The perfect solution for growing trees, climbers and shrubs in small spaces is the practice of espalier. Espalier is the term used to describe a fruit tree or shrub whose branches are trained to grow flat against a wall supported on lattice, cable, wire, or a framework of stakes. Espalier is not a new gardening practice, in the 17th century it was the word initially used to refer to the actual trellis or framework that a plant was growing on. Over hundreds of years it has come to describe the art of training the plant and the plant itself as a complete unit.
Essentials for successful espalier
- Decide if the espalier is a permanent feature in the garden or it will be portable and build frame work or trellis to suit.
- Observe the position in the garden. Is it sunny in summer and shady in winter or does the position receive all day sun?
- Select plant species to suit the position, sun loving plants are never going to thrive in a full shaded position. When does the garden area need to look its best, is it screening an outdoor area that’s used throughout the warm months or a winter sun courtyard?
- When using fruit trees for espalier focus on creating and training the correct shape for the first 2 or three years and remove any fruit if it sets in this time. There will be plenty of time for fruit in the future.
- Prune the plants at the correct time; this depends a little on the varieties planted. In the case of flowering plants most training and pruning is carried out immediately after flowering.