Fruit Tree Espaliering

Fruit Tree Espaliering

Photo © Bulleen Art & Garden

Espaliering is a fantastic way to grow trees (including fruit trees) in smaller spaces. It does require regular work and is definitely not recommended for the lazy gardener or those scared of secateurs, however the effort is well worth it.

Espaliering trees is a way of making them two-dimensional rather than three. It is all about maintaining the height and width of a plant while reducing the depth and is a great way of maximizing the productivity of a warm sunny spot along a wall or a fence. Effectively, it means you can grow what is normally a big tree (or two) in a much smaller space. We have quite a few examples for you to look at in our Edible Alley (located in our driveway) and all the pics on this page are
from that garden (except the large picture above, that one is outside our classroom doors in the nursery). Have a look next time you come down.
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Duo or Multi Fruit Tree Planting

Duo or Multi Fruit Tree Planting

Photo © Bulleen Art & Garden

Duo or multi planting is our preferred option (rather than double or multi grafting) when two or more trees are wanted in a small space. The resulting multi trunked, single canopy tree, is easy to manage and prune. You can radically increase the number and variety of fruit trees in your back-yard orchard with duo or multi planting. This allows you to enjoy a wider range of fruit over a much longer period.
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Winter Pruning Fruit Trees

Winter Pruning Fruit Trees

Photo © Bulleen Art & Garden

The traditional time to prune your deciduous fruit trees is in late winter while they’re dormant, before the buds open. Pruning is basically the removal of selected parts of a tree to control its growth to suit our purposes.

  • Pruning carried out in the first three years to create the trees shape is called formative (framework) pruning.
  • Once the tree has grown into the desired shape, we keep it that way with maintenance (detail) pruning.
  • If a mature tree needs reshaping because it has grown too large or has been neglected, we can restore the shape and fruiting wood with renovation pruning.

Fruit trees don’t need pruning to bear fruit, but, if we don’t prune, the tree can become too large and difficult to manage. Unmanaged trees eventually become overcrowded with non-productive wood, and tend to produce every second year (biennial cropping). When they do fruit they are likely to produce lots of very small fruit that are too high to reach.

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Grafted plants explained

Plant Grafting (Photograph by Bulleen Art & Garden)

It’s easy to get yourself totally confused and muddled when immersed in the heady world of horticulture – hybrids, cultivars, cross pollination…the list of terms goes on and on. But, there is one horticultural concept that we are hearing a lot more of – grafting, and it’s one that home gardeners need to get their heads around.

Rather than an act of political deception, grafting in plant terms means physically combining the desirable properties of two (or more) plants to form one “super” plant. Confused? Think about it like this – take the legs of your favourite supermodel or actor, and attach to these the torso and head of someone else (think my head on Angelina Jolie’s legs!) It’s all about the fusion between the lower half (called the rootstock) and the upper, aerial parts (called the scion).

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Pruning Australian Natives

Pruning Australian Natives

With the continually growing and improving range of Australian native plants available, the days of the scrappy Australian native plant garden are behind us. The range of new cultivars (and the old favourites), like many plant varieties, benefit from pruning. Pruning promotes denser growth and better flowering. The advantages of pruning can be even greater natives as the pruning removes the large woody seed capsules many natives produce after they have flowered. This process requires large amounts of energy from the plant at the expense of producing more flowers and new growth. The type of pruning depends on the growth habit and flowering of the shrub or tree, but there are some general rules to follow. The timing of pruning is generally after flowering, although some tend to spot flower throughout the year.

Fine foliage and flowering shrubs

These may be regularly pruned lightly all over to promote dense bushy growth. Some fast growing shrubs will tend to open out underneath with a lot of dead, twiggy growth. This should be pruned out to clear the main stems. Some species will respond well to heavy pruning into old wood (such as Melaleucas), however other species will not re shoot. If in doubt prune back one branch and wait to see if it re shoots before pruning the rest of the shrub. Sprawling and scrambling shrubs may get a lot of dead growth towards the centre of the shrub. By pruning this out you can expose the main curving stems and lightly prune the foliage at the tips.

Other species, like Alyogyne huegelii benefit from early formative pruning to encourage a dense habit. This denser habit lends itself well to hedging and helps prevent branches splitting off in windy conditions. Prune late spring into early summer – you will lose some flowers because this plant always seems to have a few on it – but you will cut off the long sappy growth to shorter more sturdy lengths, and produce a much better plant as a result.

