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 What is a good height for my new cherry tree whips 
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Joined: Thu Dec 02, 2010 12:56 pm
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Post What is a good height for my new cherry tree whips
Have planted my new cherry trees ....the whips are about 6 feet tall. Can I cut back to about 3 feet? They are from Raintree Nursery.: lapin. gold, danube, bing, Pat Lundsteen


Wed Mar 28, 2012 7:40 am
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Joined: Thu Jan 27, 2005 11:27 pm
Posts: 1154
Location: Yamhill County, Oregon
Post Re: What is a good height for my new cherry tree whips
It depends on where you want your scaffold branches. Keep in mind, topping the whips at 3 feet means your uppermost scaffold limb will start no higher than three feet, the rest will be closer to the ground.

I’ve contended with deer and generally start my ‘forks’ higher, but only by a foot or so… It is nice to be able to step into the vase of the tree to pick or prune, if you’re going for a ‘vase shaped’ tree. If you’re planning on a central leader, I think you’d want your fist set of limbs even higher.

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Wed Mar 28, 2012 11:02 am
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Joined: Sun Sep 27, 2009 9:10 am
Posts: 95
Location: Corvallis
Post Re: What is a good height for my new cherry tree whips
A follow on question to this - how far below a heading cut will a whip put out viable branches? If Pat's whips had buds every few inches, and he cut the whips back to 5 feet, what would be the lowest good (defining good in terms of vigor, not in terms of location or spacing) branches that would come out?


Wed Mar 28, 2012 9:29 pm
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Joined: Thu Jan 27, 2005 11:27 pm
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Location: Yamhill County, Oregon
Post Re: What is a good height for my new cherry tree whips
how far below a heading cut will a whip put out viable branches?” -- Terminal buds release a hormone that inhibits the buds below them from activating. Once the terminal is cut (no matter how far down the shoot) the remaining buds will begin to grow. If you look at bagged ‘two year’ old fruit trees at a garden center you’ll usually find 4 to 6 decent branches developing below the heading cut.

A lot depends on the vigor of the tree and richness of the soil. You really don’t need more than four ‘scaffold limbs,’ and most whips will produce at least that many. They get more spindly as you go down; a good practice is to pinch out the tips of anything more than the number you ultimately want, allowing the extra vigor to push into the main 4 or 5…


Wed Mar 28, 2012 11:38 pm
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Joined: Sun Sep 27, 2009 9:10 am
Posts: 95
Location: Corvallis
Post Re: What is a good height for my new cherry tree whips
Viron, thank you. Now to take this a step further - only as a learning exercise, not as a real suggestion.

If Pat's whips had buds every four inches, and he topped the whip at 60 inches, then we would expect branches to start at 56, 52, 48, 44, 40, 36, 32, 28, 24...inches. Correct, a whole bunch of little branches would start? But then once one of the got its apical end up high enough, it would become the terminal bud, send the hormonal message back, and those far enough down would be inhibited from growing much. Probably just a few of the top branches (say above 40) would remain viable. The rest would remain twigs.

On the other hand, if Pat decided to make a 3-D espalier (not realistic), and trained all of them to grow horizontally, then all of them might remain viable, growing in both diameter and length, as none of them would get a chance to develop a terminal bud. Correct?


Thu Mar 29, 2012 4:51 pm
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Joined: Thu Jan 27, 2005 11:27 pm
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Location: Yamhill County, Oregon
Post Re: What is a good height for my new cherry tree whips
Excellent description of the bud/limb development on the cherry, I’d say you’re right on.

Though I’m too thick with deer to have anything espaliered …I’ve kept a close eye on several folks who do. As with the topped cherry whip, the developing stems will grow 'up,' seeking the apical dominance you alluded to. I’ve seen folks let them grow a few inches, maybe six to eight, then use clothespins fastened to the trunk to push the developing stems horizontal. This usually stunts out their linear growth so they need to time it right to allow enough new growth to make a viable (if short) limb, useful mostly for fruiting spurs. If they wait too long, bending it to such a degree will snap it away from the trunk as the wood’s become too mature.

What I’ve noticed with successful espalier work is allowing new shoots to grow 'up' most of the year - then severely bending them over while dormant. I think I’m safe to say ‘no shoots’ grow well horizontally. In Pat’s case, and perhaps especially with cherry trees given their strong upright growth habit, the ‘trick’ would be getting them to put on "horizontal growth." They’ll naturally spread some, out and away from the ‘trunk,’ but after a full season of growth will always benefit from being spread to a 60 degree angle, not 90…

Hope that makes sense…

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Thu Mar 29, 2012 8:16 pm
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Joined: Sun Sep 27, 2009 9:10 am
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Location: Corvallis
Post Re: What is a good height for my new cherry tree whips
Viron, thank you.

No interest in espalier, but the added explanation does reinforce the concepts.


Thu Mar 29, 2012 9:07 pm
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