How to Espalier

Espalier is a traditional, though labor-intensive, way to decorate courtyard walls.

Espalier is the term used to describe the process of training trees, shrubs, and woody vines against a flat surface, such as a wall. You can also train them to a freestanding fence or trellis.

To espalier, prune to create a main vertical stem, then train the side branches to achieve the desired shape. Depending on the plant, this can take a year or two to establish and requires regular care. Thereafter, an espalier requires only light pruning to hold its shape.

Start your espalier with bareroot trees; here’s how to plant them.


Image zoom

Step 1: Plan your pattern. Espalier can be used to produce a variety of patterns. Fruit trees are often grown horizontally (diagram A) to maximize fruit set. Or, the branches can be turned up (B and C) to produce a more compact pattern. For quick coverage of long walls, consider planting several trees and training them into a Belgian fence pattern (D).

Step 2: Choose a location. Any solid wall will do as long as there is enough light for the plant you want and room to plant. You can also use a container, provided it is large enough to hold the plant when it is mature.

Step 3: Choose the plant. Most plants can be espaliered, but those with naturally spreading branches, such as apple, pear, quince, and camellia, work best. Look for a plant that already has a start on the branching pattern you want. Make sure the plant is suitable for the location.

Step 4: Prepare the support. Run wires between nails set in the wall or posts set in the ground to create three horizontal lines. Wire isn’t necessary for vertical branches; they will grow that way naturally. Use heavy-gauge wire that can resist the pull of the branches as they try to grow toward the sun.

Step 5: Plant the tree or shrub. Set the plant about a foot in front of the structure that will support it. Position the plant so that at least two of the strongest branches run in the direction of the wires.

Step 6: Train the branches. Remove all but two shoots on each branch. Attach the remaining shoots to the wires with soft ties.

As the central trunk grows, keep removing side shoots. When the trunk reaches the next wire up, allow two side shoots to develop (remove the rest) and attach them to the wires.

Trees trained against a wall book

Eɪ / trees trained against a wall book ) is the horticultural and ancient agricultural practice of controlling woody plant growth for the production of fruit, by book pruning and tying branches to a frame. imagine a grape trellis, but with trees trained against a wall book apples, pears, plums, etc. they have also to support the framework that the branches will be trained against. training trees on a sturdy trellis can provide a fruiting wall in a narrow space, either free standing with space on both sides ( preferable) or against a fence or house. in a formal setting, climbing plants are often made to follow geometric pathways.

just make sure you anchor them well. marcos 114 posts: 24. let’ s find possible answers to ” a shrub or tree trained to grow flat against a wall, or the trellis on which it grows” crossword clue. amazingly, the trees he eventually trained to grow flat against the walls produced more fruit than trees cultivated in the open. espalier trees are the result of intense training, in which the plants are urged to grow flat against a wall, fence or trellis. trained against a wall or trimmed into a living fence,.

it now refers to the practice of using a structure to train woody plants, typically fruit- bearing trees, along a two- dimensional plane. they can turn a bare wall into a stunning piece of living art. growing espalier fruit trees in the home garden is a wonderful way to grow edibles in small spaces and in decorative ways.

the warmest and most sheltered position in the garden should be chosen for the bush or pyramid pear- trees, as they a; common fig ( ficus carica) growing against brick wall of walled garden, thornham estate, thornham magna, suffolk, england, may; a fig tree. * prune it as a single- trunk or multi- trunk tree * train it along a sunny fence or wall as an espalier * plant it in a large container. growing flowering trees on a. first of all, we will look for a few extra hints for this entry: tree trained against a wall.

espalier fruit trees are very ornamental. tree shaping ( also known by several other alternative names) uses living trees and other woody plants as the medium to create structures trees trained against a wall book and art. but they’ re also a fantastic.

growing trees and shrubs on walls home informative growing trees and shrubs on walls. planting trees along a fence is an obvious solution, but in a courtyard, side yard or narrow back yard, a row of standard- size shade trees by a fence may be overwhelming. i sagged against the wall, utterly broken, my hands numb on book the bars as my eyes book strained.

as we mentioned earlier, apple trees are easy to train to espalier, so we’ ll use apple trees in this example. training a tree lower to the ground allows for better access, making care of it easier. his book subject is quite good, but he tends to miss the forest for the trees. i trees trained against a wall book have wanted to try training a tree. plants that like to be up against the wall.

trained against a wall or trimmed into a living fence, espaliered trees and shrubs are an elegant small- space solution for any yard. if this is a factor in your garden design, bear in mind the following points:. the walled kitchen garden where i work is smothered in wall- trained trees. all it takes to pop. this can be a great way of utilising what might otherwise be a bare wall, and allow you to grow plants that might otherwise be to big. the pomegranate can play many roles in your edible landscaping. trees trained against a wall book just splay all the branches evenly out against the wall, like an outstretched hand.

design: dina deferme – image no: gap gardens, garden and plant stock photography. rushing beat in my ears. taken together it was not possible to generate enough ” farm space” book to grow a self- sufficient crop of vegetables and have an orchard at the same time. nick’ s link looks good. this is when a fruit such as an apple, pear, cherry or fig is trained or guided by way of a bamboo framework over several years to develop a tight frame of branches that either radiate out like a fan trees trained against a wall book or are arranged into vertical or horizontal tiers such as espalier or cordon. espaliered trees can be trained along fences, against a wall, over arbours and even on a trellis. the art of training a fruit tree against a wall is a work of art and creates a fantastic feature, writes tom attwood.

