The training of fruit trees by selectively pruning to lay flat against a wall or along a trellis or frame is known as Espalier (ess-PAL-yay).
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Sculptured Fruit Trees
by David Proctor
November 12, 2020
Urban Farm Lifestyle Magazine Published Weekly
The practice of the ancient horticultural technique of pruning and training a tree or shrub to grow flat against a wall or along a trellis is known as Espalier.
According to American Garden History, espalier was originally used to create outdoor “walls” in Europe during the Middle Ages and was also planted in interior courtyard walls to prevent late frost bud-kill.
Other records show this technique dates back to ancient Egypt, where hieroglyphs of espaliered fig trees have been found in tombs dating back to 1400 B.C
Espalier allows for fruit trees to be grown in a relatively small area compared to just one tree allowed to branch out.
The ability to pick fruit without a ladder and the opportunity to sculpture the tree or trees are just a few benefits of this practice.
The best trees to start out with are apple or pear trees.
The apple is probably the easiest to start with because new stems don’t harden as quickly as pear trees.
Other trees that work well for this practice are fig-trees, peach, and pomegranates. Your climate may limit your choices.
Espalier Apple Tree
The location of your plants is key to success.
Your location should be well-drained, about eight linear feet of space, and full sun.
This location can be against a wall, along a fence, or across posts and horizontal wire, such as utilized in some vineyards.
Pruning will probably be required two or three times per year.
The first pruning will be after the tree has first bloomed.
Later remove vertical shoots, suckers, and water sprouts.
Shorten the horizontal growth to encourage fruiting spurs.
This will intensify the fruit production so be sure these branches are supported well.
Espalier, Decorative and Functional
For more information on planting instructions and techniques, visit: https://www.starkbros.com/growing-guide/article/espalier-fruit-trees
Check It Out!
Pruning an espalier apple 4:17
- Summer pruning encourages fruiting
- Winter pruning encourages growth
- Cut back growing tips but not fruiting spurs
“How to Espalier Fruit Trees.” Stark Bro’s Nurseries & Orchards Co., www.starkbros.com/growing-guide/article/espalier-fruit-trees.
“Espalier.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 25 Aug. 2020, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Espalier.