Large flowered shrubs with woody capsules

These include shrubs such as Grevilleas, Hakeas, Banksias and Callistemons. These should have the flowering stems pruned back to just behind the flower as the flowers finish. The new growth branches out from this point, resulting in a denser shrub and increased flowering. Pruning off the flower stems prevents the woody capsule from forming, allowing energy to go into new growth. Similarly, if you don’t want the masses of large gum nuts on the currently popular flowering gum (Corymbia ficifolia and all its cultivars), then prune off the dead flowers after flowering. The tree will then put energy towards leaf growth instead of gum nuts.

Native grasses

Most of the Dianellas and Lomandras don’t need pruning for the first several years, but then benefit from a periodic prune (3-7 years) to keep fresh. Prune once any risk of frost is past (do not prune in summer). A simple rule is to cut back to about half the height of the plant. They look good if cut back into a neat ball shape. You need SHARP secateurs. Feed lightly after pruning. It can be a bit of a tedious job, but you only do it every few years and the fresh new growth is well worth it.

The Poa species can be cut back almost any time except summer, whenever they look shabby, you can cut them back fairly hard, clearing away all the old dead growth and promoting fresh new growth.

Pruning Ornamental Trees

Pruning Ornamental Trees

Photo © Bulleen Art & Garden

Many ornamental plants will need some form of pruning at some time. Pruning out dead, diseased and damaged growth, encouraging healthy growth, increasing the density, reducing the size of the plant, prolonging the flowering season and promoting bigger blooms are some reasons why pruning is used in the cultivation of plants.

As long as pruning cuts are made in the correct position and cleanly, the plant will heal. Using special paint to seal the cuts is not usually necessary if the cuts are made correctly with clean pruning equipment. Always use pruning equipment appropriate to the size of the branches you will cut. The most commonly used pruning tools are secateurs, loppers and pruning saws. When tying up stems, use soft flexible ties and allow for some movement of the stem. Remember to regularly check and remove ties, as these cause significant damage to plants if they are left on unchecked.

Position of the pruning cut

When making pruning cuts on smaller stems and branches, the position of the cut is just above a node. A node is where a bud, leaf or stem emerges from a branch. The internode is the space along the branch between the nodes. If the cut is made too far into the internode, then the branch usually dies back to the node. This area of die back is a potential entry point for disease.

Note: The angle of the cut is not as important as getting the position right. Ideally, the cut should angle slightly away from the bud so that water is directed away from the bud. Do not cut on a sharp angle as this makes a large wound and may damage the bud.

When pruning main branches, the cut should be positioned so that the branch – bark ridge and the collar are not damaged. The branch – bark ridge can be seen on most trees. It is the ridge of bark on the top side of the attachment point where the branch is attached to the trunk. The collar is harder to see, but it is the swollen area underneath the attachment point of the branch to the trunk. Even if you cannot see it, the collar is still there and should not be damaged. The pruning cut should be made just outside this area.

If you leave a large stub, then this usually dies back and is an entry point for disease. Undercutting a branch before cutting is recommended, particularly on larger branches, as this prevent the bark tearing and damaging the branch collar. Avoid damaging the bark, as this can cause significant damage to the tree and provides a potential entry point for disease.

Ornamental Trees

Most ornamental trees will require pruning at some stage, even if it is just removing dead, damaged or diseased branches. The way to position the pruning cut has been discussed above. Try to prune branches back to a branch union. This is particularly important when cutting trees back from paths and fences. Your first rule should be STOP and THINK before cutting anything.

Never remove more than one third of the canopy at any one time, and it is best to prune trees over a period of time rather than all in one go. Safety is also a concern particularly with large trees and branches and larger jobs are best left to an arboriculture expert. As for using a chainsaw, if you are not experienced, don’t.

Many ornamental trees are grown for their habit (shape). Poor pruning can completely destroy the natural growth habit of the tree, so it is best to take the time to consider a way to prune to maintain the habit of the tree.

Pruning Back

Select the branches that are causing the problem, then select the outermost branch. Prune this branch back to a branch union. Then stand back and have a look. If this has fixed the problem then no further pruning is required. Otherwise select the next outermost branch and shorten to a branch union, until the branches are no longer in the way.

