New Workshops for 2016 – Fraser Valley Continuing Education

Espalier Training of Fruit Trees

Wednesday February 24 – 7:00 pm – 9:30 pm Credo Christian High, LANGLEY

During this workshop, Tree Fruit Expert and Espalier Master, Richard Hallman, will teach you about espalier;  the ancient horticultural practice of controlling woody plant growth for the production of fruit for ornamental effect. Espalier is living art that developed long before the science of plant growth was understood. Dozens of espalier forms and how to create them will be discussed including the classic two dimensional forms and several three dimensional forms. You will learn how to start new espalier fruit trees, how to renew and maintain existing trees and what types of fruit trees are best for beginners and those that are more challenging. Rootstocks, training techniques, summer pruning and support systems will all be included. You can contact the instructor by e-mail at

For more information and to register click here:FV Continuing Education

Dormant Organic Fruit Tree Insect & Disease Control

Wednesday March 9 – 7:00 pm – 9:30 pm        Credo Christian High, LANGLEY

During this workshop, Tree Fruit Expert Richard Hallman, will teach you about the insects and diseases that attack fruit trees in the Fraser Valley and organic ways to control them. You will learn how to identify and monitor for them, how to determine if they will cause significant damage to your fruit, their life cycles and the times during the spring and summer when they usually become a problem. How to tell the good insects (predators) from the bad guys and how to encourage the good guys will be included. Many organic methods of control that can be used during the spring and summer will be discussed. Many of the materials and tools that you can use to monitor for these insects and diseases and protect your trees and fruit will be displayed and demonstrated in the classroom.

For more information and to register click here:FV Continuing Education

Tree Growth – Tipping Apically Dominant Shoots

When you prune an apple shoot by cutting into last years growth, you remove the Budbreak1apical bud and eliminate the apical dominance that it had over the lateral buds just below it on the shoot. This type of cut is also called tipping. Removing the apical bud in the dormant season (November through March) usually results in the upper most buds just below the cut growing into 5 to 7 new branches as in the attached pictures. These new branches quickly reestablish apical dominance over the buds lower down on the shoot. The uppermost bud grows into the most vertical dominant shoot. The next bud (sometimes the next two) usually develop a sharp upright angled connection with the trunk of the tree. Sharp upright angled branch connection are Youne apple treeweak connections that are likely to split in the years to come when there is a lot of weight from the branch itself, fruit, snow and wind. These more upright branches are also more vigorous than flatter angled branches resulting in the production of fewer flower buds.

The third, fourth and fifth shoots usually develop into flatter angled branches with strong connections to the tree trunk (or main stem) and weaker growth. These weaker growing flatter angled branches are the most desirable type of future structural and apple producing branches.

Learn More About Growing Fruit Trees

Apple branchLearn how to care for your fruit trees with your garden as the classroom. I will come to your garden in-person in the Greater Vancouver Area or provide training and coaching via the internet. Some of the topics that can be included:

  • Evaluating the health of your trees
  • Pruning  – dormant and summer seasons
  • Training your trees to any size or shape
  • Putting more quality fruit on your trees

Training can be one-on-one or in a small group of family and friends. Leave a comment or send me an e-mail to set up a training date or to start internet based training and coaching.


Tree Growth – Apical Dominance

Verticle ShootApical dominance is the key reason why we are able to direct the growth of trees to achieve the goals we have for them. The pear shoot in this picture is growing vertically during midsummer. There is a bud at the top or apical end of this shoot. This apical bud is responsible for all the growth you see in the picture. There are several other buds on this branch, they are very small buds attached to the stem just above each leaf. These buds are called lateral buds. The apical bud produces a plant hormone (an auxin) that travels downward inside the stem as though pulled by gravity. This hormone prevents the lateral buds from growing. When trees produce very long shoots (sometimes several feet long) in one year with no side branches, they are strongly apically dominant. If some or all of the lateral buds grow into branches in the same year, the trees are weakly apically dominant. Apples and pears are strongly apically dominant, peaches are weakly apically dominant.

When only the apical bud grows, the result is a long single shoot. If the apical dominance is weak and apical bud plus some of the lateral buds grow, the result is many shorter shoots, a bush shape rather than a long single shoot. The reason for this is the growth energy of the tree is now being shared between several shoots so they are all shorter than when only one shoot is growing.

Most plants start out strongly apically dominant so they can grow up away from the soil. Plants that do not have this ability are the low growing ground covers. Most plants loose their strong apical dominance in the first year or two. Large trees do not loose their strong apical dominance giving them the ability to grow very tall.

Trees and shrubs growing in situations where there are no restrictions on their growth grow into shapes dictated by their genetic potential. Few gardens provide this type of unrestricted growth for large trees. Through pruning and training our trees we can direct their apical dominance to produce some amazing shapes and forms such as espalier and topiary. Directing the apical dominance of our trees can also result in the production of more high quality fruits, nuts and berries. We can also direct our trees to provide more shade, better screening, windbreaks, stabilization of soils and many other services. Future posts to this blog will discuss how to the achieve goals we have for our trees.