explore fairbrass’ s board ” wall trained shrubs / trees& fruit trees” on pinterest. these trees need to be grown up against a building on the south or west side where they get. pyracantha, or trees trained against a wall book firethorn ( pyracantha coccinea), gives you a lot of bang for your landscaping buck and requires just a little regular pruning in return. growing a fig tree up a wall. plants are frequently shaped in formal patterns, flat against a structure such as a wall, fence, or trellis, and also plants which have been shaped in this way. in an informal backyard, vines.

grow espaliered trees for a slim fit. follow these steps and learn how to espalier fruit trees. but this same method can also be used just for beauty. while nearly any plant can be espaliered, including vines and climbing plants like ivy and roses, most people prefer using fruit trees such as apple and plum. book designer and. pelargoniums, poppies, and perennial herbs are hardy choices. explore lasesana’ s board ” espalier trees”, followed by 1716 people on pinterest. the flat expanse of land that surrounded the trees trained against a wall book walls of the keep was long eradicated of trees.

by susan heeger of this old house magazine. against a gray- green backdrop of herbs and drought- tolerant perennials, a pink or red flowering plant makes a dramatic statement. ( tending to get in too trees trained against a wall book much detail and miss the essence). above: succulents and drought- tolerant perennials are in the foreground; cypress trees are trained against the wall in the background. the art of espalier is all about selectively pruning and training to a desired shape. one of the reasons for growing trained fruit trees is to add a formal structural element to the garden, whilst enjoying the benefit of home- grown fruit production.

i can pamper and enjoy the wintry forms of a couple of wall- trained pears which i will train out laterally, a tier a year, to either side of the door. aesthetics of trained fruit trees. summer border of persicaria amplexicaulis ‘ rosea’, phlox paniculata, hydrangea macrophylla and trained pear trees against the wall. wall fruit n fruit grown on trees trained against a wall for the shelter and warmth it provides english collins dictionary – english.

trees trained against a wall book the art of training fruit trees to grow against a wall in formally pruned shapes has persisted to this day. 5m ( 28ft) and never. see more ideas about espalier fruit trees, fruit trees and garden landscaping. finally, we will solve this crossword puzzle clue and get the correct word.

espalier, pronounced either “ es- pah- lee- er” or “ es- pah- lee- ay, ” depending trees trained against a wall book on how french you want to sound, is the art of training plants to grow against a wall in desired shapes. in the far distance, the land gave way to shrubs and then trees so thick and dense it was impossible to determine what lurked within. unlike ] that i purchased and put on the same walls, these trees did not peel off. first of all, we will look for a few extra hints for this entry: a shrub or trees trained against a wall book tree trained to grow flat against a wall, or the trellis on which it grows.

our garden has some constraints: ( a) available space; and ( b) available sunlight. espalier— or trained— trees never fail to look really impressive, trees trained against a wall book whether they form a grand allée on a country estate book or are used simply as single specimen trees against a stone or timber wall. espalier is the art of training shrubs and trees, usually fruit trees, to grow flat against a wall, on a trellis, or between support wires. their branches, like the extended arms of a scarecrow, travel horizontally — and are often loaded with fruit. let’ s find trees trained against a wall book possible answers to ” tree trained against a wall” crossword clue. they require little pruning once established and are attractive in blossom and fruit and architectural during winter.

there are a few different methods used by the various artists to shape their trees, which share a common heritage with other artistic horticultural and agricultural practices, such as pleaching, bonsai, espalier, and topiary, and employing some. espalier training trees. with the plant trained and pruned against the flat structure minimising its spread outwards. training apples and pears as espaliers is a trees trained against a wall book space- saving way of growing fruit on a wall or fence. tree trained against a wall.

almost any flowering tree or shrub can be grown on a wall and trained, so imagine, for example, trees trained against a wall book an okame cherry blossom tree covering the side of your house. trees trained to grow flat against a stone wall save space in the garden. i am sure you have probably seen one, not necessarily citrus, but just in case, here is what one looks like:. training and pruning fruit trees to grow along walls or fences keeps the fruit at an easily accessible height, and turns an otherwise standard tree into a garden showpiece.

when traveling in france and england, i have often admired the fruit trees that have been pruned and trained to stay low and follow a wall or building. the distance between the trees should be up to 4. ” we don’ t stop playing because we book grow old; we grow old because we.

the evergreen, which can be a free- standing shrub or trained against a wall or fence, not only gives you year- round. what’ s the best way to attach training wires against brick wall for espalier tree? pleaching: the art trees trained against a wall book of training trees. large, opaque pieces look great against a wall.

trellising or wire stays might be used against the wall to. an espaliered olive tree is easier. a plant ( as a fruit tree) trained to grow flat against a support ( as a wall). : a railing or trellis on which fruit trees or shrubs are trained to grow flat. pretty in three seasons, you’ ll enjoy its shiny leaves and crinkly red- orange flowers in spring, and uniquely shaped rosy fruits in summer and fall.

trees and shrubs for small gardens – pdf ebook. marcos – you just need enough length in the vine eyes to allow trees trained against a wall book air to circulate around the trained stems. there are four basic espalier forms trees trained against a wall book ( see. espalier ( / ɪ ˈ s p æ l ɪər / or / ɪ ˈ s p æ l i. and while they look tricky to create, even a novice can learn to sculpt trees into artful garden screens, partitions, or features. ornamentals such as pyracantha are sometimes trained as espaliers. see more ideas about fruit trees, garden inspiration and espalier fruit trees. his work over trees trained against a wall book a lifetime was detailed in a book he wrote, “ palmette legendre”, published in 1684.

