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Fan, cordon, bush, espalier or step over...…..

45 odd years ago my father had a go at growing a peach tree on the side of our garage. It would have been a south facing wall. For what must have been 10 years he tended that tree, and as far as I can remember it might have only ever rewarded us with one or two peaches!

I suspect that through a combination of cooler weather and location - south west England - and perhaps the wrong type of tree meant that we were destined to wait in vain.

Nowadays however the supply of different types and varieties of fruit tree mean that we can all have a go at successfully growing fruit of our own. We've got a plum and apple tree in the garden of our Victorian terrace at home. The garden isn't that big but on Pixy and M26 semi-dwarfing rootstocks, and with some judicious pruning Victoria and Katy are flourishing!

Where we have more space at the allotment we have the same trees - along with a Bramley - on the same rootstocks but where we have more space we tend to prune them less. Don't tell the allotment rep though - she often glares as she thinks the fruit trees were bought from the local supermarket, are on a different rootstock and are out of control...……..

Earlier this year we bought four maiden pear trees and set up some posts and straining wires to have a go at growing them as espaliers. It seemed such a waste to cut off so many healthy shoots but by concentrating the growth into three main ones - two side shoots and one lateral - we know that in the years to come it will have made good sense. They're doing really well and we're looking forward to next spring when we can start to develop the second tier.

Over here in the Ardeche there are several good examples where a similar approach has been adopted. And unlike back in Bristol, and the saga of the peach, there's evidence of success!

Where the peach tree was trained as a fan against the wall to try and ensure it benefitted from as much sun and warmth as possible, here the weather means that these pear trees can be grown in rows and in the open.

As with so many plants here (where it really is hot and sunny) there is an irrigation system to make sure the trees get a regular drink!

Here you can see how the trees have been grown as fans. In this case there are two main branches that grow from near the base of the tree.

You can see the supporting post on the right and if you look closely the wires that would originally have supported the branches.

Normally and if we were growing them at home we'd plant them no less than 8' apart but here they've been planted closer together. We think they look great!

And soon it'll be the right time of the year to start thinking about any trees that you might want for your own garden or - dare we say it - your allotment! When we get back to Somerset we'll write something about the different types of rootstock and the merits of fan, cordon, bush, espalier and stepovers .

In the meantime have another look at the pears here in France.

And yes. I did. Try the pear.

Sadly it wasn't ripe or juicy. Needed a few more weeks on the tree I think before it fell to the ground!


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