Espalier apple trees

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Hi Jack,

I was watching your espalier video which was super helpful. I attached a picture of two dwarf apple trees I got last year. One was a whip and the other was slightly older with maybe two branches or so. I planted them against my fence in the spring of 2022 and summer pruned them last year and this year. I was just pruning them so they would grow into small trees but the design of my garden has changed and I am wondering is it too late to espalier them? Would I need to cut them completely off where I would want the first two lowest branches to shoot out like you showed in the movie? Would this kill them? I know I would loose time. I was also thinking I could bend the branches still and have them grow espalier style but not be symmetrical because of course my last two years of pruning I wasn’t thinking about this. So I guess my question is if these were your trees would you try to back track to espalier them and if so how? Or would you let them continue to grow into trees because it is too late to espalier them?
Thanks Jack!
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jack oostenbrink
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The trees have had a nice opportunity to put down some roots. As a result if you do the hard cut back in early spring, the tree will respond by pushing out some strong new growth which you can train for your espalier. Because they are partially established you will likely get two tiers if not the start of a third in the first year and apples in the second year. You have got some nice leafy buds at the lower part of the main stem, if you cut above those you will certainly get some nice shoots to work with in forming your new espalier.
Your other option to bend and tie existing branches to the fence will work and you will not lose a year of fruiting. You will not get a perfectly formed espalier with even tiers but you will gain a compact tree that is flat against the fence. At this point it really depends on what kind of final look you want to achieve, if symmetry and balance are important to you then cut it back and start over.
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