Everything you need to know about espalier

What is espalier?

Espalier is a way of training trees, shrubs, and woody vines against a flat surface, like a wall, fence or trellis. It’s an ancient growing technique that originated in the small courtyards of ancient Rome and is considered by many to be an art form.

Why espalier?

Espalier not only looks beautiful and decorative, it’s practical and space saving. With the sprawling Aussie backyard becoming a luxury and balcony and courtyard gardens becoming more popular, espalier is now, more than ever, a perfect solution to growing your favourite fruiting and flowering trees. Best of all, you can still enjoy full size fruit and flowers.

What you will need

  • Your plant of choice. See below for suitable fruiting and flowering options.
  • Consider what you will grow your plant on. Walls, fences, trellis, wire, lattice and mesh are all good options.
  • A high-quality potting mix, as this is where your plant will get all of its nutrients from.

How to espalier

Chris England from Merrywood Plants is an espalier expert with 25 years’ experience and has some tips for creating your own espalier.

  • Leave some room between the trunk and the flat surface behind.
  • Before planting, tease out the roots, so they spread easier and add liquid fertiliser to help the plant settle into its new home. The exception to this is if the potting mix already has added fertiliser.
  • Espaliered plants need to be attached to something sturdy. If using a freestanding flat surface, like a trellis, tie the trunk of the plant onto the back of it, so it’s sturdy, and always use a flexible tie.
  • Look for leading branches and attach these branches horizontally (as much as possible) to the flat surface. Attach halfway down the branch and again at the end. What you’re trying to do is ensure the plant’s sap runs horizontally so as not to encourage vertical growth.
  • Rather than pruning new growth, train it. When any stem is about 20 centimetres long, train it by attaching it back to the flat surface. Any branches that look out of place can be trimmed.

Pests and disease

Address any pests and disease as you would a regular plant.

What plants can I espalier?

Flowering trees

  • Bay tree
  • Bougainvillea
  • Camellia
  • Crab apple
  • Crepe myrtle
  • Flowering almond
  • Flowering apricot
  • Flowering cherry
  • Flowering peach
  • Flowering plum
  • Gardenia

Fruiting trees and edible plants

  • Apple
  • Blueberry
  • Citrus (orange, lemon, limes)
  • Cumquat
  • Medla
  • Nectarine
  • Olive
  • Pear
  • Plum
  • Quince
  • Rosemary

Choosing the right pot

When choosing the right pot, keep in mind that once your plant is settled in its new home, it’s very hard to move, so give it a pot that allows the plant to grow. Chris recommends a rectangular planter which will give width and depth. If the pot is too small, your plant will be pot bound and dry out. If you get the right size pot, your plant will be happy for many years. Dwarf plant varieties don’t need as much space. As a general rule of thumb, your pot should be around three times bigger than the original pot it came in.

Caring for your espaliered plant


Water at least once a day in summer to avoid your plant drying out.


Feed your plant monthly with a liquid fertiliser and a slow-release fertiliser three times per year. If planting a citrus or fruiting tree, use a specially-formulated citrus and fruit fertiliser.


Most fruiting trees need full sun but as always, check the label before positioning your plant.


Harvest your espaliered plant as you would a regular plant. When the fruit is ripe and colourful, it’s ready to be picked.

If you’d prefer to buy a ready-made espaliered plant, check out our great range instore.

Espaliered apple trees at Mt. Vernon, near Alexandria, VA

Espalier, a French word derived from the Italian spalliera, which means “something to rest the shoulder (spalla) against,” is the art, or process, of controlling plant growth in a flat plane, usually against a wall or fence, or along a trellis. The term – pronounced “es-PAL-yer” or “es-PAL-yay”– also refers to the plant itself grown in this way. Originally it defined the trellis, or frame, the tree was trained to, but this meaning is no longer used.

This horticultural technique trains woody trees or shrubs through pruning and tying to create two-dimensional plants, often in specific patterns. Because a plant pruned in this way uses far less space, it is ideal for small gardens where, and in narrow spaces where spreading trees or shrubs will not fit. When planted next to a south-facing wall, the slightly warmer microclimate (the wall radiates heat and provides shelter) may allow some plants or cultivars to be planted in colder regions than they would normally be able to survive or fruit (because the season is a little too short).

Espaliered pear tree, RHS Garden Wisley, England.

Today, espaliers are used primarily as decorative accents in the landscape. They function as living sculptures – but less involved than topiary – and are especially effective against blank walls. (Espalier differs from topiary in that pruning creates a structure or skeleton of the tree, while topiary only forms a shape or silhouette.) In winter the geometric form of the bare branches are especially noticeable and decorative. They can be used to disguise less-than-attractive walls or fences or to screen views of utility areas. Free-standing forms make elegant fences or unique vertical accents. Espalier is much more popular in Europe than in the U.S., where it is also used in some commercial orchards to increase productivity.

Freestanding espaliers: For ornamental interest at Keukenhof, Netherlands (L and LC). As a fence in the kitchen garden at Mt. Vernon (RC) and between parking lot and gardens at River Farm, American Horticultural Society headquarters, Alexandria, VA (R).

This ancient practice may go back as far as the early Egyptians (tombs from about 1400 BCE have been found with paintings of espaliered fig trees), although many believe the Romans originated the technique. It was commonly used in the Middle Ages in Europe to grow fruit inside walled monastery gardens or castle courtyards without filling the open space. The classic European styles can be traced back to the 16th and 17th centuries where they were developed in such marginal climates as northern France and southern England for more practical fruit production.

