Amongst fruit tree suppliers we at Suffolk Fruit and Trees offer a comprehensive service, including espalier fruit trees for sale – as well as cordon trees, stepover trees and fan trained fruit trees. These are all useful configurations where space is limited. To order espalier, cordon, stepover and fan trees, just go to the varieties page, select the varieties, and specify your tree training requirements in the Special Instructions window. We can help you in the choice of the right tree variety and rootstock, train the trees, and deliver them to your door.

Our prices for trained trees are as follows:

Two-Tree Orchard Pack for pre-trained trees – fan or espalier
Two fruit trees, pre-trained with a bamboo frame in place ready for planting as a fan or espalier. Price £70 plus £16 P&P.

Single fan/espalier pre-trained tree: £36 plus £16 P&P
Single cordon tree: £24 plus £16 P&P


Fruit tree development

The free-standing tree

A fruit tree consists of a rootstock, onto which is grafted the variety of fruit. The best rootstock for the average garden is MM106, but if space is limited, M26 may be more suitable. In fact the rootstock determines the final tree size.
It should be remembered that different fruit varieties generate differing tree shapes. For example, apple trees are naturally more spreading, while pears and plums tend to be more vertical in their growth.

Tree development

First year after plantingdevel1

If the tree has been properly planted, and grass and weeds are kept at bay in the area in which tree roots are trying to become established, new shoot growth should appear during the summer months (the tree will have been planted during dormancy, from December to March). This new shoot growth is the material available to form the tree’s permanent framework as shown in the diagram. Shoots 1, 2 and 3 are new shoots. Shoots 4 and 5 are those already present on a 2-year old tree when planted.
At this early stage, pruning should be absolutely minimal, because pruning delays cropping. Minimal pruning is recommended for years 1, 2 and 3 after planting.


Second year after planting

These operations should be carried out in the period from December to March. Branches 1, 3 and 6 in the diagram should be tied down and spaced out using string running from the base of the stake. The leading branch 2 should be left upright. Branches 4 and 5 are tied down almost flat, and they will become the first cropping wood.
Framework branches 1, 3, 4, 5 and 6 should be pruned only if growth has been weak. In this case, they should be cut back by a third of their length. The central leader should be pruned so that it is no higher than the length of a secatur above the average height of all the upright branches.

Third year after plantingdevel3

As shown in the diagram, continue to build the crown of the tree by spacing the branches for maximum light utilization, again by tying down branches. The tree will now be cropping.


Espalier training: information and tips

The espalier is a useful method of training fruit trees, and it is becoming increasingly popular in the garden because it is ideal for positions adjacent to a wall or a fence, and occupies a minimum space. It can also be used as an attractive separation or screen between different parts of a garden.

To buy espalier fruit trees, just visit our Tree Varieties page, and place a no-obligation provisional order by selecting the varieties you are interested in, and specifying that you are looking to buy espalier fruit trees in the Special Instructions window.
In the espalier system, the tree comprises a central stem and horizontal fruiting branches. It is very important to train the tree correctly in order to achieve a tree that produces good fruit on all the horizontal branches for the next 20 years or so. The points set out below are the fundamental principles that should be followed to achieve that objective.

Do not train the branches – bringing them down to a near horizontal position – until the sap in the tree is running vigorously. This means that training can be performed from around mid-May.

Another important point: install the first wire only after the trees have arrived. All trees are different and so the height of the first wire from the ground can vary from 40 cm to even 70 or 80 cm.
In the first year of training, you will form the first tier of the espalier, and therefore you will create a tree with three branches: the two side branches, and the upward leading branch. In mid-May, tie the two lower side branches to an angle of about 60 degrees (from the horizontal). The first two branches will be anything from 40 cm to 75 cm above soil level, depending on the variety, purpose and positioning of the tree. At this stage, you can remove all other competing branches from the tree, so that growth will be concentrated in the three branches you need (fig. 4).

Wait until the second week of August, and only then, lower the two side branches to the horizontal. This delay in timing is very important. If you lower the branches to the horizontal position too early in the growing season, the upright vertical leading branch will absorb all the nutrients and the first tier of the espalier will be too weak in future years.

During the last week of August, remove all surplus upright growth from the espalier frame work. Then cut a notch in the upright branch above the first horizontal tier, at a height corresponding to where you would like the next tier to be formed the following year. This is usually about 18 inches above the first tier. The depth of the notch should be about a third of the thickness of the upright branch. It stimulates the tree to produce branches at exactly that point. Please note that the measurements on Fig. 5 are approximate, and as mentioned above, will vary according to variety, purpose and position.



espal6The following year, build the next layer of the espalier, following the same routine as the previous year (fig. 6). Prune in Spring as shown in fig. 6.




The following August, establish the final tier of the espalier, selecting two branches and training down to a 90 degree angle (fig. 7).

