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Home arrow The Daily Dirt arrow Thursday Techniques: The Art of Espalier
Thursday Techniques: The Art of Espalier Print E-mail
Written by Heleigh Bostwick    Thursday, 15 September 2016
Espaliered apple tree

Espalier is a garden practice that involves training a plant, typically a fruit tree, to grow flat against a wall, fence, or trellis structure. In existence since Roman times, the term espalier originally referred to the structure and not the plant. Today it refers to pruning and grafting a plant to train it into a two-dimensional plane where the branches form a pattern.

Espalier is both an aesthetic practice and a functional one. Aesthetic in that it is a work of art when completed. Say you have a large blank wall that needs “something”. An espaliered plant could be just the ticket. In terms of function, well, if you are short on space, but want to grow a fruit tree, espalier is one way to do that-- vertical gardening we call it. It’s also useful if you live in a marginal climate zone. By growing a plant as an espalier against a south-facing wall where it gets a lot of sunlight and is protected, you might be able to grow something you ordinarily wouldn’t.

Espalier takes time and patience, and may be slow going, but the results are worth it, if this is something that interests you. Espalier is high maintenance, so keep this in mind. As always, when you first start out think small. Training a shrub or dwarf fruit tree will be a lot easier than a pear or apple tree for instance. Some plants are better for espalier than others such as redbud, star magnolia, camellias, viburnums, cotoneaster, flowering quince, apples, crab apples, pears, winter jasmine, and Pfitzer and Sargeant junipers.

Recommended reading:
Espaliers and Vines for the Home Gardener
Taylor's Weekend Gardening Guide to Topiaries and Espaliers
Living Fences: A Gardener's Guide to Hedges, Vines & Espaliers
Pruning and Training Plants: A Complete Guide