A young pear tree trained in the palmetto verrier style, Missouri Botanic Garden.

Some plants adapt better to the techniques of espalier than others. The best candidates have long, flexible branches and ornamental flowers or fruits. Fruit trees are the most common subject. The intensive pruning directs energy away from vigorous vertical growth into the shorter, lateral fruit-bearing spurs, resulting in heavier yields than on ordinary trees. Because they are less susceptible to breaking branches, espaliered trees can have an incredible life span – some espaliered apple trees are still producing fruit after 150 years! Some other advantages to espaliering fruit trees include being able to grow several different cultivars in the space of a single normal tree for greater diversity in fruit types and cross-pollination requirements; the trees bear earlier and for a longer time with deeper fruit color; fewer pest problems as air circulation is enhanced and any needed treatments are more easily applied; and harvest is much easier.

Espaliered trees can grow very old.

Fruit trees that bear fruit on long-lived spurs are easiest to espalier. Apple and pear trees are the traditional espalier subject because their spurs live for years producing fruit (although certain cultivars are better than others) and they have supple, easily trained new growth, but other fruit trees that sometimes are espaliered include fig (Ficus carica), peaches, cherries and pomegranates. Plums, nectarines and apricots require more careful pruning. Dwarf cultivars are easier to train than standard size trees.

But almost any woody plant with long flexible branches can be used for espalier. Ornamental plants such as bougainvillea, camellias, cotoneaster, flowering crabapples (Malus), flowering quince cultivars (Chaenomeles), forsythia, holly, magnolia, Pyracantha, Pfitzer juniper (Juniperus chinensis ‘Pfitzerana’), some viburnums, winged euonymous, and witch hazels (Hamamelis) are quite amenable to espalier. Even climbing roses could be used.

There are six traditional patterns used in espalier, with many variations on these basic designs. Normally only a single design is used within a landscape.

  • Cordon – the most traditional form in which branches are trained to grow horizontally out of one central trunk. A single cordon is known as a “rope.” A multi-tier cordon generally has three tiers of branches but could have as many as five tiers. Cordon espaliering can be used to form living fences or to increase yield in small orchards.
  • Palmetto Verrier – branches are shaped into a U as the horizontal branches are turned up at the ends. This creates nice definition between trees planted against a wall.
  • Fan – branches angled at 45° grow radiating from a central trunk in a fan-shaped pattern. This is best for spaces requiring vertical coverage or in square spaces.
  • Candelabra – several vertical branches arise at regular intervals from a low horizontal branch coming off the central trunk, forming a candelabra shape.
  • Informal – more naturally shaped, but still in a single plane. This requires only simple pruning.
  • Belgian Fence – three or more V-shaped espaliers are woven together into a fence for a lattice effect. The two trees on the ends are modified Vs for finished ends.

The traditional cordon (L), fan (C), and informal (R) styles of espalier.

Belgian fence of pear at RHS Garden Wisley, England (L) and Sargent crabapple (Malus sargentii) at Minnesota Landscape Arboretum (C and R).

The different patterns are created by pruning to remove unwanted branches and training (forcing) others into the desired position. The highly symmetrical, formal designs require much more effort than the informal types. Some plants or cultivars are more suited to certain patterns than others because of their natural growth form, so will require less effort to train and maintain if well-matched. The more complex patterns take longer to develop. Some nurseries offer pre-trained trees that already have a basic shape if you don’t have the patience to develop your own espaliers.

Espaliered tree at Palais Het Loo, Netherlands.

Espaliers are trained on a strong supportive form of wood or galvanized wire. Almost any flat surface can be utilized: a wood or chain link fence, brick walls, the side of a garage, home or other building as long as a support structure can be attached to it. Free-standing trellises or even just wire stretched between posts can be used can be used independent of a flat surface. The tree should be at least 8” from the flat surface to allow for growth and air movement. Supports are placed in specific locations depending on the pattern and the plants are pruned and tied to the supports as they grow.

Espalier requires dedication to pruning to develop a beautiful and productive tree.

Espalier is a long and labor-intensive process, so this really isn’t suitable as part of a low-maintenance landscape. The basic framework of simple designs may be established in three or four years, while intricate designs will take longer. To develop your own espalier, choose a young tree without much branching, as this will require much less effort to manipulate. The main pruning is done annually in late winter/early spring when the plant is dormant (or after it flowers, if it is a spring bloomer) to remove branches that don’t fit the plan. Growth is redirected by pruning to buds that face the direction you want the plant to grow. Branches are moved into place and tied onto the supports in spring and early summer, while branches are still young, soft and easy to manipulate. This often has to be done gradually over a period of time each spring. The ties – of soft string, strips of rags, rubber grafting bands, plant ties, or raffia – should be checked periodically (every few months) and loosened if restricting growth or damaging the branch. The ties are removed once the final form has been achieved. Once the desired overall shape is achieved, it is maintained by simple, minor pruning once a month to remove all stray branches and twigs that are growing perpendicular to the flat plane or out of the pattern. Specific directions for pruning the different patterns can be found in various books.

Shape the plant every month or so, removing branches or twigs that aren’t in the correct plane of growth. Maintenance for espalier plants is the same as for normal plants of their type, except for the more intensive, regular pruning and shaping (which never ends).

