It's an ancient gardening art, but espalier is making a big comeback in gardens to save on space and bring structural elegance to the modern garden. Espaliering is the art of training a tree or shrub to grow against a wall or fence to create a flat two-dimensional affect. It's a technique steeped in history that dates back to ancient Roman and Egyptian times, but it was during the Middle Ages in Europe that the art of training trees was perfected. Fruit trees were artfully espaliered against castle walls to provide fruit and decoration, without encroaching on the courtyard space. The flattened trees were grown against brick or stone which absorbed the sun's heat and created a favourable micro-climate for fruit production. Today, espaliering creates a decorative compact tree perfect for city courtyards and small spaces.
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Site your espalier fruit tree against a wall or building to create a warmer microclimate. Many gardeners would love to grow apples, pears, peaches, and other tree fruits in their yard, but don't have the room or climate to accommodate them.
While there are many dwarf tree fruit varieties on the market, sometimes even these trees are too large for a small yard. Plus, if you live in a cold winter or cool summer climate, some fruits just won't grow and mature well for you. That was the same dilemma facing gardeners in northern France and England in the 16th century. Gardeners in cold winter areas wanted fruit trees, but didn't have the proper climate for it. So they developed a pruning technique that would allow these normally large trees to fit in small areas such as along a fence or wall.
In this way they could create a microclimate along south, east, or west facing walls to grow fruit varieties that normally wouldn't produce in their area. They also found that trees trained in this way can be very productive. Espalier pruning continues to be popular in Europe, and is now done around the world. What started as a way to grow trees in small spaces has turned into an art form. Espalier allows a gardener to create a beautiful work of art that will grace the landscape with interest in all four seasons.
Espalier comes from the Italian word that means "something to rest the shoulder against. One of the most common espalier designs is an apple tree trained to a horizontal cordon. You can now purchase fruit trees in an espalier form, but it's much more satisfying, and cost effective, to train your own. Here's how to get started. Plant your apple trees in full sun 6 to 8 hours a day on well drained, fertile soil about 15 feet apart.
A south, east, or west facing wall, fence, or building is best. You'll have to support the developing branches with a trellis system, so select a site where you can run a wire trellis outlining the ultimate shape of the tree. To help you along, if you have a rock, brick, or stone wall, sketch out the ultimate shape of the tree usually three branch tiers spaced 2 feet apart with an ultimate height of 6 feet and width of 6 to 7 feet with chalk on the wall.
This will give you a design to follow. Anchor your wires into the wall or attach them to the fence. While any apple can be espaliered, for a horizontal cordon system, choose a dwarf or semi-dwarf, spur-type apple variety.
Make sure the espaliered tree is at least 6 inches away from the house so it doesn't effect the house siding. Prune espaliered trees 2 to 3 times in winter and summer to keep the shape and growth habit. It may take 3 to 5 years to get the entire fruit tree structure in place. Your tree, though, should start bearing fruit in a few years.
Prune out any developing fruit the first few years. Remove any vertical shoots, suckers, and water sprouts each year and shorten horizontal branches back to create a fruiting spur. You may have to prune 2 to 3 times a year to keep the tree in shape.
Because there will be more fruiting spurs produced on a horizontal branch than a vertical branch, eventually you will get a great number of fruits setting on your espaliered apple tree. Be sure to make the wire trellis and supports strong enough to hold the tree laden with fruit in place. Each year continue pruning to maintain the shape of the espalier, and water and fertilize the tree to keep it healthy.
Some old espaliered trees have lateral branches that are so thick they no longer need wire support and can be used to create an espaliered fence. Enjoy your work of art and once you're comfortable with apples, try other fruits and espaliered designs. Use these convenient icons to share this page on various social media platforms:. Signup Login Toggle navigation. How to Espalier an Apple Tree. The horizontal cordon system is one of the simplest espaliers to create.
Charlie Nardozzi is an award winning, nationally recognized garden writer, speaker, radio, and television personality. He has worked for more than 30 years bringing expert gardening information to home gardeners through radio, television, talks, tours, on-line, and the printed page. Charlie delights in making gardening information simple, easy, fun and accessible to everyone.