Reducing the height

Reducing the height of the canopy may be done in a similar way to pruning back. Prune back to a branch union instead of lopping off branches at a designated height. When reducing the height of trees that naturally have a tall slender shape, (such as a pencil pine), the main leader will need to be shortened. Branching below the cut will thicken the top of the tree.

Reducing the size

On large mature trees, no more than one third of the canopy should be removed at one time, and reducing the canopy is best carried out over several years. Again, consider the habit of the tree and try to maintain this.

Thinning

Some older trees form a dense canopy under which it is almost impossible to grow anything. The canopy may be selectively thinned to allow more light through to the plants underneath. Thinning in a way that still maintains the shape of the canopy can be difficult, and this technique is best left to an arboriculturist.

Pruning the canopy up

This is a very common practice, as access underneath trees is often needed. Select the branch or branches that need to be removed, and prune back to the trunk remembering the correct way to position the cut. If several branches need to be removed, it is best to do this gradually over time allowing the tree to grow in between.

Citrus Root Stocks

Citrus Root Stocks

Photo from Wiki Commons

Citrus are grafted onto rootstocks in order to give the tree protection from pests and diseases, greater tolerance for specific soil conditions, a shorter time before full fruit production is reached, tolerance to cold (or heat), to drought or waterlogging. There are different rootstocks to serve different purposes. At BAAG we commonly see four different rootstocks:

Trifoliata – Poncirus trifoliata
Excellent tolerance to phytopthera, Tristeza and citrus nematode, poor resistance to Exocortis, poor tolerance to salinity and alkalinity. Excellent tolerance to poor drainage, good tolerance to sandy and loamy soils. Cold hardy. Shallow rooting, but dense fibrous roots. Generally highly fruitful with very good quality fruit. Poor drought tolerance. Incompatible with Eureka Lemon

Troyer root stock
Good phytopthera resistance, excellent Tristeza resistance, limited Exocortis tolerance, moderate nematode resistance. Good in sandy, loamy or poorly drained soils. Moderately tolerant of salinity, limited alkalinity tolerance. Very cold hardy. Gives trees high productivity and good quality fruit. Benefits from additional micronutrients, and calcareous soils leads to micronutrient deficiency. Medium rooting. Incompatible with Eureka lemon

Rough lemon
Rough lemon is a very good rootstock for producing large highly drought tolerant healthy trees with extensive lateral and vertical root development, however it tends to produce fruit rough in texture and lower in juice. These negative effects can be at least partly countered by adjusting nutrition programs but rough lemon also tends to produce larger fruit with thicker skins. Commonly used with Eureka lemons due to their incompatibility with other rootstocks.

Flying dragon rootstock – Poncirus trifoliata ‘Flying Dragon’
This citrus rootstock is used to dwarf the variety grafted onto it. It is a mutated Trifoliatia species which has hooked thorns and is much slower growing. Due to the difficulty and slowness in growing Flying Dragon, Citrus varieties grafted onto this variety are usually more expensive. It imparts the same characteristics to the scion, including cold hardiness, tolerance to root fungi and nematodes. The tree grown on this rootstock grows to about 1.5 – 2 meters in size which is about half the size of a normal citrus tree depending on the variety of tree. Dwarf Citrus trees grow well and are as strong as general types of citrus trees with the same quality and size of fruit.

For general information on growing citrus trees, click here.

Pruning Fruiting Vines

Grapes

Grape vines are fairly easy-going when it comes to soil types, and seem to tolerate our clayey Melbourne sub-soils pretty well. Check your pH before popping in a grape, as they prefer a neutral to slightly acid soil. Position them in a nice sunny spot with plenty of support in the form of a tough trellis or sturdy fence – grapes grow up to be big and strong, and are certainly capable of yanking down a dodgy dwelling or flimsy fence line!