– Susan Mahr, University of Wisconsin – Madison

Download Article as PDF

How to Espalier Fruit Trees

The art of espalier is all about selectively pruning and training to a desired shape. Follow these steps and learn how to espalier fruit trees.

The origins of espalier

Espalier is the ancient horticultural art of pruning and training a tree or shrub to grow flat against a support, creating a living sculpture. According to American Garden History, espalier was originally used to create outdoor “walls” in Europe during the Middle Ages and was also planted in interior courtyard walls to prevent late frost bud-kill. Other records show this technique dates back to ancient Egypt, where hieroglyphs of espaliered fig trees have been found in tombs dating back to 1400 B.C. The French word “espalier” (ess-PAL-yay) was originally a noun that referred to the trellis or support upon which the tree was grown; today, it refers to the technique itself. Why espalier? Well, there really isn’t a reason not to try espalier. Just a few of the benefits include:

  • Homegrown fruit from a narrow space
  • Very easy picking, no ladder needed
  • A striking bit of garden artistry that will have your neighbors talking

Which fruit trees espalier best?

Apple and pear are the usual choices. Apple trees are a little easier because new stems don’t harden as quickly as pear trees, and are therefore a little more forgiving when you go to bend them toward your support wires. Peaches and pomegranates also espalier well. You can try your hand at espaliering any variety of fruit tree, as long as the fruit tree suits your climate, but dwarf or semi-dwarf trees are best for small spaces. Since apple trees are a common choice for espalier, note that spur-bearing apple trees are even better if you want more fruit from your living fence. And, if you’re only planting one tree, make sure it’s a self-pollinating variety like Stark® Jon-A-Red Jonathan apple or Starkspur® Golden Delicious apple so you’re sure to get fruit. You can espalier peach trees as seen in this example from D. Reyné!

Where to Plant Your Espaliered Tree

Location is key. You will need about 8 feet of linear space in a well-drained spot that gets full sun. Full sun means the tree will receive at least six hours of light per day. Espaliered trees can be grown:

  • Against a wall (usually brick or stucco)
  • Along a fence, trellis or pergola
  • Across a set of sturdy free-standing posts and horizontal wires (as many wine grapes are grown)

How to Create a Classic Three-Tier Cordon

As we mentioned earlier, apple trees are easy to train to espalier, so we’ll use apple trees in this example. There are four basic espalier forms (see diagram) but for purposes of this example, we’ll describe how to form the three-tier horizontal cordon. The three-tier cordon is quite a simple technique; it just requires a little know-how and a few years of patience as the trees grow into it. You will need:

  • Your chosen apple tree: bare-root, any height (unbranched whips are ideal)
  • Compost
  • Wire cutter
  • Pliers
  • Drill with a 3-16″ drill bit
  • Digging shovel
  • Pruning shears
  • Stretchy plant ties or pantyhose, cut into strips
  • Pencil or chalk
  • Yardstick or measuring tape
  • 12-gauge wire (about 28 feet total)
  • 3/16″ eye bolts (use 3-16″ wall mounts on masonry)


  1. Choose your location (see tips above).
  2. Measure 4 feet up from the soil (final tree height) and center the spot on the wall or support. Chalk a vertical line (the “trunk”) from your centered spot to the ground.
  3. Along your vertical “trunk line,” mark a spot 16 inches from the ground (the first branch tier), and repeat twice. You will now have a 4-foot vertical line with three spots marked on it at 16-inch intervals.
  4. Now mark out the tree width. Begin at the first 16-inch tier mark on the “trunk” and measure 3-1/2 feet on both the right and left of the trunk. Repeat for the second and third tiers, then draw horizontal lines from point to point. What you should see is a single 4-foot vertical line intersected by three horizontal lines, 16 inches apart and 7 feet wide.
  5. Install the eyebolts or wall mounts to the wall/support. A bolt should be placed on the “trunk line” at ground level and where the first, second and third tiers cross. Also attach bolts to each end of each of the 3 horizontal lines.
  6. Thread wire through the eyebolts following the pattern drawn on the wall, both vertical and horizontal. Twist the wire at the ends to secure it, and snip.
  7. Now it’s time to plant your tree. In spring or fall, dig a hole in front of the vertical wire that is 12-14 inches wide and equally deep. Mix half of the shoveled-out soil with compost. Position the tree whip in the hole so that the crown sits at soil level. Remember to position it 4-5 inches from the wall with a bud just above the first-tier guide wire.
  8. Backfill the hole with the soil/compost mixture and water in well.
  9. Attach the trunk to the vertical wire, somewhere below the first-tier horizontal wire, with a stretchy plant tie to avoid bark damage.
  10. Take a deep breath and top the center trunk by making a cut about 1-2 inches above the first-tier wire, right above a bud. Make sure there are at least three buds below this one. This action will force the tree to send out branches at or near the first-tier height.
  11. During the first season, let the buds grow into new shoots. Pick the three sturdiest ones and prune off the rest. When the shoots are 3-4 inches long, gently bend and tie one to the lowest right-side horizontal wire and another shoot to the left. Your tree should now look like a lower-case “t”.
  12. Don’t let the center trunk grow more than 6” over the first tier. Snip it back as the horizontal branches grow to keep it in check.
  13. When the first-tier branches have grown three-quarters of the way to the end of their support wire, allow the central trunk to grow to the second tier and start the process again.
Repeat once more until you have three tiers, each about 7 feet long from end to end.

Some examples of fruit trees trained to tiered, horizontal cordons:

These photos of espaliered fruit trees were shared with us by our customers, Timoti B. and Michael M.!