He's the author of 6 books , has three radio shows in New England and a TV show. He leads Garden Tours around the world and consults with organizations and companies about gardening programs. See more about him at Gardening With Charlie. Member Login: Username or email:. Pinterest Facebook Youtube Twitter Instagram. Espalier of fruit trees by Wizgal
My Tiny Plot. It was great fun and I learned a ton about how Apples grow and how to maintain an espalier. It was also a gorgeous setting in which to learn, with a central kitchen garden surrounded by hundreds of espalier Apples and Pear and a separate orchard including Medlers and Yellow Plums which I had a sneaky taste of. Thanks to Chris Hitchcock the head gardener, on the right and Bill Whitehead an Apple and Pear expert, on the left I now feel super confident about summer pruning my own espalier apple tree. Thanks also to Paul Hervey-Brookes for being the perfect host.
It's best to run the branches from north to south to allow for good sun penetration. Apple and pear trees require a second variety for cross.
Free-flowing and unfettered — it feels great and is what nature intended after all. But why? They grow them for the many climbing, scurrying and flying creatures that help to disperse them. The issue with this for us humans is that many of the common fruit trees we take for granted were originally woodland species. Left alone, their natural tendency is to grow taller to outcompete their neighbors in order to make it easy for the wildlife that will disperse their seeds to find them. So gardeners and farmers alike combine judicious pruning with grafting varieties onto rootstocks that moderate tree size and bring the fruits down to a more practical height for harvesting, thereby maximizing the useable crop. Trained tree forms are also essential for smaller spaces. Today everyone, from balcony gardeners upwards, can grow delicious fruits quickly and reliably. Trained forms of fruit tree are usually grown against garden walls and fences, making the most of space and taking advantage of the shelter and relative warmth they afford.
Pruning is the regulation of plant growth and productivity through branch removal and bud manipulation. Good pruning can help fruit trees become more resistant to pests and disease, as well as bear a larger, more consistent, and better quality harvest. Annual pruning is strongly recommended for best health and production of the more common pome and stone fruits apples, pears, peaches, plums, cherries, apricots. Most uncommon fruits have less intensive pruning needs see list at the end of this article.
Been growing fruit trees for a while now, and ready to challenge yourself by upping your game? Try espalier!
WI Natives. Trending Topics. Visit Our Public Inventory. Espalier apple trees an exciting style of growing fruit trees that allows homeowners with smaller spaces or urban lots to grow apple trees. Unfortunately, they are a rare site in most home fruit orchards and backyards.
Site your espalier fruit tree against a wall or building to create a warmer microclimate. Many gardeners would love to grow apples, pears, peaches, and other tree fruits in their yard, but don't have the room or climate to accommodate them. While there are many dwarf tree fruit varieties on the market, sometimes even these trees are too large for a small yard. Plus, if you live in a cold winter or cool summer climate, some fruits just won't grow and mature well for you. That was the same dilemma facing gardeners in northern France and England in the 16th century.
Espaliering is a fantastic way to grow trees (including fruit trees) in smaller For beginners, the easiest (and most common) type of espalier is a three.
An "espalier," pronounced "es-PAL-yer" or "es-pal-YAY" is any plant trained to grow in a flat plane against a wall, fence, or trellis. The word espalier also may be used to describe the technique of training a plant to this flat plane. The Romans originated the technique, but later generations of Europeans refined it into an exacting but rewarding art. The espalier has considerable merit in today's garden.
Espalier es-PAL-yay is the art of growing trees in two dimensions. Fruit or ornamental trees are trained to grow flat against walls, fences, or trellises, and are shaped into specific forms. With careful attention, fruit trees trained this way trees can turn out more fruit per square foot than freestanding trees. We like to use espalier in small gardens to maximize fruit production and in formal gardens as a design element or focal point. Training and maintaining these trees is a high-maintenance technique that requires pruning at least twice a year.
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Trees are usually three-dimensional, but with some intervention they can be made to have height and width but not much depth. Using this technique to train a tree is called espaliering. Espaliers were developed in Europe around the 16th century as a way of helping temperate climate fruit grow in colder regions by taking advantage of the warmth of a sunny wall. There are many choices about what plants to espalier. It could include deciduous or evergreen trees or fruiting or ornamental plants. But you might want to try any citrus as an espalier.
Growing fruit trees successfully requires an open situation with plenty of light, shelter from prevailing winds and a freely draining soil. Good light ensures good growth and ripening of fruit. Shelter warms the site improving pollination, growth and fruit production.