Espalier is an old horticulture and agricultural practice of controlling the growth of the woody plants by pruning and tying branches to a frame, against a structure like a wall, fence or trellis. I have tried this with a few fruit trees. Over time the trees took the shape that I wanted, but they never did bear fruit. Eventually I removed them to make way for other plants. I have thought to try again, but this time it will be for decorative purposes.
I often relate this to the Japanese art of Bonzai or the Chinese art of Penjing. Both of which artistically form trees, by the creator pruning and training the trees. If you enjoy espalier, you might want to research either of these two art forms.
Just a few of the choices among ornamentals include camellia, gardenia, quince, viburnum, red bud, magnolia, wisteria and witch hazel. If you like fruit trees, decide whether you want an edible or an ornamental variety. Popular options for edibles include apples, pears, peaches, plums and pomegranates. If foliage plants appeal to you, cedars, Japanese maples, ligustrum and hollies are just a few you might want to plant. For something really unusual, consider ginkgo trees or even — in the South only — olive trees, though they likely won’t fruit because of the region’s notoriously high humidity.
Things to consider when starting an espalier:
- Choice of site and a design
- Choosing the right plant
- Creating the wire form
- Positioning/planting the tree
- Maintaining the tree
- How long will it take
Learn more at The art of espalier will help you train a tree