How and When to Prune Your Espaliered Fruit Tree

You may need to prune two or three times per season to keep the tree in shape. The first pruning should be after it blooms in the spring. The flowers will indicate where the fruit will be, and you can prune accordingly. (Always use very sharp, clean shears that have been dipped in diluted bleach solution, or wiped down thoroughly with an alcohol wipe, rinsed and dried after each use to prevent potential disease spread.) While it usually takes about four years to get the full artistic effect of your efforts, you may actually see fruit as soon as the second year… but if you want the most from your espaliered tree, remove that developing fruit for a year or two. Then keep an eye on it, nipping off vertical shoots, and removing suckers and water sprouts. Shorten the horizontal branches to encourage the development of a fruiting spur. Because there will be more fruiting spurs produced along the horizontal branches than the vertical trunk, eventually you will have many fruits setting on your espaliered tree, so make sure your support is strong. ” Looking for more information on pruning espaliered fruit trees? Our Pruning Made Easy book provides instructions and tips on how to achieve a successful espalier design.

Watering and fertilizing espaliered trees

The young tree needs the equivalent of about a gallon of water every 7-10 days until it’s established. If you find that rain is keeping your tree watered, you don’t need to provide any additional water. Just step in when Mother Nature leaves you dry. Find more advice on watering fruit trees here. Just like with a fruit tree growing naturally, you can apply a specially-formulated fertilizer for fruit trees as needed during the growing season. Follow the directions on the package so as not to burn the young tree roots. Find tips on fertilizing wisely here. The reward of your patience, persistence and attention to detail will provide you not only with a fine fruit crop, but with a rather spectacular living sculpture that will set your fruit garden far apart from the ordinary!

View Stark Bro’s Pinterest Board: Fruit Tree Espalier “

  • Article Categories:
  • Projects & Ideas

Espalier an Apple Tree

Espalier is a method of training and pruning a tree or shrub, forcing it to grow flat against a wall or a free-standing trellis. Although it originated in the Middle Ages as a way to grow fruit inside the safety of castle walls, many nonfruiting plants, including yews, cotoneaster, magnolias, and dogwood can be espaliered.


Espalier has a great deal of ornamental value — few garden scenes are more stunning than a blooming apple tree growing against a brick wall — but it’s also an effective technique for producing an ample crop of fruit in a small space. You don’t need an orchard to grow apple trees. A sunny wall, a special pruning technique, and patience are all you need to espalier an apple tree.

To encourage substantial fruit production, prune with two objectives in mind. First, train the tree to the classic flattened, horizontal shape of espalier. Second, encourage the growth of short fruiting stems, or spurs, that will ultimately produce apples.

Mail-order catalogs are often the best source for selecting trees to espalier. Popular varieties hardy to the Chicago area include ‘Northern Spy’, ‘Golden Delicious’, ‘Liberty’, ‘Redcourt’, and ‘Holiday’. Others that have shown extreme hardiness and good disease resistance include ‘Honeycrisp’, ‘Sweet Sixteen’, and ‘State Fair’. Some varieties, such as ‘Golden Delicious’, are self-fertile, meaning they do not need another apple variety with which to pollinate. Others, however, will require a nearby different apple variety to complete pollination and produce fruit.

Start with a tree that has been grafted onto dwarf rootstock. All commercial apple trees are grafted onto roots from selected hardy apple trees. Some rootstock is dwarfing and will produce small trees; other rootstock produces full-size trees. If you espalier a full-size tree, it will have much thicker, heavier trunks and branches. Catalogs will indicate the type of rootstock used. Two desirable rootstocks to look for are the semi-dwarf M27 or the mini-dwarf MAL27.

You will begin with a 2- to 3-foot sapling, or whip, that is still very pliable and has not yet grown any side branches. It can be planted against a wall, a sturdy trellis or other flat surface. The wall will have an added advantage of absorbing heat to hasten ripening.


  • String three to four rows of galvanized wire horizontally on the wall or trellis, about 2 feet apart.
  • Plant the 3-foot whip in the middle of the structure. Find the lowest bud on the whip and prune off the wood above it. That bud should be about 2 feet from the base of the whip and coincide with the lowest wire.
  • Lateral branches will begin to grow out and away from the cut. Tie one end of a bamboo cane to the first horizontal wire and the other end to the young branch, pulling it down toward the wire and training it to grow along the wire. It usually takes two growing seasons to get branches to grow at right angles to the main vertical trunk.
  • In the meantime, the whip will continue to grow upward from the original bud you located when you made the first cut. Let it grow to the second horizontal wire and again make a cut above a bud. When lateral branches grow from that point, repeat the process of attaching them to the horizontal wires.
  • A typical espalier is 6 to 8 feet tall, with three to four sets of horizontal branches. Your goal is to keep the tree in bounds. Fruit yields will be proportionately much greater from an espalier than from a full-size tree.


It generally takes five to seven years to create a completed espalier structure and harvest fruit. Until that time, prune out any developing fruit. Your goal in the first few years is to encourage the tree to put all of its energy into growing branches that establish the basic framework. Once that happens, all future pruning is to encourage fruit production. Apples on all trees, whether espalier or not, are borne on short stems called spurs. As buds and new shoots form along a lateral branch, prune them back to a point close to the branch where five leaves cluster around the stem. This encourages the buds on the bottom half of the lateral branch to produce fruit. This pruning will also remove the end buds that are more likely to produce leaves and stems.

