/ ‘Lapins’/ ‘Stella’/ ‘Montmorency’
- Crabapple ‘Gorgeous’/ ‘Jelly King’
- Feijoa ‘Unique’
- Fig ‘Lesa’/ ‘San Pedro’
- Greengage ‘Reine claud du Bauuvy’
- Hazelnut ‘Barcelona’/ ‘Tonda de Giffoni’/ ‘MDB Auckland 2’
- Lemon ‘Meyer’
- Lime ‘Kaffir’
- Nashi Pear ‘Hosui’/ ‘Nijiseiki’
- Nectarine ‘Fantasia’
- Olive ‘Picholine’/ ‘Verdale’/ ‘Leccino’
- Peach ‘Blackboy’
- Pears ‘Conference’/ ‘Gormande’
- Plum ‘Damson’/ ‘Santa Rosa’/ ‘Black Doris’/ ‘Italian Prune’
- Quince ‘Smyrna’
How to develop your own “Cordons” and “Espaliers”
For your information the essential difference between cordons and espaliers is that cordons are grown at close planting whereas espaliers are grown on more vigorous stocks at more distant planting. At “Lavender and Thyme Cottage” the fruit trees are mainly grown as cordons.
The true cordon is a single straight rod grown either erect or (preferably) obliquely. Mulitple cordons such as the lattice styles (belgian fence and diamond), double “U”, candelabra and triple cordons are useful systems for the more vigorous varieties. Cordons and espaliers are usually grown in rows supported by a wire fence. In open ground they should run north and south to secure sunshine on both sides of the row. A row grown near walls or hedges which are likely to shade, should run as near east and west as possible. Posts should be about 10ft apart and protrude 6ft above ground. Three wires are usually enough to support cordons, some espaliers may need five wires. The bottom wire is usually about 60cm from the ground and the others are 45-60cm apart according to the height of the posts.
In a general sense there are two types of fruiting trees- spur bearing such as most apples and pear trees, or tip bearing trees. Spur bearing trees are ideal for espalier as you won’t prune off the new fruiting buds when trying to maintain a cordon or espalier shape. Although it’s not impossible to espalier tip bearing tree such as apricots, plums, cherries, peaches and nectarines you will be restricted mainly to the fan espalier shape.
Obtain a tree variety with good disease resistance- espaliered trees will undergo more pruning than standard grown trees. Consider also heritage varieties as espalier is a traditional method for growing fruit trees- they also create a charming talking point in your garden. I would recommend a dwarf stock variety for a single cordon and semi dwarf to vigorous for all other styles. Tree varieties with moderate vigor are more suited to bending into complex shapes. It’s important to remember that the more horizontal a tree branch the slower the sap flow therefore the slower the growth. If you want to slow down a vigorous tree create more espaliered horizontal branches.
Training and Pruning
Training Single cordons is simple. Obtain a one-year old unbranched whip. The top may be lightly pruned after planting and any side shoots shortened to about three buds. If modifying a branched tree, select the straightest leader and cut the rest back. For upright cordons the rods are planted erect and oblique cordons are planted on an angle to how they are to be trained. The annual growth of the upright leader is seldom cut. There are a few exceptions such as the cordon not producing enough side shoots- you would shorten the leader by half, or if the fruit buds are only on the terminal end of the leader- you can shorten by 5cm, or if the leader has reached the top wire- prune to the desired height.
Training U shaped cordons requires an unbranched whip to be shortened to 45cm from ground level. The cut should be made so that two buds are opposite each other. When new shoots develop tie each leader in opposite direction to the lowest wire. Do not shorten these leaders. All other shoots are pruned right back. I recommend that the terminal end of the shoot be allowed temporary freedom to grow upright otherwise the vigor of the tree is lost. The following winter the two rods should be shortened to 45cm. The growth of the two end buds is then trained vertical and tied to upright bamboo canes attached to the wires.
Training Triple cordons is similar to the U cordon except that in the first summer three shoots are retained, two to the sides in opposite directions while the third is trained erect. The following winter the two horizontal rods should be shortened to 45cm. The growth of the two end buds is then trained vertical and tied to upright bamboo canes attached to the wires.
Training Double U, Candelabra and Multiple cordons are variations of these methods. The candelabra requires a crossing over of its two side branches to create a circle prior to the branches being shortened to 45cm.
Recommended planting distances are 45cm apart for Single cordons; 60cm apart for Lattice cordon (belgian fence or diamond style); 4ft for a Double “U” cordon, Triple or Multiple cordon (includes Candelabra style); and 6ft-16ft for an espaliered fruit tree.
Tying with elasticised nylon should be done from time to time throughout the season as growth extends or before wood becomes too rigid. Ties will need to be loosened each year as the girth of the rod increases. Light pruning should be done during summer period when disease prevalence is lower while hard pruning should be done during the dormant winter period.