by Fred Roundstone
(Angmering, West Sussex, UK)
How would you like having your seasonal fruit trees grow in flat, two-dimensional forms? How about the idea of picking your fresh fruits right from these form-designed trees? If you do, then you are ready to raise seasonal espaliered fruit trees.
Old art form
Back in the 16th century in northern France and southern England, it was discovered that if they bent the branches of apple trees horizontally, the growing energy of the plant’s vertical growth is directed into producing spurs. These spurs are the stubby growths that eventually flower and produce fruits.
Additionally, having the tree grow flat into a wall or fence makes a good shelter for the tree in terms of radiated heat. Growers today use dwarfed trees for easier handling.
Beauty of form
Some people, of course, simply go for the aesthetics – loving the looks of their espaliered trees. These are created by snipping off unwanted branches and training others to move to desired positions.
The outline of the patterns is already seen in winter. In spring, the trees are all festooned in pretty pink and white blossoms up to summer. (Because they can be grown against walls, they can hide ugly fences and walls and other areas better left unseen.)
Together with pear trees, apple trees are traditionally used because their spurs live for years producing fruits season after season. Stone fruits like peaches, cherries and plums can also be trained as espalier trees although the pruning schedule will be different.
Growers of espaliered trees will have to wait around three years to achieve their desired aims: growing beautiful-looking trees and the chance of harvesting their delicious fruits.
The most traditional form is the cordon. It can be a single cordon (known as “rope”) or a three-tiered “ropes” of branches growing horizontally for a distance. This is good as garden dividers.
Palmetto verrier are horizontal branches gradually trained into upright positions, giving out a nice definition to a wall or fence.
The fan design can be defined in one short year and makes a good cover for square surfaces. The branches are angled at 45 degreesand can be raised or lowered to increase fruit yield.
The informal style says it all. The tree is allowed to take on its natural shape, pruning only to keep it two-dimensional.
The Belgian fence, a formal-looking style, needs about three trees to create overlapping Vs and two modified V-forms to make the ends.
Also known as the “Brooklyn Botanical”, the candelabra style is having several vertical branches stand on one horizontal base. This design is the easiest to train and maintain.
In your outdoor activities, say, a barbecue party, your espaliered trees would make a very good conversation piece. You can even pick out your dessert right from your trees.
Click here to read more DIY tips about planting trees