Before attempting espalier, visit the Chicago Botanic Garden’s Regenstein Fruit & Vegetable Garden to study the many examples of mature fruit espaliers trained against brick walls and free-standing trellises. There is also a display of nonespalier apple trees planted in a large semicircle, with dwarf species in front and the full-sized trees in back. The dwarf trees are examples of the type of apple tree you could use to make a perfect espalier in your sunny yard.

Plant an espalier tree

You can also buy espaliered trees in pots at garden centres which are available all year round. These are perfect for growing where space is limited. The trees usually have two tiers of branches and will quickly make three or four tiers.

What to do

Make your support

  • Choose a sunny wall or fence and fit a framework of horizontal wires that match the distance between the arms of espaliers – usually 35-45cm (13-17in) apart.
  • Most ready-trained trees come with two tiers of branches, but it’s easier to fix three or four supports now than when the tree is growing. If you have a fence, drill holes between two posts and fix wires using eye bolts. Use vine eyes and a tightener on walls.

Planting tips

  • Dig a planting hole 15cm (6in) from the fence or wall, wide enough for the roots to be spread out and deep enough so the soil mark on the stem sits at the same level as the soil. Fork over the bottom of the hole.
  • Soak the plant thoroughly and allow to drain.
  • Place the tree in the centre of the hole and check the level by placing a cane across the gap – add or remove soil as necessary.
  • Fill the hole with soil, firming gently until you reach the top.
  • Firm the soil with your heel, drench with water and mulch with well-rotted manure.

  • Tie side branches with twine in several places to your support wires running along the fence.
  • If planting a container-grown tree, dig a hole twice the diameter of the pot and deep enough for the rootball to sit at the same level as the surface of the soil.

Watch video

Learn how to grow single tear esplier trees with Alan Titchmarsh.


  • Water trees well for the first couple of years, especially during periods of drought.
  • If planting in autumn, allow the central shoot to grow upwards over spring and summer. The following winter, prune to the third wire leaving three healthy buds to produce your third tier of branches. Repeat to make four tiers.
  • Prune shoots growing from the horizontal branches between July and September leaving three or four leaves, and shoots growing from the main stem shortened to three leaves.
  • Regularly tie down new growth at the ends of each branch to stop it growing upwards.

Growing espalier fruit trees in the home garden is a wonderful way to grow edibles in small spaces and in decorative ways. Training and pruning fruit trees to grow along walls or fences keeps the fruit at an easily accessible height, and turns an otherwise standard tree into a garden showpiece. Espaliers can be fruit trees or ornamental, evergreen or deciduous. This article will cover how to create and maintain an espaliered fruit tree using pruning.

Before you read on, learn the basics of pruning in these two articles:

  1. Learn How to Prune like a Pro! Pruning 101
  2. Want to Know WHEN to Prune? This Will Answer All of Your Questions!

Apple Espalier BEFORE Pruning

Apple Espalier AFTER Pruning

Espalier is an art that originated in Europe. The skill of espalier involves patience and artistry you can see through as these plants are painstakingly trained along fences and walls. Touring around Europe, you will see elaborate and beautiful designs that have grown over hundreds of years.

In the home garden this can be a fun project that grows over time with your family and evolves as the years go by.

Espalier Shapes

There are many different shapes of an espalier: cordon (branches straight out to the sides), fan (branches fanning up and to the side), candelabra (like a cordon but the branches turn at a right angle to form the shape of a candelabra), lattice (multiple trees with crossing branches), and “Y” shapes.

The simplest shape to start with is the cordon. Often fruit trees can be purchased grafted into this shape like the espalier that I have in my play garden.

Apple Espalier First Year

Grafted Espaliers

My espalier has five different varieties of apple grafted onto a dwarf apple stock. Grafting is the process of attaching a branch to the tree so that they grow together as one. Since it’s the trunk of the tree that supports the rootstock, it determines the overall height of the tree. Then the branches of five different apples trees are grafted on to produce varied fruiting branches. I have even seen “fruit salad” trees with grafted branches of apple, pear, plum, peach, and cherry; although I can’t report on how well this works myself.

I have worked with a few espaliers in small urban spaces: grafted five-fruit varieties of apple and pear in my home gardens, and heirloom apples at the community gardens. In my home garden, I have the space for only one tree, so I chose a tree with different varieties of apples that flower and fruit at varying times throughout the season. Usually the varieties are selected to support each other so that cross-pollination can occur, but sometimes grafting is simply for the novelty of having multiple fruit varieties on one tree.

In practice, these grafted trees often start out with multiple varieties but then morph into one or two of the strongest varieties over time. Even so, with the proper conditions and care, an espalier fruit tree can thrive and be productive in a small space.

How to Plant an Espalier

The optimal time to plant any fruit trees is in the winter or early spring when they’re dormant. Dig the tree into the soil as soon as the soil is workable for the year. Create a large hole that is twice as wide, but just as deep as your root ball. Add well-rotted compost to the hole. Position the tree so that the base of the trunk, at the root flare (just where it begins to widen), is at the soil line. Plant any deeper and the roots will grow upwards, plant too high and roots will be exposed. Fill in the hole with soil and water well for the first year until established.

Don’t forget to pick the right place for your tree. Most fruit trees love sun, so a nice sunny spot will give you the best fruit. Follow the care instructions on your tree for best results.

How to Prune & Train an Espalier

First, determine the pattern you want and look for a young tree that has that basic shape. Remove any branches that don’t fit the pattern or that suffer from one of the 4 D’s (read all about that in Pruning 101).

