Voulez Vous Espalier?

There are many advantages to this unique method of growing fruit trees but the main reason is limited space. Learn how to espalier fruit trees from a man who has successfully grown many of these trees in his own backyard orchard and has a nursery dedicated to espaliered fruit trees.

From midsummer through late fall, John Hooper harvests 600 pounds of apples a year from his garden. Yet he lives in a mild, often fog-shrouded coastal climate in northern California—not exactly optimal fruit-growing weather. His orchard, consisting of 12 seven-year-old trees and is tucked away in the tight quarters of his backyard. How does he achieve such high production in such a compact space without a lot of fruit-inducing chill or summer sun? He practices the old art of espalier (es-PAL-yay)-training dwarf species to grow in flat, two-dimensional forms, usually against fences and walls. “I’ve counted 70 apples on just one of my espalier trees,” boasts Hooper.


The technique was developed in the 16th century, out of the practical need for growing fruit in such marginal climates as northern France and southern England. The early French and English discovered that if they bent apple-tree branches horizontally, they could direct energy away from vigorous vertical growth and into producing spurs (those stubby lateral branches that eventually flower and produce fruit). In addition, by growing the tree flat against a wall or fence, they could create a favorable micro climate in which the wall radiated heat and provided shelter. As they do today, growers kept the trees dwarfed for ease of management.

espalier-60827_1280“If you have a small garden but big ambitions, you can grow fruit without having one or two trees dominate the entire area,” says Hooper, who, along with caring for his orchard, owns a nursery dedicated to espaliered fruit trees and ornamentals. Espalier trees produce more fruit per foot than do ordinary fruit trees-mature forms reap from 30 to 60 pounds of delicious-tasting fruit, from apples and pears to peaches and pomegranates.

Some growers simply enjoy the aesthetic value of espaliered trees, with their traditional symmetrical branch forms resembling fans and candelabras. These forms are created by snipping off unwanted branches and training others to move down toward the desired position. These unique shapes make exquisite garden focal points: during the dormant season of winter, the unusual branching patterns are revealed; during the spring, apple trees become festooned with blossoms in varying shades of white and pink; during the summer, the trees go through a two or three-week stage of dramatic blossoming. Also, because you can train them to grow against almost any supportive structure, espaliered trees are naturals as living shields to hide unattractive walls, fencing, or compost bins.

You can find more about espalier at Mother Earth News.1)http://www.motherearthnews.com/organic-gardening/espalier-apple-trees-zmaz93onztak.aspx#axzz37SzWXm8b

Next are a couple cool videos that show us how to espalier a fruit tree.

For another informative article on how you can grow fruit trees in your backyard, you may enjoy this article and videos.2)https://www.gardensall.com/small-backyard-orchards/


Typically, the best place to buy trees is from your local nursery. If they don’t have something they may be able to order it for you. However, if you don’t have one nearby, you can often find them on Amazon and have them delivered straight to your door, and Amazon does typically offer guarantees.

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