Selecting Trees, plants, Sites, Supports, Planting & Training
An espalier pronunciation is ( is-PAL-yuhr )
What is Espalier?
True story: looooooooong true story :)
Years ago when some of my children were still very young, we moved to a new subdivision. The house was fine, but the yard was a lot smaller now that we were living in it.
I looked at my small backyard through my kitchen window and asked myself 1 question.
Self, what do you want out of this yard?
Self replied with 2 answers;
I want a teaching garden and a little bit of privacy.
The next spring I bought 5 dwarf fruit trees and the only way I could grow them was against the brand new fence.
First I cut the fruit tree leaders and went about training the rest of the branches against the fence. I didn't know there was a name for it ( espalier ) until my kids were in their teens. I was just improvising. :)
When we sold the house, the new owners were amazed that I had fruit trees in my backyard.
Now that kids are gone; we are building a new home in the country and I finally have the backyard of my dreams.
I am still espaliering trees, but this time to delineate a vegetable garden with fruit and beauty. The local wild-life, loves it as well. :)
So, what is Espalier?
Espalier is a tree or ornamental shrub that is trained, pruned and grown in a flat plane. Although sometimes trained as a free-standing, espaliered trees and plants are usually trained against a wall in a defined pattern.
What are the benefits of Espaliered Fruit Trees?
Espaliered fruit trees are ideal for those that want fresh fruit, but have limited space.
Dwarf fruit trees and decorative espalier training can increase your yard's potential for fruit production.
Although dwarf espalier trees are small their yield per space are quite high.
Out of 1 espaliered apple tree, I pick enough fresh fruit for eating, apple pies, apple crisp, cake and juice. Oh and they look like large shiny jewels on the tree. Wasps love them too.
Choosing the Right Tree for Espalier:
I planted dwarf fruit trees that my family like.
For best results start with apples and pears according to my gardening books.
Apples and Pears bear on long-lived short spurs and can be trained relatively easily to many different shapes.
Trees that bear on short-lived spurs, such as peaches, nectarines, apricots, plums and cherries are more difficult. In order to maintain fruit yield on these trees you need to prune to provide a constant source of new wood to maintain fruit yield.
I have espalier apples, pears, cherries, plums and peaches. I love the look of a well maintained espalier fruit tree.
Planting & Training Espalier Trees
You can espalier a tree anywhere you can place a trellis. Driveway edges, edge of a vegetable and flower garden. Espalier edge of fruit trees around a deck or patio as a screen. I have an edge of espalier fruit trees and grapes around my vegetetable garden.
You can buy fruit trees that are already trained in a pot.
Also fruit trees that grafted into 1 standard fruit tree are easy for me to espalier.
I usually buy 4-in-one standard fruit trees.
I plant the fruit tree as usual and then just tie the branches to the bamboo trellis. First year of training I tie it loosely, because sometimes the branches will break if too tight on the trellis. Then the next year, I tighten the espalier branches closer to where I want them to be.
Controlling Growth and Increasing Yields:
Through the growing season, remove branches that are not growing in the right direction. You want the espalier to be flat against the support.
Do not let fruiting spurs develop closer than 5 -7 inches apart.
In the late summer, when shoots are longer than 9 inches and the bark is starting to turn from green to brown at he base, trim back to three leaves beyond where growth began in the spring. This will encourage the development of fruit spurs at the base of the branch in the next growing season.