Now build a structure to support the shape, or attach the branches to an existing fence. Use a soft, covered wire or ribbon that can be retied when the branches grow. Be sure not to choke the branches with too-tight ties.

Here are some helpful supplies for training an espalier:

  • Foam Wire Tie
  • Slim Soft Ties
  • Trellis Wire
  • Pruners
  • Holster

Espalier Maintenance

Monthly pruning will keep an espalier neat and productive. The key is to regularly do a little pruning to maintain the shape, and allow all of the tree’s energy to go into the remaining branches (read all about plant energy in this post on pruning).

Remove any branches that are starting to get long, and leave plenty of buds where the cuts are. This will ensure that leaves, flowers, and fruit grow close to the branches.

Continue to prune throughout the growing season and enjoy your gorgeous new espalier as it grows and fruits over the years.

For more information on pruning, check out these posts:

  • Learn How to Prune Like a Pro! Pruning 101
  • Want to Know When to Prune? This Will Answer All of Your Questions!
  • Your Guide to Pruning Hedges
  • How to Remove Suckers from Trees (and Why They are There in the First Place)
  • The Best Garden Greenery for Holiday Decorating (and Which Ones to Avoid)
  • Care and Pruning for Decorative Topiaries
  • The Essential Guide to Growing Lavender

How to espalier fruit trees

Winter is a good time to start an espaliered fruit tree. However, some trees adapt better to espalier than others.

Apples and pears are traditionally used, as their branches are flexible and they fruit repeatedly on the same spurs. A small number of apple and pear cultivars are tip-bearing, but spur-bearing varieties are best for espaliering.

Quinces, olives, almonds, crabapples and figs can also be trained.

Tamarillos, although not typically used in espaliers, can be cut low and trained into a fan shape.

Stone fruit (peaches, plums, nectarines and cherries) are best trained into a fan shape as their more brittle wood is difficult to train horizontally.

You can espalier trees against a wall or fence, or create a free-standing living screen or fence between you and your neighbours.

Make a support frame by fixing horizontal wires to a fence or posts using eyebolts.

Use a 2.5mm galvanised high tensile wire and create two or three tiers spaced 30-50cm apart.

Dig a planting hole 30cm from the fence.

To espalier an apple or pear tree, plant it, then prune the tree to the height where you want your first tier (just above the first wire) and where there are several strong buds just below the cut.

Come spring, the buds will shoot.

In summer, train one shoot vertically, one to the left and one to the right. This is easiest done by securing three wooden stakes temporarily to your support frame, one placed vertically behind the central stem, the other two at 45° angles to the left and right of the middle stake.

Don’t bend the young branches completely horizontal at this stage as they’re still tender and may snap. Tie the three shoots to your stakes regularly as they continue to grow over summer using a flexible tie or pantyhose.

Any shoots below these three should be trimmed back to about three leaves.

Remove all forming fruit in the first year to divert the plant’s energies into growth.

Untie the 45° angled side shoots, remove the stakes and gently lower the shoots to a horizontal position. Tie shoots in place, cutting them back by a third.

Cut back the central vertical shoot to just above the next wire on the support frame.

Choose a bud at this height that has two more buds beneath on opposite sides so you can repeat the process.

Remove any excess shoots above and below the first tier of branches. Cut flush with the main stem.

Again, tie three wooden stakes to your support frame, one vertically and two at 45° angles. Train the next tier of shoots along these stakes.

Remove any other shoots, cutting back to about three leaves.

Keep training the horizontal branches of your first tier along the bottom wires. If any side shoots form on these, trim these back to three leaves.

Repeat the process until you’ve achieved the desired number of tiers.

To stop further growth, cut the central stem to just above the last tier of horizontal branches.

Likewise, when your horizontal branches reach the desired length, stop further growth by cutting back the tip.

Each summer, trim back any side shoots that grow from your main stems to three leaves.

The most important thing to remember is to trim your espaliers twice a year, once in winter and again after they’ve finished fruiting in summer.

4 steps to pruning an apple tree

Love this story? Subscribe now!

This article first appeared in NZ Lifestyle Block Magazine. Discuss This Article

Fan Trained & Espalier Fruit Trees

There are few more ornamental ways of covering a good wall or fence than with a fan or espalier fruit tree. The Espalier option – where the growth is restricted to two or three orderly ‘tiers’ – is used for Apples and Pears only.

Fan Trained Cherry Trees

The fan trained system – a ‘fan’ shaped tree with multiple branches from near the base, can be utilized for apples, pears, plums, gages, cherries and damsons, as well as peaches, nectarines and apricots.

These trees generally need a spacing of not less than 8′, and a usable height of 6′ or more. It does not matter if it is a fence or a wall as long as it is structurally sound and the soil isn’t too dry.

We supply our trees as suitable for training on into fans or espaliers. We select good young trees with lower laterals with which to work which makes it easy to create your own espalier or fan trained trees. It is usually better to grow them in situ where the tree can grow in accordance with the available space and terrain, rather than a ready trained tree that is shoe-horned in after it has already grown. Such ready trained trees are also around twice the price of those we sell and tend to travel badly, which is why we do not offer the trees ready-trained.

Peaches, Nectarines and Apricots favour a South facing wall. All the others do well on South, West or East. A North wall can be utilized with a Morello cherry or cooking apples.

Cordon fruit trees for sale – You can access our espalier and fan trees by first selecting a variety then scrolling down the drop down menu that accompanies it until you reach the selected for fan/espalier option.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *