Our problematic apple tree

It’s great having an apple tree with so much fruit:

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But it dominates the garden:

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So much so that, although I thought I’d taken at least one photo of it in its entirety, I see that I’ve mostly picked away at it, never quite getting the whole canopy in shot.

Basically, this is the result of “benign” neglect by the previous owners (or their unwillingness to [learn how to] look after their fruiting stock). It ends here, not least because the new design for our garden has no apple tree in the centre of it. Should the tree not suit being drastically pruned, then it’s unlikely to remain.

They say you should minimize the number of cuts etc. etc. So I picked one of perhaps seven sub-trunks that were each perhaps 15cm in diameter, and cut it:

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It was only then that I realised that the tangle of branches was such that this was never going to be removed. So I reasoned that, while I have to minimize the cuts on left-behind, living wood, it doesn’t matter how much I cut what I’m going to remove! The next step was therefore to make cuts until I could isolate the heaviest portion of the wood from all the branches attached to it:

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This allowed me to remove a substantial (well over a metre) length of sub-trunk:

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Some two hours later, I had finally removed all of the tree that had been attached to the sub-trunk. Here’s the cut wood, next to my pile of buddleia cuttings:

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And here’s the tree, after cutting all that wood out:

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Dispiritingly, it doesn’t look massively different from a distance (although the Welsh Rose said otherwise, but she might have been trying to be supportive.) However, when you look closer, you can see the gaps appearing:

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You can’t quite throw a bowler hat through it yet (the old measure of a sufficiently open apple-tree canopy) but it’s a start.

The next step will be to take out a lot more of that tangle, especially the high water shoots. That will involve very many more cuts to the living wood, but it’s unavoidable. And at this stage, with the tree itself on probation, it’s kill or cure!

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