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Espalier apple: spur varieties are good or bad?

14 years ago

This newbie appreciates all the helpful comments earlier about McIntosh cultivars! A comment from myk1 intrigued me:

I suggest getting a spur type for espalier. My non-spur type got flakey after years of constant pruning.

So I thought, spur for espalier = good. Sounds like a plan!

Then I found this NAFEX archive regarding espalier varieties.
"A true spur type has more to do with the trees overall habit which is extremely compact (vs the original) and buds form closer together. After a few years, they often become 'spur-bound' or so many fruiting spurs form that the entire vascular system is overwhelmed which equals small or weak flower buds and smaller fruit. Also, they are typically more difficult to thin."

Umm, so that makes me wonder about the possible downsides of spur types. Further confusing me, The Home Orchard by the UC ANR states "Spur-type varieties do poorly on dwarfing rootstocks; they are best grown on seedling rootstocks." What?! Sounds incompatible with espalier...

My last concern was that unless "spur" is in the name -- e.g., "Macspur" -- I wouldn't recognize the spur types. However, that NAFEX archive linked to a

USDA site describing tree bearing habits. That NAFEX discussion did not seem to resolve anyone's questions, but my interpretation is that at least some folks thought those listed as Type 2 (Spur) or Type 3 (Standard bearing habit) would make the best espalier.

myk1 an others, could you comment on the longevity of your espalier with spur and non-spur types? Can I try both in one fence row? I know there is no substitute for experience, but I have a small yard without much room to play, so I'm hoping to get off to as good a start as possible! You have all been so helpful already. Today I ordered the American Horticultural Society Pruning & Training book, so maybe that can help guide me also. I would love any other suggestions or pointers.

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