Lee Valley Tools Workshops/Seminars

I will be instructing the following workshops at the Coquitlam Lee Valley Tools in 2014. Please check their online course listings and registration mid November.

  • Pruning and Training Fruit Trees, Nuts and Berries
  • Espalier Training of Trees and Shrubs
  • Tree and Shrub Shaping
  • Grafting and Air layering Trees
  • Tapping West Coast Maple and Birch Trees for Syrup
  • Vegetable Grafting

Your suggestions of other courses you would like to take are very welcome.

Workshops and Courses



Over the next few months I will be instructing a few workshops and courses in the Vancouver BC area. The topics and contact information to register are below. I am always looking for more opportunities to teach about tree training, pruning and grafting, so if you know of such an opportunity, please contact me.

November 16, 2013.

Hands on Apple and Pear Pruning Workshop: 10:00 am – 12 noon. This is a fundraiser for the Vancouver Tree Fruit Project Society. This workshop will take place in the backyard of one of of the tree owners volunteers who allow this project to harvest their fruit for donation to various community groups in Vancouver. During the workshop two mature trees, a pear and an apple will be completely pruned. Participants will learn the critical information they need to know to prune and manage their trees, how to approach pruning large trees and they will also get hands on pruning experience. Click here to register.

November 23, 2013

Put More Fruit on Your Trees: 1:30 – 4:00 pm. A VanDusen Botanical Garden ( education course. Learn techniques to get the most from your apples, pears, plums, apricots and peaches. The topics will include: pruning and training for optimal fruit production, soil, watering and tree nutrition, improving blooms and pollination and caring for your growing fruit till harvest. Click here to register.

November 23, 2013

Prune to Improve Conifers: 10:00 am – 12:30 pm. Learn how to prune and direct the growth of your conifers to improve their look and function.  Understand how the plants naturally grow in order to prune for their long term health. It will include how to fix hedges with holes, repair bad pruning jobs, and how to correct specimen trees with unsightly gaps. If you have a problem plant, bring a picture of it for discussion.

January 25, 2014

Tree Grafting Fun: 10:00 am – 12:30 pm.  A VanDusen Botanical Garden ( education course. Learn how to add a new variety onto a tree in your yard, repair damage to tree trunks, or graft a pollinizer branch on a non-performing tree. Get hands-on practice of safe grafting techniques including chip, whip-and tongue, bridge, tread and bark grafting. This course will also explain the basic botany behind grafting, and will demo tools and machines used by the pros. Bring a sharp, thin bladed knife (a grafting knife if you have one). Click here to register.

February 8, 2014

Grow Tree Fruits in Containers: 10:00 am – 12:30 pm.  A VanDusen Botanical Garden ( education course. Learn how to grow apples, pears, plums, apricots, peaches, figs and other tree fruit in containers on your balcony of patio. Topics will include selecting trees (including rootstocks, varieties and size of tree), containers, soils, pruning and training including espalier training, trees with multiple fruit, and winter protection of your trees. Click here to register.

February 25, 2014

Tree Trickery: Train your trees by directing their growth and forcing them to grow in specific ways. Manipulating tree growth can be cone to create serpent, weeping or twisting ornamental trees, or to espalier fruit trees and more. Learn the techniques of tree training, and where to see interesting examples in Vancouver. Learn how to espalier a woody plant, forming it into a vertical trunk with horizontal branches in a single plane, creating attractive and productive fruit trees for small spaces.

March 22, 2014

Success with Fruit Trees: Grow delicious juicy fruit on your trees in your home garden. Richard will guide you through all aspects of fruit growing including site preparation, general maintenance, pollination and fruit set, pruning, and training. He will also cover how to renew and refresh older trees, and control of common pests and diseases.

Please note. Handouts and other information connected to all of these courses and workshops will be posted on this site. If you wish private one-on-one instruction in person or remotely over the internet, or want to organize a small group workshop using your trees (your trees will get pruned in the process) please contact me.

Stewart Farm Heriatage Orchard Summer Pruning 2

This post is a closer look at the summer pruning cuts to reduce the vigor of the espalier tree at the Stewart Heritage Orchard. The first picture is the branches before cutting

and the second after cutting to 5 leaves. The response to this treatment needs to be monitored and next steps planned for the late dormant period.

Stewart Farm Heriatage Orchard Summer Pruning 1

Two days ago I was doing some summer pruning at the Stewart Heritage Orchard where I am a volunteer focused on orchard management. Summer pruning of apples to manage the growth of the trees and produce more fruiting spurs is usually done in mid  to late July, so this is an ideal time for this type of work.

The variety of this tree is Ahmead’s Kernal, an old variety identified in 1720 in England. All apple trees need to be pruned and trained in a way that will maintain a balance between the production of vegetative and fruiting branches.  Since espalier training restricts the trees to two dimensions and a small space, maintaining this balance is even more important. This particular espalier was heavily pruned last winter resulting in a large number of vegetative shoots. To rebalance this vertical shoots more than 10″ in length were cut to about 5 leaves not counting the basal whorl of leaves. This will reduce the vigor the heavy winter pruning created, a first step toward restoring the vegetative/fruiting balance.