I often get people asking me how to train a goblet tree - a tree in the shape of a wine glass. They are easy to make, easy to maintain, and if any fruit falls off, the tree is so low that it's undamaged - at least, if your tree is grown over grass.
Here's a typical question:
I've just bought some Laxton's Fortune on M9, as a fan; will I be able to train them into the "goblet" shape? The nursery recommends M26 for cordons, espaliers, etc.
You shouldn't have a problem making goblet trees from your M9 fans. If anything they're a bit on the weak side so the end result will be fairly small; it will also take longer than with a more vigorous stock. The order of vigour is as follows: (weakest to strongest): M27, M9, M26, MM106, MM111, M25. The last two are not suitable for training into miniatures,
I have several free-growing M26 trees which have struggled to reach 8ft in 8 years. One M9 tree never reached 6ft in 15 years. I think the figures given by books about tree sizes tend to assume ideal conditions and exaggerate the sizes slightly.
I now use MM106 for miniature trees. These are OK but you have to keep on top of them. My goblet tree is on M26; very similar to M9.
You can train a tree in any shape you like. But remember you must let the tree do its own thing during May, June, July, and most of August. Vertical shoots grow fast. If you start bending and pruning them into shape too early in the summer, you'll find they will stop growing, and you won't have enough to work with at the end of the season. (in fact if you have a tree which you're trying to get symmetrical, you can raise or lower branches a little to speed up / slow down growth and equalise the sizes ). You let all the shoots grow vertically till about mid August, when they should be a couple of feet long. Then you start to bend them into position whilst still supple. Don't leave then until late Sept / Oct because they will have stiffened and won't want to bend.
With my latest goblet tree I kept cutting back in Feb for about 3 years until I had about 12 strong branches growing from more or less the same point, then in the 4th year bent the branches over, by the tips, in August, using a framework of twelve stakes arranged in a circle (two inch square tanalised timber with circles of fencing wire at the top and halfway up). The next year, the tips turned up and grew vertically, forming the "sides" of the goblet.
If unwanted strong shoots appear near the centre of the tree, remove superfluous ones (assuming you have enough branches to form the goblet) when still small. Any strong shoots appearing at the top of each arched branch should also be taken off.
But there really are no rules....watch what happens
as they grow, and get to know how a tree responds when you
prune bits off.....you'll get a better tree if you prune too often
than if you prune too rarely.
Nigel Deacon / Diversity Website
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