Training and pruning a pyramid pear tree
Because most pear trees are upright in growth, they are very suitable for training as pyramids. Pyramids grow with a strong central leader, and are similar in form to a Christmas tree. From this central trunk cropping branches grow away at wide angles with about 30 cm (1’) of trunk between each tier of branches. The resulting tree is a very compact and efficient fruit bearer. Formative pruning is done in winter; pruning to encourage fruiting and restrictive growth is done in summer.
To train a pyramid pear tree, buy a maiden or two-year-old. Cut the tree back to about 50 cm (20”) the first winter it is in your garden, making the cut immediately above a conveniently placed bud. Rub out the first bud below the leader bud. Make sure there are three or four buds left, spaced evenly around and down the stem. These will grow out to form the first tier of framework branches. The lowest bud should ensure that there is a leg of about 23-30 cm (9-12”). Any ‘feathers’ should be cut off flush with the main stem. The following winter, and each subsequent winter until the desired height is reached, prune the leader, leaving 20 cm (8”) of new growth; cut to a bud pointing in the opposite direction to the previous year’s bud. This keeps the leader growing straight. Make sure there are three well-placed buds on the remaining part of the leader to make additional whorls of branches. These buds should be as evenly spaced round and down the stem as possible; ideally they should point towards the gaps between branches on the tier below.
Do not retain a bud immediately above an existing branch, but aim for even spacing both up and around. Rub out all unwanted buds; this can be done by pushing them off with your thumb.
The branches and sideshoots are pruned in summer. Start when the new growth has begun to mature and the shoots are becoming stiff and woody, and brown at the base. Disregarding the cluster of leaves at the base of the new growth, count five or six leaves along the branches and cut beyond a downward pointing one. While the tree is still young flowers may form on the central leader; these should be removed to encourage the production of more side branches.
From late mid-summer, when the sideshoots along the branches begin to mature and are about 30 cm (1’) long and woody at the base, cut to the second or third leaf beyond the basal cluster. This helps to build up strong spurs, close to the main branches. Where there has been growth from a sideshoot pruned in previous years, prune back to the first leaf beyond the basal cluster. Spread out the work over a period of three to four weeks. If in winter you find there has been further growth from any of these summer cuts, prune it back to the first bud.
Restrict the final height of the pyramid to about 2.1 m (7’), by switching pruning from winter to late spring, just after new growth has begun. Cut the central leader back to within 1.2 cm (2 “) of its new growth. When branch leaders reach the length of those in the tier below, or begin to grow close to branches of adjacent trees, deal with them in the same way, by cutting them back.