A garden is a love song, a duet betweena human being and Mother Nature.

Monday, March 28, 2011

How to Espalier

I wanted to share a technique that has been around for hundreds of years.  Espalier is the art of training a woody plant to grow on a flat plane.  This technique creates structure and saves on space as well.

I started two pear trees three years ago.  And I have enjoyed the process of trimming tying and training.  I had to go to allot of web sights and books to collect what little information I could find. There were no direct rules and it was a little nerve racking to get a tree and cut it off. So I will share my knowledge I have collected...but in a simple form so that you can get started with allot more confidence than I had.

What you will need:
Sturdy structure in full sun to grow it on
Tree (dwarf whip)
Plant ties (I like the soft tape)
Bamboo steaks/poles

Structure:  Make sure you have something very sturdy like wood or metal.  I used landscape timbers that were planted two feet in the ground.  And then used porch railing as the cross bars.  Start your first cross bar one foot off the ground.  Then space the remaining one foot apart.

Tree:  Use a tree to fit the size of your structure.  I chose semi-dwarf because I only had a four foot width to work with.  I purchased my whips/trees at Willis Orchards they have allot of trees and great prices. And for this use you must get whips.  For my Espalier I planted Sugar Pear Trees.  When you choose make sure you check if the tree needs a pollinating Buddie.  Some trees will only produce fruit if they have another of the same species, it doesn't have to be the same type, its better if it isn't.

Getting Started:

Rest your tree in a bucket of luke warm water.  It needs a good long drink.

Dig your hole one foot away from the support.  Make sure your hole is twice the size of the root system.

Plant your whip to the knobby base.  Do Not Plant The Knob.  Use the same soil that you removed and top dress with compost.  Make a moat around your tree so that the water stays around it when you water, you don't want it running off.

After your tree is planted cut it off  at the top of the first railing. (I know this is hard to do...its barely a stick)

Water it deeply and give thanks for all the wonderful fruit and beauty it will bring you.

You will start to see little buds that will grow into little tree arms.  choose two that will be your first horizontal branches, remove all the rest.  Attach the bamboo to the support with twine or plant tape.  Attach the branch to the  bamboo.  Your bamboo should be at a slight slant.  Just enough so that it bring the branch down a bit without going too far.  Right now you want it still growing up.  When it is horizontal the growth slows down, so don't bring it down to its support bar until it is almost at the length you want it at.

Allow the tree (center limb) to grow up to the second support bar removing any growth along the way that will not be your next horizontal branches. Cut off the top of the tree again...this will encourage the horizontal branches and the tree will start another bud for upward growth.  Choose branches that are level or close to level with the next support.  And do as you did for the first one.  continue this until you have met your desired height.

Continue shaping the tree.  Espaliers take longer to produce but when they fruit...OH YUM!

I hope I have made this easier on all my lovely gardening friends.  Try not to be as chicken as I was.

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