Grapes are produced on the current season’s growth. There are two types of pruning depending on which type of grape you have selected. There are two methods usually used for pruning grapes, cane pruning or spur pruning. Grapes grown commercially for wine production or fruit are usually spur pruned, however, most home gardeners train the vines over a structure and so cane pruning is used.
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Planting Guide – the ‘how’ and ‘when’

Planting Guide – the ‘how’ and ‘when’

Photo © Bulleen Art & Garden
When it comes to planting good timing helps, but life goes on if you miss it. There are quite a few good horticultural reasons for planting trees, shrubs and perennials in autumn or winter; however life has a habit of ruining all the best laid plans. Plants are unavailable, you simply don’t have time, holidays are scheduled to suit school dates etc. I am often asked in the nursery if it is OK to plant in summer. My answer is that we keep plants alive in the nursery; you can do so at home, it is simply a commitment you make. Sometimes the plant you want isn’t released for sale until the warmer months, so you may have little option.
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Pruning Kiwi Fruit

Pruning Kiwi Fruit

Photo © Bulleen Art & Garden

Kiwi fruit are vigorous deciduous vines that must be pruned and trained to manage them. They are usually pruned in winter when they are dormant, but also require pruning several times during summer after flowering.

These vines are trained in a T-shape with a trunk and two side branches (also called laterals or cordons) that are trained over a pergola or trellis.

Training begins in the first year to establish this shape, and the vines usually begin fruiting by their fourth or fifth year. Kiwifruit vines reach peak production after the eighth year and can live for more than 50 years.

Photo © Bulleen Art & Garden

Steps in Training a Kiwi Vine

First Season – develop a straight trunk that reaches the top of the support.

Second Season – establish main permanent side branches (cordons) and tie down to support structure.

Third Season – prune to create a framework with fruiting canes growing every 20-30cm from the main permanent side branches (cordons).

Fourth Season – the framework of fruiting canes is now established. These fruiting canes may be renewed each year, or pruned so they are retained for 2-3 years and then renewed.

Pruning an Established Kiwi Vine

Kiwifruit produce fruit on current season’s growth that is growing from buds on one year old wood (previous season canes). Shoots growing from older wood are rarely productive.

These vigorous vines are pruned heavily just like grape vines. Up to 70% of the previous season’s growth is removed to renew the fruiting wood.

Female plants produce fruit but male plants only produce flowers for pollination, so each is pruned differently.

Kiwi fruit are pruned both in winter and summer to manage their growth.

Winter Pruning Kiwifruit

The best time to winter prune a kiwi vine is early to mid winter, as later pruning may cause excessive sap flow from the pruning cuts, which can weaken the vine.

Winter pruning female kiwi vines

A female kiwifruit vine is pruned to create a framework which has fruiting cane growing every 20-30cm on either side of the permanent side branches (laterals or cordons). Therefore each metre length of lateral branch will carry 6-10 fruiting canes.

Photo © Bulleen Art & Garden

New fruiting canes usually grow from the base of last year’s canes.

Photo © Bulleen Art & Garden

  • Remove older canes that have already fruited, leaving new fruiting canes growing from the base of last year’s canes, spaced every 20-30cm along the permanent main branch.
  • Shorten these new replacement fruiting canes to a manageable length to force growth of fruiting side branches next season, and tie them to the support wires. Do not twist canes around support wires as this restricts sap flow and the canes may strangle themselves.
  • Remove any canes that are diseased, broken, tangled, crossing or rubbing on other canes.

Any new fruiting canes growing directly from the cordon may be left to replace older wood in the future. Any spurs (short fruiting branches with buds close together) which usually grow from the older wood, such as the main cordon itself, should be left as they are very productive.

Winter pruning male kiwi vines

The only purpose of male kiwi fruit vines is to produce flowers for pollination, and since they grow more vigorously than the females, their pruning requirements are slightly different.

  • The winter pruning of male vines is actually carried out much later in spring, straight after flowering.
  • After flowering prune back the canes to 15-30cm long. The new growth produced in summer will produce flowers in the following year.

Summer Pruning Kiwifruit

In summer kiwi fruit will grow very vigorously, and most of this new growth should be removed.

  • If the kiwi vine has fruited, cut back the canes to 3-4 buds (leaves) after the fruit so the vine puts its energy into developing the fruit rather than more green growth.
  • Prune back all vigorous upright growth (water shoots) back to two buds.
  • If fruit is shaded it will not ripen, so prune away all other green growth except for any shoots growing from the base of the fruiting cane. Shorten these to two to three buds to provide next year’s fruiting wood. Other leafy growth can be removed throughout the summer as it arises.
  • After harvesting, the fruited shoots are pruned back to two buds beyond last fruit. By third year cut back to dormant bud near main arm.
  • Remove all suckers or shoots that grow from the trunk during the growing season

Quick guide to pruning ornamental plants in the garden

Many ornamental plants will need some form of pruning at some time. Pruning out dead, diseased and damaged growth, encouraging healthy growth, increasing the density, reducing the size of the plant, prolonging the flowering season and promoting bigger blooms are some reasons why pruning is used in the cultivation of plants.

