Heck, we love trees. Just putting that out there. We. Love. Trees. We love them in all shapes and forms, we have seen red woods in California and wept at the sheer size of them, we have seen bonsai in Croyden and wept at how middle aged people with tiny scissors just wouldn't leave them alone. We weep for trees. We don't like people who cut them down without a good reason. Cutting a tree down is like placing duct tape over your mouth and nose. Trees are fabulous. Even at Drovers in our tiny postage stamp front garden we introduced the apple arch, this is where you take that dull path from gate to door and create a tunnel of fruit trees. Yes, you can have your own magical entrance to your home and once a year you can eat what grows there. That's how committed we are to trees. The first thing we planted at Pig Row, with any permanence, was an orchard with such varieties as Flower of the Town, Hunthouse, Fillingham Pippin and the cooking apple, Balsam (the one before Bramley) and all of them had links to this county, this area, these hills. We started with eight trees and are now up to ten in the orchard as we have learnt more and ended up having a tetanus for them. We have given our trees, water, love, sweat and blood. No part of the garden is without one, there are thirteen in the cottage garden, one in the field and ten up in the orchard. When we redesigned the cottage garden the first thing we said was apples, then pears and then cherries. We have learnt how to prune fruit trees, taken courses on grafting fruit trees and even know how to fan train cherries. Now that winter is truly gone, though there are rumours of hailstone two valleys across but they're all barmy over there so take it with a pinch of salt, we need to sort out our cordons in the cottage garden.
You may grow cordons or even own a family tree (this is where some idiot has taken three different varieties with three different growing needs and grafted them onto one tree. Don't be surprised if: a. it dies, or; b. only one variety of apple seems to grow on it after a couple of years, and then it dies) and it is easy to forget cordons. They're so cordial. They sit on our boundaries, like espaliers and fans and they become part of the standing structure of the garden, you forget they're there. We forgot to prune our fan cherries this year because we loved the blossom too much. Yet an hour spent fussing over them now will pay amazing dividends later on. You need get in between them and check all the ties. If you use string it advisable to cut this off and treat the cordon to new string. Never use wire to tie in trees because you'll forget it's there and it will garrote the tree. Likewise, so will plastic coated string. Use jute. It's good to use, it's organic and will rot down and it sounds good on the tongue. Jute. If your cordons are young, as our's are, this is also a great chance to decrease the angle of growth. You are recommended to plant cordons on a forty-five degree angle but we know people who grow them at twenty-five degrees and less. We know cordons that have fallen over. We go for around thirty-five degrees. For the keen eyed, you will see in the photo that the bamboo canes used to tie onto are themselves tied to a wire support with cable ties. We use cable ties to tie onto the cross wires because they don't rot, they're strong and they're easy to use. Remember though that you DO NOT USE CABLE TIES TO TIE THE TREE TO THE BAMBOO CANES. See our earlier reason. Think James Bond and some henchman. Ggouukkkk. Throttle. Ggouukkkk. When tying the trees to the bamboo and wire support, loop the string around the tree trunk and then cross over the ends of the string, as if tying a knot on the trunk, then loop around the bamboo cane. If you were looking down at the string it would look like a figure of eight: 8.
The mid-section of the shape: 8, will stop the trunk rubbing on the bamboo cane but before knotting the string make sure there is some give in your figure of 8. This allows for growth over the coming year but also allows the cordon to move a little. Movement in trees is a good thing, it strengthens roots and promotes growth. We then mulch our cordons with compost and give them a thorough soaking. Later in the year we will show you how to prune apples and pears in the summer months.
If you want further information on the types of fruit trees you can cordon, do visit this wonderful post at the RHS.