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Fruit tree forms

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The shapes of most fruit trees can be manipulated by pruning and training in order to increase yield, or to improve their suitability for different situations and conditions. Pruning a tree to a pyramid shape means that trees can be planted closer together. An open bowl or cup form increases the penetration of sunlight, thus encouraging a high fruit yield whilst keeping the tree short and easy to pick from. Other shapes such as cordons, espaliers and fans offer opportunities for growing trees two dimensionally against walls or fences, or can themselves be trained as barriers.


Bush trees are the traditional open goblet shaped form, with a clear lower stem.

Cordons are single stemmed trees with fruiting spurs planted at an angle. Any side branches are removed by pruning. cordons take less space and crop earlier than most other forms which means that more varieties can be got into a small space, but yields are smaller per tree.

Espaliers have a central vertical trunk with three or four horizontal branches each side.

Fans have a short central trunk with several radiating branches growing from the crown.

Step-over espaliers have single horizontal branches at 1’ from the ground and make a novel and productive border to the vegetable plot.

All of these shapes require training by tying the branches to the required form, and pruning to retain the desired structure. This is usually carried out in autumn for major cutting back and late summer for light trimming. Autumn pruning encourages woody growth whilst late summer pruning encourages fruiting. Not all trees will accept all of the shapes above- apples and pears do well as cordons and espaliers for example, whereas cherries prefer to be fanned.


Yield and spacing[edit]

Apples and pears Yield Spacing
Apples Pears In rows Rows apart
Bush 25–50 kg 20–45 kg 4–5 m 4–5 m
Dwarf bush 15–25 kg 10–20 kg 2.5–5 m 2.5–5 m
Dwarf pyramid 5–7 kg 3–5 kg 1.5–2 m 2 m
Espalier (two tier) 10–12 kg 7–10 kg 3–6 m 2 m
Fan 5–15 kg 5–15 kg 4–5 m -
Single cordon 2–4 kg 2–3 kg 0.5–1 m 2 m
Standard 50–200 kg 40–100 kg 6–10 m 6–10 m
Other tree fruits Yield Spacing
In rows Rows apart
Bush (sour cherry) 15–20 kg 4–5 m 4–5 m
Bush (plum and peach) 15–30 kg 4–5 m 4–5 m
Bush, standard (sweet cherry) 15–50 kg 5–12 m 5–12 m
Fan (all stone fruits) 7–15 kg 4–5 m -
Fan (sweet cherry) 6–15 kg 5-7.5 m -
Pyramid (plum) 15–25 kg 3–4 m 3–4 m
Standard (plum, peach and apricot) 15–50 kg 5-7.5 m 5-7.5 m
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