The tree should be fertilized with a tree feed such as “Growmore”, following the instructions on the package. Spread the product evenly over an area of 3 square feet around the trunk .

During the growing season (May-October), keep the area under the tree canopy free from weeds, and from grass in particular.

Only prune in the winter once the tree is in full production and therefore is in need of spur replacement.


A common mistake, and one that can have serious consequences, is forcing the tree to grow upwards too quickly, without giving enough time to properly establish the lower limbs of the espalier. The most useful espalier which requires least maintenance in later years, is a tree in which the diameter of the lower arms are of double thickness compared to the top arms of the espalier. Good quality fruit is then produced at all levels of the espalier, and not just on the top layer.

This can be achieved by means of skilful pruning, bearing in mind that shoots in an upright position always grow more strongly than more horizontal ones.

We can supply apple varieties suitable for espaliered trees. The varieties available for planting next autumn are:
James Grieve, Lord Lambourne, Greensleeves, Laxton Fortune, Ashmead Kernel, Peasgood Nonsuch, Rubinette, Egremont Russet, Blenheim Orange, Red Pippin and many others.

Fan training

Morello cherries, plums, peaches, nectarines and apricots, so-called stone fruit trees, are often more suited to fan training than espalier or open bush patterns. This to a degree depends on the vigour of the trees and the place where they are going to be planted.

If you are looking for fan trained fruit trees for sale, just visit our Tree Varieties page, and place a no-obligation provisional order by selecting the varieties you are interested in, and specifying that you are looking to buy fan-trained fruit trees in the Special Instructions window.

The fan is really a variation on the espalier, except that instead of being held horizontally, branches are trained into a flat fan shape, with two main branches growing outwards at 45°. This angle makes it easier to control growth, when compared with the espalier. In addition, over a number of years the number of branches in the fan can reach from 8 to 10, ensuring good light penetration into the tree structure.

fan8If the tree you are using is a one-year old tree, cut it back to 15 inches above soil level. This should be done in February/March. Remember to seal the pruning cuts with a sealing compound to prevent infection by the spores carrying various tree diseases.
In early June (see fig. 8), select two strong growing shoots, close to the tip of the tree, and tie them to canes set at an angle of 45 degrees. Remove all other shoots. Always use bio-degradable tying materials, to prevent the risk of the ties growing in and strangling the two selected branches. As the two branches develop further during the growing season, tie them again along the upper part of the bamboo canes.


fan9If the two trained branches have grown well, in the following February, cut both branches back to twelve inches from the point where they started to grow last February (fig.9). This will provide in total 10 buds, which we will now use to develop the main frame of the fan shape. New shoots will start to grow from these buds. Select four shoots on each side of the fan and tie them again on bamboo canes set out in such a way that they fill the fan space over the 180-degree arching area available (see fig. 10 below). However, leave the centre of the fan unoccupied, in order to maintain good growth in the basic framework.

Once this has been successfully completed, cropping will follow, mainly on one year-old wood. Once that wood has carried a crop, it needs to be cut out to make room for the new one year-old wood. The best time to do this is not during the winter months, but immediately after the crop has been picked. If any sub laterals develop, cut them back to 3 to 4 inches, if there is room available.


The cordon system

If you are looking for cordon fruit trees for sale , just visit our Tree Varieties page, and place a no-obligation provisional order by selecting the varieties you are interested in, and specifying that you are looking to buy cordon fruit trees in the Special Instructions window.

Where space is limited, most apples and some pear varieties are suitable to be trained as cordons. A cordon is a tree planted at an angle of 45 degrees, supported and trained along a fence or a wall. Along the wall or fence, horizontal wires are positioned at a height of two, four and six feet. A six-foot bamboo cane is fastened to the wires at a 45-degree angle, at two-foot intervals. These trees are based on the maintenance and supply of short laterals along the main stem of the tree. The first laterals should be in place at approximately 40 cm above soil level. It is essential that the union of the tree is 1.5 to 2 inches above the soil level. For very deep and fertile soils, the M9 rootstock is suitable. However for most situations, M26 is the best rootstock for a cordon tree. On very hungry soils, it might be possible to use the stronger stock MM106 to good effect.

Plant the trees 60 cm apart after having made very sure the soil does not lay wet during the winter or summer months. If drainage is faulty, the trees will suffer badly from tree canker. As a result, the life of the tree is short and the fruit will have a short shelf life. It is also essential that the soil is well prepared in advance, during September and October, while the soil is still warm and friable. Dig over, for each tree, an area of at least 60 x 60 cm. Before you add the essential organic matter such as well rotted farmyard manure to the soil, make sure that the subsoil is well loosened with a rigid tine fork, so that water can always drain away quickly. Tree roots need lots of oxygen and where water is standing around the roots, oxygen is not available. The trees literally suffocate, if this is not corrected!

Summer pruning is essential to ensure that the tree stays within the limited space available.

