Sowandso is part of a group called You Can Grow That!. Every 4th of the month we publish posts about our favourite plants, our love for growing vegetables and our enthusiasm for gardening. Want to know more about our group then go to www.youcangrowthat.com
The garden at the Villas enjoys a seven metre long, two metre high south east facing wall, painted white, which was begging for some fruit tree espalier action! So, rookies up for a horticultural challenge, the first thing we did when we moved in was to buy an Avalon Pride peach tree and put up some tensioned wire horizontal supports. Espalier is a way to grow a tree flat, usually against a wall, fence or trellis, but sometimes free standing just on posts and wires. It’s ideal not only because it looks decorative, but also for gardens where space is limited.
We chose Avalon Pride because of is resistance to leaf curl disease. It’s a fairly new variety that I discovered whilst trawling the Internet. Apparently the variety gets its name from a certain Miss Pride in Washington State, near Seattle, who when walking in the woods chanced upon a peach seedling growing through the leaf litter and she took it home and planted it. Over time she observed its resistance to leaf curl and so propagated from it …and the rest’s history! Grown on Montclaire rootstock means it’s productive, of medium vigour and less susceptible to frost damage. Trees are self-fertile with pretty pink flowers and bear large, deliciously sweet and juicy fruits from early August.
Plant your peach tree about 20 centimetres away from a wall or trellis and carefully bend its branches in the direction you want them to grow, tying them loosely to give them room to expand. Older branches are liable to break so this is best done with a young supple tree. If you can’t get the branch to exactly where you want it, tie it part way just temporarily and leave for a few weeks for the tree to adjust, then move the branch again, this time into its final position.
Remove any branches that do not match your required design, particularly any that are growing outwards (away from the wall) or crossing over each other. Continue pruning as the tree grows, tying in new growth as necessary and keeping an eye on older ties to make sure they are not cutting in and causing damage. Also be careful to prevent any growth behind the wire.
In year two I made the mistake of totally removing the numerous water sprouts that grow upwards off the lateral branches throughout the summer, instead of leaving a couple of centimetres or so on each one. This left some bare lengths of lateral branch with no hope of future fruiting spurs. The following year my remedial action was to bend back a few of the whippy water sprouts, tying them back along the branch towards the trunk. It looks a little bit odd in the winter but in the summer when the tree is covered with leaves, no one would ever know. Take heed from my mistake! Water sprouts do need removing but always leave a node or two to allow for new growth.
Any way, we are now reaping the rewards of our labour and last year we had big juicy peaches in abundance – but you have to be quick to harvest them before the wasps arrive or they drop and get bruised or overlooked. There are few things as sumptuous as a perfectly ripe peach, picked and eaten still warm from the sun…
Go on! Challenge yourself to train a tree this way. It’s very rewarding and the end result is a great head turner.