Espalier Trees For The Garden

Chances are you have seen espaliered trees and thought they were stunning but impractical or too difficult to grow for the average home gardener. While they admittedly require more attention and pruning than the conventional form tree, these elegant additions to the landscape are worth the effort and provide a great excuse to get out and work your garden.

The practice of pruning and shaping a tree in the espalier form has been around since Roman Times, and started off with some very humble beginnings, being used as a barrier or a “living-fence”. In today’s world we look to add espalier trees to our gardens for largely aesthetic reasons, although many of those utilitarian reasons associated with times gone by still apply in our modern lives.

Espalier TreesSource: Terra Ferma Landscapes

One of the most practical reasons that I often suggest incorporating a variety of espalier trees into a landscape design is because they occupy less space and offer an attractive focal point without dominating the landscape. Espalier trees are those trained to grow on a flat plane and typically work well against walls, fences, or in a corner with good sun exposure. You can have fun growing and training trees to whichever form or pattern best suits your unique needs.

Locating Espaliered Trees near or facing a kitchen window so that the elegant simplicity of their form can be enjoyed is a great idea.  Careful placement of the fruit trees can often produce a higher yield than the conventional form as the entire tree is being exposed to the sun, and many horticulturalists suggest that the resulting crop is of a more consistent size and sweeter taste.  Consider locations where there is significant southern exposure and/or reflective light.

There are many different forms of espalier, requiring varied levels of pruning and training by the gardener, from the simple V-shape to the more elaborate Belgian Fence.  A fun and remarkable form is the “U-Shaped” Cordon pattern.  The Cordon Style Pattern looks amazing both in winter and summer months, and works best with Pears, as they tend to grow in a more upright direction.

Here in California, we often suggest planting a mix of fruit trees in the espalier style to increase the harvest for a backyard grower; considering a mix of apple varieties, pears, peaches, pomegranate, and even figs should guarantee ready access to fresh home grown fruit for much of the year.  Depending on the root stocks and fruit varieties available, you can size any tree to a special location.  Note the Espaliered Asian Pear for a small San Francisco Terrace that is pictured below.

Espalier Trees

Source: Terra Ferma Landscapes

As the reflective light and sun exposure produce new healthy growth, the owner can gently tie the horizontal branches to the wire trellis system. The wire trellis system can be easily fastened to any wall or fence and is almost necessary in order to properly train and espalier. Once the tree has reached its form and structure, the fastening or wire system can be removed.

Of course, you may not be looking to start a mini-orchard, perhaps the utilitarian side of espaliers doesn’t interest you much, well, these trees truly offer something for everyone and the aesthetic benefits are seemingly endless.  One does not have to choose a fruit bearing tree to enjoy the espaliered appeal.  Note the two Magnolias trees below planted against a wall at one of our projects in Hillsborough – one is the “Little Gem’ variety and the second is the Magnolia stellata ‘Royal Star’.

Espalier Trees

Source: Terra Ferma Landscapes

As you consider different trees for different locations in your yard, don’t forget to consider an Espaliered Tree.  Here at Terra Ferma Landscapes, we specialize in training, producing, and planting Espaliered Fruit and Ornamental Trees.  We offer many different options and varieties and can schedule an appointment to talk directly with you at your property.  We can arrange a visit to WBK Growers to hand select the tree of your choice.  Please feel free to reach out to us with any questions!