Pruning must not be carried out during the late autumn or winter months. The cordon tree performs best when pruned during the summer months. The first pruning should be performed by the middle of July in the south of England. For the middle and north of England, start pruning seven to ten days later. Cut all the newly-formed shoots back to five leaves lengths. One newly-formed shoot per growth point is enough. When doubles occur, bring them back to single shoots. By the middle of September, cut the same shoots back to three-leaf lengths. As sub-laterals are formed in later years, cut these back to one leaf lengths. The aim is to create strong fruit buds on two to three-year old wood, as well as spurs. These well-budded-up lengths of wood can be up to nine inches long. Leave these lengths of wood intact as fruit buds will have formed along these two-year old shoots. Some varieties will produce fruit on one-year old wood. All the same, in order not to exhaust the trees, it is best to halve these shoots by the first week of June. Thin the fruits to one fruit per cluster. The fruits will have to be spaced six inches apart to form good-sized fruits.

When the cordon has reached the top wire, it is important to make sure that all new growth does not occur at the top of the tree only. To that effect, lower the complete cordon, initially to a 40-degree angle. In later years, it is possible to lower it to the final angle of 35 degrees. As the trees become older, thin out the fruit spurs and encourage new replacement wood to form in its place.


Please note that the diagonal ochre posts are in fact 1.80 metre lengths of bamboo canes. The trees need to be tied to these canes, firstly because it is essential to maintain the 45 degree angle. This can later be lowered to 35 degrees, if growth is unevenly spread over the total length of the tree. The bamboo canes are also used because trees tied to wire are at risk, because the trees can very easily grow into the wire, which can cause severe damage to the trees, resulting in canker and branch breakages. In addition, it is important that the union of the trees is at least 4 cm above soil level.


Stepover trees


If you are looking for stepover fruit trees for sale , just visit our Tree Varieties page, and place a no-obligation provisional order by selecting the varieties you are interested in, and specifying that you are looking to buy stepover fruit trees in the Special Instructions window.

There are certain apple varieties which can be used to plant along the edge of a bed or next to a path. In this format, the trunk of the apple tree runs parallel to the ground at something like 8 inches above soil level. The formation of this tree form can be done in various ways. However the most important requirement is that the formation pruning should never carried out during the winter months when the trees are dormant. Various stages of summer pruning are carried out, on a monthly basis from late June until the middle of September. This is to encourage the formation of fruit buds all along the main stem, close to the horizontal trunk. Secondly, ideally, moderate new growth needs to occur along the whole length of the stem. Depending on the soil depth and soil quality, the rootstocks suitable for these types of trees are M9 and M26. Tip-bearing varieties are not suitable, nor are very vigorous varieties.Good results have been achieved by the use of the following varieties:
James Grieve, Katy, Greensleeves, Egremont Russet, Howgate Wonder, Lord Lambourne, Ellisons Orange, Sunset, Pixie, Red Pippin, Red Falstaff, Norfolk Beefing and Royal Gala.

Formation of the structure of a stepover tree
Always make sure the union of the tree is at least 3 inches above soil level. As over time the union of the tree will greatly swell in size, the risk of scion rooting should not be underestimated. Ideally the two newly-formed main branches should be of the same thickness and the same length. This can be achieved by pruning the tree back, after it has been planted, to a height of approx. 10 inches. Of the new growth appearing in the early summer months, two shoots running parallel with the edge of the bed should be selected, and the remaining shoots rubbed out, early during the growing season, early in June. These two shoots should be left to grow, uncut, but gradually lowered to a final horizontal position by the end of September.

The following season, you will see new growth appearing all along the horizontal branches. It is very important to pinch out the growing tips of the newly-forming vertical shoots as soon as 5 inches of length has been established. By the middle of July these shoots are cut back again to 4 inches. New growth will occur again. The shoots are now cut back again, by the middle of September, to 2 inches in length. All being well, fruit buds will now have formed along the base of the main horizontal stem.

The trick is to make sure that these fruit buds set fruit the following season. This can be achieved by ensuring that good cross-pollination occurs every new season. For this reason, two compatible varieties should be planted The stepover trees need to be planted approx 8 feet apart, depending on the quality of the soil and the rootstock used.


An interesting observation can be seen from heavily-laden mature fruit trees which have been blown over by strong gales and are left in a near horizontal position close to the ground. As long as 10% of the roots are still undamaged, these trees are capable of starting a new life, with the trunk actually lying on the ground. This knowledge can be used to good effect in the construction of stepover trees.

Stepover trees in containers
As long as trees are well watered and fed, they are perfectly viable when grown in containers, and in fact become easier to control in terms of growth. Sizeable containers can be used, sunk into the ground, from which two young maiden trees can be planted, WITHOUT HAVING TO CUT BACK THE TREES. It is essential that these containers have large-sized drainage holes from which new roots can find their way into the soil. Often the new shoot growth occurring along the full length of these trees is easier to control, compared with the traditional formation of stepover trees as outlined above.


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