What is espalier?

Espalier is the ancient technique of training a tree to grow flat against a support such as a trellis, wall or wires. The art of espalier is mainly used to save space by maintaining the width and height of the tree whilst reducing the depth. It also looks AMAZING!

How to espalier:

  • Set up your espalier frame - your apple tree needs to be attached to something sturdy. Trellis is ideal for this or you can run wire lines to create a frame. The frame needs to be at least 15cm off a hard surface (fence or wall) to allow air flow.
  • When planting your tree dig a hole twice as big as the pot and backfill with soil mixed with compost. Tease out the roots gently and water well to help the plant settle into its new home. 
  • Now the fun begins! Training your espalier takes time and patience. Begin by taking leading branches and attaching them horizontally to your frame. Young flexible branches are the best for this, old branches can snap when forced into a horizontal position. Attach to the frame halfway down the branch and again at the tip. Always use stretchy plant ties so that they don't dig into your tree as it grows.
  • Rather than pruning all new growth, train it. When a suitable branch is about 20 centimetres long, train it by attaching it back to the frame. Trim any branches that grow out, either forward or backward, from the famework. 
  • The more complicated your initial design the more pruning and training you will need to do.

Pots or in ground?

You can definitely use potted plants for espalier, keep in mind though that once your apple tree is trained on its frame it is very hard to move. Choose a pot that gives your apple room to grow, generally your pot should be at least three times bigger than the original pot it came in. Little Apple Co apples are dwarf varieties which make them perfect for pots!