The espaliers at my local tree nursery are grafted and already started, so they'll stay short and espalier like. But can I just do this with these two cherry trees?

I really don't care if they're espaliered or not - I just need two trees to plant right on (6" away) from a 6' cedar fence. The bed was originally for black / rasp berries, but I got overzealous digging the hole and so I thought I'd stick some trees in there too. And since there's all this open soil, I was going to put in some squash or beans for as many years as they can get sun there, then switch to shade veggies.

I have 6"-square re-mesh if a grid is needed to espalier.

  • 1
    6 foot sounds a bit late to be starting espaliering but I am no expert. We have an apple that is close to that which I'm going to try late espaliering anyway. It would just be espaliered with more height and you'd have to do it fast before the limbs get too solid to bend and before the trunk tip gets to thick to snip to produce lateral child limbs.
    – Lisa
    Jun 28 '12 at 1:31
  • 1" ≈ 2.5 cm • 6' ≈ 1.8 m (Might not fit in title.)
    – dakab
    Feb 3 '17 at 12:10

Espaliering tends to be used for trees less vigorous than cherries such as apples. Cherries tend to be fan trained.

Usually you would start with a maiden or whip, which would be substantially thinner than the tree you describe. You will need something to train the branches on, horizontal wires are traditional but your mesh would do. Fan training properly is somewhat involved, but easy than an espalier. Notes there is a difference between simply planting a tree against a fence and keeping it trimmed back and properly training it: the former simply controls the space it uses and may result in poor fruiting, the latter aims to control vigour and increase fruiting. The following from the RHS describes the intial training:

Starting with an unfeathered maiden or whip (a one-year-old tree with no branches)

In spring, cut back the main stem to about 40cm (15in), leaving three strong buds In summer, erect two canes at 45 degree angles and tie in two of the branches that should develop from the buds to form the ‘arms’ (one either side). Remove any other shoots if they develop from the trunk In the second spring, reduce the ‘arms’ by two-thirds to an upward-facing bud. Again, remove any other growth from the trunk

Starting with a feathered maiden (a one-year-old-tree with some branches) or untrained two-year-old tree

In spring, cut back the main stem to about 40cm (15in) to two >well-placed branches to form the main ‘arms’ Erect two canes at 45 degrees and tie the two branches into them Now reduce each ‘arm’ by two-thirds to an upward-facing bud

Starting with a part-trained tree (commonly sold in garden centres, trained against a structure of canes)

Part-trained trees will need their vertical, leading shoot removed; cut right down to strong, low, 45-degree-angled branches or ‘arms’. Leaving the leader will result in a congested bush, not a fan Now reduce all the ‘arms’ by two-thirds, if they are weak, less if they are strong and already branching

You should now have a short, balanced tree with two strong ‘arms’ (or possibly more in the case of a part-trained tree). Now follow these instructions to produce a fan:

In summer, choose four shoots from each ‘arm’: one at the tip to extend the existing ‘arm’, two spaced equally on the upper side and one on the lower side. Tie them in at about 30 degrees to the main ‘arm’ so they are evenly spaced apart (using canes attached to the wires if necessary) Rub out any shoots growing towards the wall and pinch back any others to one leaf In the following spring, cut back each of the four branches on each side by one third, cutting to an upward-facing bud if possible During the growing season, tie re-growth from the tips of these branches into the framework to extend the main branches Any side-shoots that develop where there is space within the framework can be tied in

Future pruning of established fans varies according to the species.


You can start with a bigger tree. I'm assuming from the one inch diameter that the trees are not that bushy. Find the face of the tree with the most balanced lateral structure to put against the wall. By balanced I mean each side should have evenly spaced branches the whole way up, and the sides are fairly symmetrical.

Cut away the branches that grow straight toward you and to the back. If one of the good sides has many more branches than the other, cut them out until you have an even structure. Then try to cut the remaining branches, taking out growth that goes directly front or back, until eventually you have a tree that is wide, flat (or flattenable), and looks evenly branched.

You can then plant them and attach them to their support, being careful not to cross or touch branches together.

Starting with a bigger plant means more initial pruning, and perhaps a less ideal branching structure, but it definitely is worth the trouble once the trees begin to produce.

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