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I'd like to grow a bunch of trees against my wall (something like an informal espalier - I want them flat against the wall). I am unsure of the two largest trees however.

Yoshino and Watereri both have a height of 12m+ and spread 8m+ according to RHS.

Would it be possible to keep these trees relatively small if I continue pruning them? I'm thinking to initially let them grow tall for a few years, then cut them down to the base of the trunk (around 1m) to make it bushy, then continuously / annually shorten the branches that form from the trunk.

I'd like to keep the height at no more than 3m, and contain the spread as much as possible.

Some things I've considered may help:

  1. I plan to have other, smaller trees (and shrubs, packed in tightly) right next to them - I'm thinking this competition might help keep them short.
  2. The soil around here is heavy clay which I think would impede growth.
  3. I can add vigourous climbers (honeysuckle and/or wisteria) around them which will again compete for resources.
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  • Given the answer below, you may want to consider the design principle of "right plant, right place" and switch from flowering trees to flowering shrubs. As an example, Viburnum dentatum and Viburnum carlesii cultivars can reach 2+ m, flower in spring like the Prunus, and have nice blue berries and relatively colorful foliage in the fall (V. carlesii has fragrant flowers, too). Weigela 'Red Prince' would also work for you. In any case, your plan does seems to indicate that you'll need to keep the shrubs pruned to a narrower footprint than they usually grow in.
    – Jurp
    Feb 26, 2022 at 14:33

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Whilst not wanting to rain on your parade, what you have outlined is not a good idea for various reasons. First, in the UK, cherry Prunus varieties are susceptible to silver leaf infection, which means pruning should be restricted to midsummer; pruning or cutting back at other times means they will be vulnerable to this infection. Second, heavy clay soil is usually nutrient rich and should not impede growth unless the plants you use require light, free draining conditions. Third, one of the vigorous climbers you mention, Wisteria, gets up to 45 feet high by at least 15 feet wide and needs a strict pruning regime as well as something to climb up. Fourth, the idea that you can cram other trees and shrubs around the two Prunus trees to try to discourage height will not work; the trees will either shoot up and away from the surrounding plants in an attempt to escape, or will not thrive and just die. Note also that plants do need sufficient space around them to achieve healthy growth and a good shape - cramming things together will likely mean many will not survive, or look distinctly unattractive if they do.

I am unsure why you wish to plant in such a way against your wall, what your vision is, or what it is you're trying to achieve, as well as not knowing the size and aspect of the area, nor the height of the wall, all factors which combine to make it very difficult to suggest alternatives, but it would be wise to rethink your plans.

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  • I agree that all varieties of wisteria are too vigorous to share space when I have planted two or more species together one usually wins out
    – kevinskio
    Feb 25, 2022 at 16:31

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