How To Espalier Fruit Trees.
An Espaliered Pear Tree
Espaliering fruit trees is a great way to save space if you have a small garden,but also make an interesting feature in a larger garden. Fruit trees can be espaliered against fences and walls. They can be planted along path edges or used as free standing screens. Some people create free standing espaliers that can be stepped over.
Espalier means training trees into two dimensional shapes or flat planes. The art of training trees in this manner dates back to at least Arabic (Persian) walled gardens. This technique is very popular in Europe.
Choose a sunny position for your fruit tree in free draining soil. If you are planting against a wall or fence attach wires to the chosen site at approximately the same height as the branches that are to be espaliered. Secure wire horizontally between posts for free standing structures or posts and wire can be erected in front of walls and fences if preferred.
Ideally plant your trees in Winter. Use young trees with new and flexible branches. Try to start off with a tree that has three branches. Excess shoots can be pruned. Train the the two side branches gently into horizontal positions and tie to support frame with soft ties such as pantyhose. The ties will need to be adjusted and loosened as the tree grows. Encourage the third branch or shoot to grow up to the second wire. This shoot will become the trunk for the tree. When shoots either side of the main trunk appear train these along the second wire, allowing the trunk to continue growing upwards. Continue using this process until you have trained as many branches as you desire.
Espaliered fruit trees may need extra support as the crop develops. They need to be pruned about three times per growing season to keep the required shape, and again in the dormant times. Once established they look impressive, produce loads of fruit compared to the number of branches and are easily harvested. Planting fruit trees this way enables gardeners with little space the luxury of producing their own fruit.