Monday, May 16, 2011

Garden Design No. 1 - Espalier Gardening

I love espaliers in a garden. What a beautiful structural art form! What is an espalier? Espalier has a time-honored place in the history of gardening. It is any tree or shrub pruned and trained to an unnatural but aesthetically pleasing form.

Asian Pear Espalier
Image Unknown

Father Legendre of Hanonsville, France is credited with pioneering this horticultural art form in 1684. However, Egyptian tomb paintings circa 1400 B.C. portray images fig trees in the espalier form growing in Pharaoh's garden. In medieval times, European monks carefully trained fruit and nut trees to grow flat against the walls of the great monastic gardens.

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During the 17th century in England and especially in France, espalier gained popularity. The term espalier is derived from the French word for shoulder, epaule.

Espalier is a great way to enjoy growing fruit trees in small spaces, but I love the ornamental espaliers of Flowering Quince, Forsythias, Jasmine, Magnolia, and Yews.

Image Sunset Books

Grapevine Espalier
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According to the Farmers Almanac, espalier gardening is not for the low maintenance gardener. Here are their tips on easy designs for beginning enthusiasts, the fan or T-shape branch arrangements.
  • Choose a small container plant with long, well-spaced branches.
  • If grown against a building, provide a wire framework set 6 to 8 inches out from the wall.
  • Once planted, remove branches that are not headed in the desired direction.
  • Gently guide the remaining branches so that they will start to form the pattern you want.
  • Secure branches to the wires with a soft tie.
It may take 2 or 3 years of training to create an espalier using a simple design and several years for one more complex. Don't despair if at first the plant doesn't seem to be cooperating. Espaliers, like some people, seem to have a way of shaping up when their back's up against the wall.

Espalier Forms
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Asian Pear Espalier
Image Cloister Museum and Gardens

Espalier Fruit Trees in Somerset, England
Image RGB Stock

Image Philips Garden Blog

I think I may start my espalier gardening in pot form as shown in the image above.

If you are interested in learning more about espalier gardening here are some fantastic resources:
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