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How About them Apples: Espalier for the Beginner
by Karen Atkins - October 2015

Espaliered fruit trees can be grown in small spaces, produce fruit, and are exceptionally long-lived. No wonder this growing technique has been used consistently, at least since the Middle Ages. But these are not the reasons I trouble myself to train fruit trees against walls. I do it because they are really, really pretty.

You can purchase a very young fruit tree whip for less than $20, and by pruning and tying it for 30 minutes, twice a year, end up with a stunning and unusual garden feature. The branches are as beautiful in winter, with a dusting of snow as they are flowering in spring and laden with fruit in fall.

Seriously! And you only have to prune them twice a year.

A pruning in winter, while the tree is dormant, stimulates growth and promotes bud growth for the following spring. A second pruning in late spring after the tree flowers, allows you to shape the tree into the pattern you’ve chosen.

There are only a few things to remember when pruning: Always cut back to a bud, a branch or a main trunk, trying not to leave any really long stubs.


Cordon, Palmette verrier, Candelabra, Belgian fence style espalier

 

That’s it! Now do you want to try it? Wouldn’t it be great if you could see an expert actually doing it first-hand? Well, since this is America, you can. Check out the YouTube videos below.

For an introduction to espalier and the different styles: The Art of Espalier, Vol. I, with Peter Thevenot:

 

For an introduction to pruning espaliers: Pruning an Espalier Apple, by the diggersclub.com:

 

 

Recipes

I love u-pick apple farms, and filled an entire Jeep with them once, for my two horses. The sheer bounty of an apple harvest challenges you to use them creatively. Here are some tried and true recipes I have for celebrating the season.


Waldorf Salad Recipe


Baked Apples Recipe

 

Also See

Espalier: It Only Sounds Ostentatious

Espalier sounds like a fancy French word, but it translates to fruit, function and beauty in the garden.

Usually associated with small-space gardening, espalier (ess-PAHL-yay) forces growth of apples, pears, grapes and other trees or shrubs onto a flat plane, usually against a wall or fence.

Espalier has been a common image in art for hundreds of years, persisting even today as a favorite subject for artists.

 

 

 

A version of this article appeared in a State-by-State Gardening September/October 2015 print edition.

 

 


Karen Atkins designs period-inspired gardens.

 

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