As long as pruning cuts are made in the correct position and cleanly, the plant will heal. Using special paint to seal the cuts is not usually necessary if the cuts are made correctly with clean pruning equipment. Always use pruning equipment appropriate to the size of the branches you will cut. The most commonly used pruning tools are secateurs, loppers and pruning saws. When tying up stems, use soft flexible ties and allow for some movement of the stem. Remember to regularly check and remove ties, as these cause significant damage to plants if they are left on unchecked.

Position of the pruning cut

When making pruning cuts on smaller stems and branches, the position of the cut is just above a node. A node is where a bud, leaf or stem emerges from a branch. The internode is the space along the branch between the nodes. If the cut is made too far into the internode, then the branch usually dies back to the node. This area of die back is a potential entry point for disease.

Note: The angle of the cut is not as important as getting the position right. Ideally, the cut should angle slightly away from the bud so that water is directed away from the bud. Do not cut on a sharp angle as this makes a large wound and may damage the bud.

When pruning main branches, the cut should be positioned so that the branch – bark ridge and the collar are not damaged. The branch – bark ridge can be seen on most trees. It is the ridge of bark on the top side of the attachment point where the branch is attached to the trunk. The collar is harder to see, but it is the swollen area underneath the attachment point of the branch to the trunk. Even if you cannot see it, the collar is still there and should not be damaged. The pruning cut should be made just outside this area.

If you leave a large stub, then this usually dies back and is an entry point for disease. Undercutting a branch before cutting is recommended, particularly on larger branches, as this prevent the bark tearing and damaging the branch collar. Avoid damaging the bark, as this can cause significant damage to the tree and provides a potential entry point for disease.

Other plants

Plant

When to Prune

How to Prune

Clematis

After flowering and in late July

After flowering prune off around half the growth. In late July prune to the 2nd or 3rd set of strong buds. Prune out all weak growth altogether.

Wisteria

Winter and Late Spring

Prune back laterals to the 1st or 2nd bud in winter. After flowering in late spring prune back long wispy growth.

Hydrangeas

Either in February or in winter

Prune flowering stems back to the first set of plump buds. Prune dead and weak growth out at the base.

Bulbs and Lilies

After flowering, when the foliage dies off/ is yellow or brown.

Ideally you should be able to pull the foliage off the top of the bulb easily. For Liliums prune the foliage back to just above the ground.

Azaleas

Late spring

Prune after flowering. May be pruned back hard to promote bushy growth.

Grevilleas, Banksias and Callistemons

After flowering

Prune back just behind the flower.

Salvias

Late summer, winter

Prune back by half in late summer and hard in winter

Canna Lilies

Winter

Prune back stems that have flowered to 15cm above the ground.

Lilac

Early Summer, Winter

Prune behind the spent flowers in early summer. Prune lightly for shape in winter.

Hibiscus

Spring

Prune out old, dead and weak growth and prune to shape.

Camellias

Spring

Prune to shape only. May be cut back hard to rejuvenate old bushes.

Lavender

After flowering

Deadhead, then prune back foliage by one third. Do not prune back into old bare woody stems. Old bushes best replaced.

Miscanthus

Winter

Can keep old flower heads through much of winter, then prune back to approximately 10cm above ground.

Weeping Cherries

Winter

Prune young weepers to outward facing bud to encourage a thicker canopy.

English box

Spring

Clip through the growing season as required.

Conifers

Early Spring. Mid Summer

Be wary of pruning hard into bare woody stems. Prune lightly in early spring. Prune very lightly in summer, only if needed.

Fucshias

August and throughout the growing season

More severe pruning in August to allow a strong framework of branches for the new growth. After each flush of flowers pinch the tips back.

Gardenias

Spring

On younger plants light pruning only is necessary. On older plants more severe pruning will encourage bushier growth