How to Espalier Fruit Trees and Ornamental Plants

Learning to espalier your fruit trees and other ornamental plants is a skill and a worthwhile endeavor.

So, you want to know what an Espalier is? No, it has nothing to so with expelling anything. It is a trellis upon which a tree or shrub is trained so that its trunk and branches lie in one plane, or a tree or shrub trained in such a fashion. The meaning of the term is commonly extended to include any tree or shrub trained with its truck and branches in one plane, whether it is grown on a trellis or against a wall or is supported in some other way.

Espalier is also used as a verb to describe the training of such trees and shrubs. An espalier will add something new and different to your yard or garden. They can serve as great backdrops to an existing garden structures that you already have in place, such as a canopy gazebo.

Espalier of an Apple Tree

Fruit trees, such as apples, pears, and figs are easily trained to grow as espaliers. Many ornamental plants also lend themselves to this mode of training and are useful for marking boundary lines, emphasing divisions between areas for planting and walls. In America espaliers, whether they are fruit trees or trees or shrubs of decorative value only, are usually planted chiefly for ornamental purposes.

Ornamental Espaliers

Among ornamental plants especially worth growing as espaliers are the Ceonothus, flowering Quinces, Cotoneasters, Forsythias, Fushsias, Jasmines, Magnolia, Pyracantha, Yews, and Viburnums. The training of these is essentially the same as that for fruit trees, but pruning must be adjusted to suit the needs of individual kinds. Special care should be taken not to prune early-spring flowering kinds in late winter or in spring before the flowers open.

Espalier Fruit Trees

Espalier fruit trees are both decorative and fruitful. They take up little room and are suited for small gardens where claims upon the limited space are many, and big fruit trees are out of the question. They may be grown against a wall or fence, in the garden alongside pathways, or as a division between flower and vegetable gardens, or as a background for borders. They are trained on a trellis or framework of post and wires. The trees are not difficult to manage successfully, being well within reach for pruning, spraying, harvesting, and other operations. With careful guidance, your fruit trees can produce high quality fruit.

How and When to Plant

Plant your trees either in spring or in the autumn. Rich, heavily manured ground is not required, as such conditions tend to promote strong growth at the expense of fruiting. Any good garden soil that is well drained is suitable, but if the soil on in your yard and garden is uncultivated and hard, as if often is against the side of a house or garden path, a special border should be prepared. The existing soil must be removed to a depth of 2ft. or so,and mixed with good top soil or loam.

Espalier Shapes

Supporting your plants

All plants should be supported by a trellis or wire fence, the branches being evenly spaced and securely fastened. If this is not done they will soon become unshapely. When they are grown against a fence or wall, the wires should be stretched taut between eyelet nails driven into the wood or brickwork and held 4 to 6 in. out from the wall and 1 ft. apart. Branches should not be fastened close against the bricks or wood. In the open garden a trellis must be erected, and while strong support may not be required by a young tree for a time, it is advisable to erect the permanent trellis to start with.

Strong support posts, 7 to 8 ft. long, are required at each end for pulling the wire so that the posts being driven at least two feet into the ground. The bottom wire should be set about 15 in. Above ground level, and the other wires at intervals of 1 ft. above. The top most wire should be 4 ½ ft. To 5 ft. Above the ground, according to the number of tiers of branches needed.

On established trees, pruning should be done as soon as winter has taken all the leaves off, you should take off each lateral shoot which has developed. These are usually along the horizontal branches and should be cut back to within 2-3 buds of the base. The leading extension shoot at the end of each branch should be lightly tipped if the growth is only moderate. All spurs should be kept to 5 or 6 in. Apart. When they become long and branched they should be cut back to leave only 3-4 fruit buds. You may also need to do some pruning on our Espalier trees each summer. Many people disagree as to which season is the best. Try espaliers and see what you think about the process or the types of plant used.

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