No sooner had I finished the hedges, it was back up that ladder again – fruit trees this time. In the Walled Garden, we have a variety of espalier, fan-trained, pillar and free-
standing apples, pears and plums, some, we think, dating back to when the garden was originally planted around the 1850’s. All have to be hand-pruned with secateurs each year, as otherwise their tops will become too heavy and they will succumb to high winds. They would also become less fruitful, putting their energy into growth and not flower, and I don’t fancy teetering on yet higher ladders to reach the prize! That said, some varieties are clearly on more vigorous rootstocks than others, judging by the amount of growth they put on each year, ranging from almost none to 60cm plus.
Incidentally, we only do an annual winter prune, although the books tell you to do a summer prune too; time doesn’t allow this, but it doesn’t appear to affect the productivity of the trees.
And yes, it’s fiddly and time-consuming, you get cold feet and hands even if you’re wearing warm socks and gloves but it’s worth it in May when they all come to life, one after the other – a mass of white and pink scented blooms followed by just the freshest apple-green foliage.