Espalier – The art of taming Nature no.4

Espalier is a means of controlling the woody growth of, usually, fruit trees and training them in a two-dimensional way. The branches are pruned and then trained against a wall or along trellis or wires.

This restricts the growth and aids food production – walls retain heat overnight, maximum sunlight is absorbed when the branches are trained separately along wires.

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Wire trained espaliers.

It is a practice which has been in use for hundreds of years. A vertical main stem, the central leader, supports horizontal tiers.

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A cordon consists of a single stem, usually grown at an angle, with spurs on which the fruit is borne.

Cordon trained apples

Cordon trained apples

Crisscrossing double cordons

A fan has a short trunk with stems trained in an arc.

When an espaliered tree has only one tier it is called a stepover tree and looks good edging a path in a vegetable garden.

Stepover espaliered fruit trees

Stepover espaliered fruit trees

Once the tree has filled its allotted space, new terminal growths should be cut back in late spring.

These restrictive forms of fruit growing are time-consuming but highly decorative – they look very well against the end wall of a house for instance, especially in the Spring when they are in blossom.

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I am delighted to see so many of the old walled kitchen gardens of big estates being renovated and it is here that you are likely to see a variety of fruit trained in this way.

Arch trained pear trees

Arch trained pear trees

If you have such a walled garden near you, Spring is a great time to pop along and see if they have espaliered fruit trees looking at their best in flower, or later in the season loaded with fruit.

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9 thoughts on “Espalier – The art of taming Nature no.4

  1. Oh wow- I’ve only seen that method for grapevines. I had no idea you could do it with other fruits! I definitely want to try this in our garden. I love the seventh photo SO much- MUST have that someday!!


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