Small yard? Colder climate? Try espalier!
Many people would love to grow fruit trees, but for the space it takes and the warmer climate and higher growing zones needed. Even dwarf fruit trees can take up a lot of space in smaller yards. In such cases, espalier fruit trees may be the way to go.
From midsummer through late fall, John harvests 600 pounds of apples a year from his garden. His method? Source: MotherEarthNews.comEspalier!https://www.motherearthnews.com/organic-gardening/espalier-apple-trees-zmaz93onztak
What is Espalier?
The definition of espalier – as a noun:
- The art of growing a tree or plant on an object such as a wall, fence, stakes or other object.
- The object on which a plant is trained can also be an espalier
Espalier Definition – as a verb – espaliered, espaliering:
- Espalier is the practice or action of training a tree or plant to grow on another object
Other Terms for Espalier
Trellis and Cordon Trees
Cordoned trees is another form of espalier.
“Cordon fruit trees are simply trees grown as a single stem, with all the fruit swelling on short laterals immediately off this central stem.”GrowVeg.com
Trellised trees is the more familiar term in the US, but espalier also indicates the type of pruning for directed growth. You can trellis trees and plants to grow to a specific shape or in a specific direction, such as flat, or 2-dimensional, without also pruning them to produce grow and produce fruit differently as in espalier.
The origin of espalier isn’t certain, however, we know it’s been around for thousands of years. Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic paintings portray espaliered fruit trees.
There are many reasons to espalier trees and plants, and no end to what kind of plants can be trellised and espaliered. For this article, we’re focusing on fruit trees.
Benefits of Espalier Fruit Trees
- Grow more fruit in less space
- Trains plants to produce more fruit
- Creates protection from weather and a warm microclimate for growth
- Provides warmth in colder climates (especially when against a southern or western wall)
- Creates artful designs and landscapes
- Makes harvesting easier and therefore more efficient
Harvesting espalier apple trees is much easier:
- Harvest in one plane rather than a circling around a tree
- Espalier can be done without a ladder if trees are kept shorter
- If growing taller trees, it’s easier to place a ladder against the wall for picking
- The fruit framed against a wall is easier to see and pick
Espalier trees typically produce more fruit per foot than ordinary fruit trees.
The ancient espalier technique was rediscovered by the early French and English when they found that slightly bent and horizontally trained fruit tree branches stimulated vigorous vertical growth of new spurs, which are stubby lateral branches that eventually flower and produce fruit.
Best Fruit Trees for Espalier
Apple Tree Espalier
Pear Tree Espalier
If you love the artistry of landscaping, you may enjoy the variety espalier brings to your yard.
How to Espalier a Fruit Tree Video
For another informative article on how you can grow fruit trees in your backyard, you may enjoy this article and videos.https://www.gardensall.com/small-backyard-orchards/
If you’re enjoying this espalier fruit trees information, you may also be interested in edible hedges.
Where to Buy Espalier Trees
Typically, the best place to buy trees is from your local nursery and then cultivate your own espalier style trees.
If your local nurseries and growers don’t have what you’re looking for, they may be able to order it for you, or you can order directly. You can often also find them on Amazon and have them delivered straight to your door, and Amazon does typically offer guarantees.
Dwarf fruit trees can be a good option for espalier crafting.
Styles of Espalier Trees
- Horizontal Cordon – horizontal espalier used for living fences, dividing walls and accent plants
- Belgian Fence – also used as fences and dividing wall, are formed into an intriguing trellis pattern
- Candelabra espalier – a blend of horizontal and vertical espalier, good for arbors or individual specimen trees
- Fan shaped espalier – branches from a central trunk in a radial fan pattern
- Heart shaped espalier – double heart shaped tree, wonderful for landscape feature plants
Intro to Types of Espalier – Video
A top US grower of espalier trees is River Road Farms in Decatur, Tennessee. You can see their intro video below, where you will learn about the types of espalier designs.
If you loved that, you’ll also enjoy this longer version where owner Peter Thevenot (pronounced TEH-ven-oh) talks about how a trip to an American “heritage farm” inspired him to start an espalier nursery.
For more, you can visit River Road Farms at EspalierTrees.com.
For another informative article on how you can grow dwarf fruit trees in your backyard, you may enjoy this article and videos.
Wishing you great gardens and healthy harvests!
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