Espalier for Small Space Gardens

On June 23, 2012

Grow Up and Out with Espalier

When garden space is limited as in a courtyard, one technique for growing larger plants is to ‘espalier’ (pronounced “es-PAL-yer”) them.

Espalier is derived from the french word ‘epaulet’ meaning ‘shoulder strap’. The stems are trained from the main trunk to grow at right angles opposite each other to resemble shoulders.

Plant materials that have pliable, flexible stems can be trained to grow flat against a wall or fence with the espalier method. This method saves valuable space in a confined area. Prime examples of plants that can be trained in this method are magnolias, maples, fruit trees (for example, apples, figs, lemons) and also shrubs such as camellias, lavender starflower and pyracanthas.

The Art of Espalier

Start with a younger plant that has a balanced branching structure. Once you have decided on a branching pattern you will begin removing any branches that grow outward from the wall, fence, or surface you have planted against and any growth outside the pattern you have chosen.

Prune to Shape Your Espalier

For deciduous plants, the heaviest pruning should be accomplished in the dormant season when it is easiest to see the structure of the plant. Your pruning will then force new growth in the direction of  your training as soon as spring arrives.  For most evergreen flowering plants, prune after bloom to promote new growth. Tie the new shoots to your structure as they move in the desired direction.

Espaliered fruit trees are a great way to grow fruit with limited space. Many websites can help you with the specific process depending on your crop of choice. Explore the possibilities.

The espalier process requires patience and maintenance, but you will be rewarded by both when you create something unique in your garden.

You may be limited by space, but not by creativity. Grow on, get out into your garden!

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