Many woody plants concentrate their hormones at the tips of branches. If you bend the branch closer to the horizontal, then the hormones which lead to flowering are more evenly dispersed along the length which encourages the growth buds lower down to flower and grow.
Our Friend of the Garden, Colin, braved the snow and frost this week to come and stay and he has pruned the apple trees. He has hooped over some of the long whips to encourage the plant to push out growth buds along the length, which should result in the production of stronger fruiting spurs to replace old, spent spurs.
Hooping roses which put out long growths increases the flowering markedly. It is a technique I first saw done at Ayrlies Garden (back in the days when Neil Ross was head gardener there). It takes up a lot of space but is worth the effort. I tie the long whips down to wire hoops in the garden. Many of the David Austin roses put out long whips which are ideal for hooping.
It is of course the same principle as using espalier techniques to increase cropping. Espalier is not just a space saving exercise in keeping plants as close to flat as possible. It can also maximise fruit yields in a restricted space. You need to make sure that ties are flexible so they don’t cut in and damage the branches – stockinette or similar. The apple hoops were secured with a tapener or tying machine which staples a small piece of flexible plastic tape in place.
Postscript: A man on a mission, Colin is now hooping the raspberries. This is a particularly strong growing variety and this hooping is in part to keep the growth under control and to prevent them making an escape out the top of the raspberry cage. It should also make picking easier.
Any woody plants which make long, whippy growths can be hooped to maximise flowering and fruiting. Colin, a retired horticulturist of vast experience, assures me that when it comes to fruiting plants, the redistribution of the plant’s hormones achieved through hooping encourages leaf buds to form flower buds as well which increases potential fruit yield.