Using standard pruning techniques, you can train dwarf fruit trees to form a living wall that will enhance your yard's privacy and provide beauty and fresh produce. In an espalier (pronounced es-PAL-yay), plants grow along a usually flat, symmetrical framework against a wall, trellis, or freestanding support. Frequent pruning and tying of new growth directs the plants into a decorative pattern such as intersecting diamonds, or horizontal arms or elbows.
Plan your espalier to meet your needs. If you want fruit, select a dwarf apple, peach, or pear that is rock-solid hardy in your area. For a purely ornamental fence, choose a blooming tree or shrub such as flowering crabapple, magnolia, or doublefile viburnum.
Although creating an espalier isn't particularly difficult, it does take time. Expect to wait three years for fruit, and plan to spend some time each year doing light pruning and training of branches.
- three or more plants (dwarf fruit trees, for example)
- posthole digger (optional)
- 4x4 posts (treated for soil contact or rot resistant cedar or similar wood)
- 2x4 top rail, 8 feet long
- 14-gauge wire
- hand pruners
- cloth-covered wire plant ties
Select an overall pattern for your espalier. (For our example, we selected a diamond pattern.) Build an appropriate framework of posts (8 feet apart), a top rail, and heavy-gauge wire horizontal supports. Stretch wire tautly from post to post, spaced vertically at 1-foot intervals, to create a framework. If you train trees against a wall, leave 12 inches between the structure and the support system to allow for maintenance and air circulation. Plant 2- or 3-year-old dwarf trees at least an arm's length apart.
Make planting holes at least twice the diameter of the plant's root ball. Plant trees slightly in front of the wire supports. Refill the planting holes and water thoroughly. Water young trees weekly during their first summer and fall if rain is lacking. Cut off branches extending to the back or front; leave branches reaching to the sides. If you train trees along a wall, position a nail or an eye hood in the wall near intersecting branches. Loosely twist a plant tie around the branches and the hook.
Crisscross branches from neighboring trees to train them into the desired pattern. Twist a plant tie around the branches and the wire to secure them, leaving room for branch growth. Over the next three or so years, prune and train trees in late winter. As the trees grow, continue to cross and tie the branches to the framework, snipping unwanted growth to maintain the pattern. Remove fruit buds the first two years to concentrate the tree's energy into growing branches. Look for fruit in the third year.
How to Plant a Tree
-Trees add years of beauty to your landscape and help shade your house keeping it cooler around the summer and attract birds as well. It's pretty easy to plant a tree. Just follow these simple steps for success. First off, make sure you're planting your tree in the best possible spot. Pay attention to the size of the tree so that it doesn't end up outgrowing it space. Also note the growing conditions ensuring the tree is compatible to your soil type, the amount of sun and shade they gets, and other climate factors. Once you place your tree, mark a hole about twice as wide as the pot. We find it easy to leave the tree in place then start your circle removing the side in 1 or 2 pieces and then digging up the trail. One of the most important things to pay attention to when you're planting your tree is making sure the tree's planting hole is about as the opposite farthest hole. Avoid digging the hole too deeply. It's more work for you and harmful to the old tree. As you drop your tree into the hole, loosen the root balls spreading up the roots. This is important too. The tree roots grow in circles inside the pot. They continue to grow that way and eventually strangle your tree. After your tree is placed, fill the hole with the soil you dug from it. Resist the urge to fill it with better soil. You don't want to create a pocket for your tree's roots that they don't want to grow out of. Water you tree well and cover the soil with a couple of inches of mulch. This keeps the soil cool and moist as your tree gets established.