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I've just moved a neglected grape vine plant to a place where I want to espalier it properly. It's summer at the moment (Australia) so I know I can't do any heavy pruning at the moment.

However, I want to begin tying the plant up and training it properly but am unsure of where to start.

There are three main branches/arms coming off the trunk. Each of the three have healthy full growth on them with multiple smaller branches, plenty of green leaves and heaps of sprouts. The middle one which ideally should've been trained upwards is bent over.

Ideal scenario is for this to grow one main branch upwards and have three arms coming off in each direction (6 arms in total, or three stacked T-shapes).

How would I go about approaching this over summer and then again once winter has ended? How would I select which branch to bend to train upwards?

Wide view of the vine Close up of the three branches

  • Anyone? Or should I just kill it and start over? – Carl Dec 23 '13 at 6:49
  • Oh, no - don't kill it! Even if you have to start over again, you could just prune it back to one main leader (one that is not damaged or bent over) and start over from that. That is how most tiered grape espaliers are created. – TeresaMcgH Dec 24 '13 at 19:39
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Ok, here is how I would proceed.

Is the middle trunk bent and hardened so badly that it cannot be straightened up again with slow training and patience? If so, then I'd trim the grape vine back to just one main trunk next spring (one of the side branches that is still semi-flexible) and start with that as my main central leader, while selecting three nice branches on each side of the chosen branch at three different levels to use for main scaffolds. Then I'd follow standard pruning instructions for a three tiered espalier from that point forward. In the meantime, take the branch you are expecting to use and tie it upright to a stake asap so it will be easier to work with next year and won't harden into a kinked trunk shape like the other one.

If you think that central leader CAN be fixed, then do what you can with it this summer and fall. You might tie the bent section to a stout straight piece of branch, and then attempt over the next few months to slowly bend it up into a straighter profile using the stout branch as a splint. Then next spring use the two side trunks as your first tier of espaliered scaffolding branches and select two more nice ones on each side of the central trunk for the upper level scaffolds, prune the rest back, and press on. In the meantime, tie the whole thing to a stake and a low cross wire with the main trunk in the middle as straight as you can make it without breaking it, and stretch the two other leaders out to the side as straight as you can so they don't become unmanageable or break in the interim.

If this isn't clear, I can try to draw you something to illustrate.

Edited to add: Another option for this vine might be to grow it as a fan-shaped espalier. You would still have the issue of what to do with that bent central trunk, but it would be less critical to the overall success of the espalier-ation than it would be if you did a strict three-tier vertical system.

  • This is a great answer. Thank you. I'll leave it as be for the moment until next spring and prune it back to something I can manage and train. – Carl Dec 26 '13 at 2:35

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