Training trees using a technique called espalier creates room for growth where there was none before. Expand gardening horizons by sending a pear tree up the side of a wall or flattening a camellia to a fence.
Landscape designer Joseph Hillenmeyer planted this ‘Kieffer' pear against his neighbor's chimney to add a touch of formality to their shared driveway. "I wanted to fill in the blank wall, but I didn't want to crowd the space," says Joseph. He chose the ‘Kieffer' pear because of its hardiness in his location, Lexington, Kentucky, and because the white blooms would complement the red brick. "The pear has worked out great," he says.
Espaliering expands a plant's growing region. Training a tree flat against a wall creates a microclimate that helps frost-sensitive plants, such as a ‘Newtown Pippin' apple, to survive in the Upper South. A brick or stone wall collects heat during the day and then releases it at night, raising the temperature around the tree by a couple of degrees. The wall also protects the tree from winter winds that can burn or kill bare limbs. Avoid planting against a west-facing wall, which would expose the tree to intense summer heat.
Espaliering pears and apples leads to higher yields of fruit because limbs that are pruned to grow horizontally along a wall or wire bear more fruit buds than those grown vertically. Not a bad bonus!
Where to Find It
Most trees take three to five years to reach the size for espalier. To speed things up, buy trees already pruned. Look for the espalier collection from Monrovia at nurseries. Or purchase from River Road Farms, 1-800-297-1435 or www.espaliertrees.com. Note: Delivery area is limited.
Other Great Trees To Espalier
Pick a tree that has long, flexible branches and good resistance to disease and pests. Use only a tree that reaches a height no taller than the surface you'll grow it against, or use a dwarf rootstock.
- Fruit: apples, pears, cherries, and plums
- Flowers and berries: camellias, pyracanthas, quinces, and witch hazels
"Here's How to Liven Up a Bare Wall" is from the November 2005 issue of Southern Living.