Landscape Design: Learn About Elegant Espaliers

To practice the centuries-old art of espalier, start with the right plant and train it to lie flat against a wall or fence,with its branches forming a selected pattern.

Landscape Design: Learn About Elegant Espaliers

Pears and apples are easy to train in a variety of patterns, but other woody plants lend themselves to certain forms.Rockspray cotoneaster and yew work well as fans. Forsythia and mock orange are appropriate for arched and curving designs.

Before You Begin

Before you begin, draw the design you want on paper so you can refer to it as you decide which stems to bend, tie, pinch, or prune.

Start with a Frame

Use thin, solid stakes of bamboo, oak, or heavy-gauge, vinyl-coated wire to build the framework.You’ll also need soft string, raffia, or thin cloth strips to tie the branches into place,making a loose loop to allow for growth. Never use wire loops,which can cut and injure the plant.

Choose a Young Plant

Select a plant with flexible young stems; it should be no more than 3 feet (1 meter) tall. Set the plant 6 to 12 inches (15 to 30 cm) from the wall to allow for air circulation. Spread the roots outward, away from the wall, and backfill with rich garden loam.

Prune Large Stems

Prune large stems when the plant is dormant and note the plant’s overall shape.You can pinch out buds and shoots through late spring, but stop pruningin early summer to give new growth time to harden off by winter.

Don’t Skip Spring Training

Don’t skip spring training.Train stems when they’re young and flexible so they don’t snap. If a shoot is stiff, tie it to a length of wire and gently bend it a little at a time over the course of a few weeks.Remove the wire once the stem has matured in the desired shape, which may take as long as a year.

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