So even though Iâ€™m among the fortunate few who have a lot of space to grow fruit trees, Iâ€™m still fascinated by espaliered trees, those super-cool-looking, heavily pruned jobbies that you see in cool places like France, Italy or that one nursery that no one can afford. Theyâ€™re pruned to grow flat against a wall or fence, saving garden space andÂ looking snazzy. A win-win!
At this point, I have two very young trees that could be candidates for espalier: my precious Cherokee peach, grown from a seed, and a new baby black mission fig. After reading up on it a bit, I decided not to risk my little peach treeâ€”itâ€™s irreplaceable, whereas the baby fig, not so much. But at this point, the fig is little more than a stick with a few buds, so I think I will be looking elsewhere for a victim â€¦ er â€¦ candidate.
Actually “victimâ€ť might be the right word. Pruning for espalier is tricky and ripe for error, so Iâ€™m planning a visit to the local affordable nursery to pick up a couple of likely candidates. Apples and pears are the easiest, but because I already have two apple trees and a hugely prolific pear tree, I need to find something else. To the interwebs! Yes, here we go: Other great plants to espalier are those that vine. Iâ€™m full up with blackberries, but I have only got one grapevine, and itâ€™s busy trying to eat my bigger green fig tree.
Iâ€™ve got a perfect spot against the back fence of the Fortress Garden. Itâ€™s got all-day sun and southern exposure, and it wonâ€™t shade any of my other plants or garden beds. I can squeeze the vine in between a couple of the artichoke boxes. I could even do two!
Espalier is very common in vineyards. If youâ€™ve ever been in wine country, youâ€™ve probably seen those nifty rows of vines twisting along double or triple rows of cables, leaving open space between rows to make picking and plant management easier. What I like about this method is that it keeps the espaliered victim â€¦ er, plant â€¦ small and low, which means no ladders or reaching. I based most of my garden design around me not having to do anything much below or above the strike zone (knees to shoulders). Not that I canâ€™t bend and reach (Namaste, yoga classâ€¦), but in my personal experience, too much of that kind of activity just leads to disaster and ice packs.
Thereâ€™s a lot of info out there about how to create a trellis for your espalier victim (letâ€™s just call it what it is, shall we?), but because my garden fence is wood post and deer wire, I can skip this step and tie my new vine directly to the fence.
One of the really groovy things about espaliered trees and vines is the adorableness factor. Iâ€™m thinking about arranging the growth in patternsâ€”maybe geometric angles, concentric circles or undulating waves. There are about a bazillion designs on the interwebs; the hard part is deciding which one to choose. But Iâ€™m getting ahead of myself. Right now, Iâ€™ll settle for getting my new vine into the ground and growing in an upward direction. Baby steps, baby steps â€¦