Espalier (ess-PAL-yay) is a new word that was originally a noun, meaning trellis or support for the plant. Today, this is an art that revolves around training and pruning trees or shrubs selectively for a predetermined shape. It is an ancient horticultural practice that began with trees grown flat against a plant support, resulting in a lifelike sculpture. According to historical narratives, espalier began during the middle ages in Europe where it was used in creating outdoor “walls.” Yet, there are claims that this art originated from Egypt where tombs dating back to 1400 B.C. have been found with espaliered fig trees.
The Main Benefits of Espalier Fruit Trees
There are three major benefits of espalier fruit trees. To begin with, sculpturing your home-grown fruit trees will naturally space them out. This will assist each of the trees to get enough nutrient (water and air) for healthy growth. Tree management will also be easier when espalier has been carried out.
The second major benefit of espalier fruit trees is the ease of picking. What’s the fun of having a home fruit garden if you can’t pick your own fruits whenever you want? Since fruit trees will be perfectly spaced and pruned to a particular height, reaching the fruits will be like taking a walk in your garden.
Finally, the garden artistry that results from fruit tree espalier is one to behold. If you want your garden to be the talk of the town, you don’t need to invest in other expensive beautification techniques. Simply invest in the art of espalier and your garden will be the envy of every neighbor of yours.
What’s The Best Location for an Espaliered Fruit Tree?
The most important requirement of espalier fruit trees is the quality and quantity of the sunshine they get. It is recommended for you to get a location where the trees can receive a minimum of six hours of light a day. The area should also be well drained with about eight feet of linear space.
An ideal location can be across a set of compact, free-standing horizontal wires or standing posts. This is how a lot of wine grapes can be grown. You can also have your espaliered fruit trees alongside a pergola, a trellis or a fence. Another option is to have the trees against a stucco wall.
The Best Fruit Trees to Espalier
The most popular fruit trees for espalier are pear and apple. Pear trees are a lot more complicated than apple trees because the stems harden over time, creating a challenge when you will start bending them towards the plant support. You can also espalier pomegranates and peaches, and likewise experiment with a host of other trees. The main requirement for fruit trees is that they should suit your climate.
If you decide to try out apple trees for your espalier, the best variety would be the spur-bearing apple trees. If you only want to espalier a single apple tree, go for one that is self-pollinating, like Starkspur golden delicious apple or Jon-A-Red Jonathan apple. Generally, dwarf or semi-dwarf trees are the best if you have small space for your trees.
How Often Should You Prune Your Fruit Tree?
Pruning your fruit trees at least two or three times per season will suffice in keeping it in a good shape. Do the first pruning after the tree blooms in spring. If you have done good mulching or ground cover, the trees will have enough flowers that you can use as indicators of where the fruits will be.
The best tool to use for pruning is a very sharp, clean shear dipped in a diluted bleach solution. Alternatively, you can thoroughly wipe them using an alcohol wipe. Rinse and dry the wipe after each use to prevent any potential spread of disease.
Although most people will see the full artistic effect of their espalier efforts after four years, you can actually begin to notice the differences as soon as in the second year. A secret to getting the most from your espaliered fruit tree, in terms of quantity and quality, is to remove any developing fruit in the first one or two years.
In the years when you are removing the fruit, also monitor remove water sprouts and suckers, and nip off any vertical shoots. You should also encourage the development of the fruiting spur by shortening the horizontal branches. You will eventually have many fruits on the espaliered fruit tree since more fruiting spurs will be produced along the horizontal branches compared to the vertical trunk. It’s also important to have a strong plant support for this to happen effortlessly.
How to Water and Fertilize Espaliered Fruit Trees?
Young fruit trees typically need about one gallon of water every seven to ten days until they have been fully rooted. You don’t need to add more water or put a ground cover if there’s sufficient rain. Mulching and watering are especially important when the weather is sunny and dry, resulting in the trees losing a lot of water.
There are a variety of espalier designs with different uses in the garden. There are simple common designs, like the Belgian fence and cordon which are popular for use in screening views. More complex designs, like the fan and candelabra are best for use as focal points in the garden. The Candelabra is one of the most dramatic espalierforms both in terms of height and attention. You can actually use it to partition sections in your home, like dividing the garden from the driveway.