The British American colonies have made use of espalier lattice work, frame work and wall support systems for centuries. Used to define garden boundaries with ornamental or fruit bearing trees, they were also a focal point and form of art as well as practical.
Espalier comes from the Italian spalliera which means something to rest the shoulder against. The term espalier is also now used for the plant itself as well as the trellis and frame. This form of tree growth protects them from the wind and the weather in general.
The roots of espalier can be found as far back as 1400BC Egypt where paintings of espaliered fig trees have been located. Since then they have been used in monasteries, castles and courtyards throughout the 16th and 17th century. They were also used through France and England for more efficient fruit production.
There are numerous forms of espalier from simple free flowing designs to complicated formal patterns. Some of the most common formal patterns are the candelabra, tiered, basket weave, fan, cordon, pinnate, palmate, Belgian, double lattice and diamond.
Creating an espalier is not difficult but it does take time. It can be up to three years plus before you will see any fruit. You will however have to put in plenty of time light pruning and training the branches.
When you have decided which formation you are going to have and have planted your trees you will need to cut off any branches that extend to the front of the tree or the back. As time goes by and the branches grow towards one another you will need to keep repeating this process.
When the branches start to meet you will need to criss cross them into the desired pattern securing them with cable ties. Make sure you leave plenty of room for branch growth.
Over the next three years you should keep pruning and training your trees in the late winter especially. As it grows keep criss crossing and securing the branches with cable ties. Snip any unwanted growth to maintain the pattern you decided on.
Remove all fruit and flower buds for the first two years to concentrate the trees energy into growing the branches. After three years you will be able to let the fruit grow and enjoy the beauty of your espalier. Who knows you may like it that much that you need to build some more garden boundary to grow them on.
Click here to read about How to Shape Fruit Espalier Living Wall Trees:
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