Tag Archives: espalier

Established espalier

Most of the drawings and photographs I have seen of espaliered fruit trees are at the initial stage, showing how to start. So when I saw established examples of espalier in England, I photographed them.
freestanding horizontal espalier1. The freestanding horizontal espalier. You can see clearly the advantages of a two dimensional plant. Good air movement will reduce disease. It is easy to tend the plant and the fruit all receives equal sunlight. You can also see that the supports are heavy duty. This is not an exercise to be done with a few bamboo stakes and stockinette ties.
The cube2. The cube requires some heavy duty framing but is quite stylish, even if I was worried by the top branch that was trained back on itself. Using a frame which gently rusts as it ages will make it less visually intrusive than the tanalised pine we often favour in this country. It is the plant shape you want to emphasise, not the support structure. This design allows good air movement through the centre of the tree.
??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????3.The diamond row was visually the strongest in terms of pattern. I raised my eyebrows at the potential rubbing of bark where branches cross. Stem damage can let disease into the plant and a rule of thumb in all gardening is to avoid crossed branches. Presumably in an intensively maintained espalier, you are replacing the branches regularly with fresh growth so there is a bit of leeway if this is the look you want.
???????????????????????????????4. There is little doubt that your fan-shaped espalier will look better if you clad the fibrolite garage in old brick veneer and casually pose a stylish, vintage, terracotta forcing pot in front. The advantage of espaliering against a wall is the increase in heat for marginal crops. We don’t need to do it for apples and pears in this climate but I can see that it could work well for figs and some of the stone fruit.
???????????????????????????????5. I have mentioned trendy stepovers before – the training of an espaliered fruit at knee level. This is a dry climate technique and where rains are light and misty. Our torrential downpours will cause rain splash and spread disease faster than you can blink. We need maximum air movement and to be above the splash line in our humid climate. That said, you can see disease in this example. I have yet to see one which remains at step-over height all growing season.
???????????????????????????????6. These table and chairs are obviously not yet established. I offer them as an idea without comment, secure in the knowledge that regular readers will know exactly what my personal opinion is likely to be. However, for those who like a little novelty in their garden, here be they. I even recorded some instructions for you.
First published in the Waikato Times and reprinted here with their permission.

Garden lore

“In a marshy spot in the garden we had excavated a pit, forming a pond, around which stood a grove of pine trees. It looks as if, in five or six years, a thousand years have left their mark here – one bank of the pond has collapsed, new trees have sprung up among the old, and such is the air of neglect that all who look are afflicted with a sense of sadness. Old memories come flooding back…”

Ki No Tsurayuki, The Tosa Diary (ca. 936, translated from the original Japanese 1955).

Espalier is simply the exercise of keeping a plant to a flat plane so it has height and width but no depth. This makes it an ideal technique for narrow spaces. It does not have to be against a hard surface like a wall or fence, but there need to be cross wires or a frame to tie the plant to. Plants do not naturally grow in a two dimensional shape so you have to prune wayward growths and tie in branches often. It is possible to espalier any woody plant which establishes a permanent structure of trunk, stems and branches but it tends to easier if it has a central leader, is not going to grow too large and has flexible rather than brittle new growth. If it is too brittle, it can snap easily. Camellias are ideal candidates as are dwarf apples, figs or wisteria. I can’t see any reason why citrus couldn’t be espaliered but it is always easiest to start with a young plant. You can’t really rush espalier. It takes time to grow and train a plant properly.

Use a flexible tie, not string or wire which will cut into the bark of the plant. We like the balls of stockinette tie that you buy at the garden centre. Black is the least intrusive colour but they all fade with time.

First published in the Waikato Times and reprinted here with their permission.