Espaliering is an ancient practice that dates back to the Egyptians around 1400 B.C. It was also used by monks in the Middle Ages to grow fruit in monasteries and within castle courtyards.
A Type of Pruning
Espaliering is a pruning and tying technique that trains trees and bushes to grow into specific shapes, essentially forming the skeleton of the plant. The technique is especially useful for fruit trees in home gardens where they’re trained against a wall or trellis. Espaliering shouldn’t be confused with the creation of topiary.
The practice is an especially popular technique in small environments since the resulting creations take up less space. In the small home garden, it’s performed for functional purposes and provides other benefits.
- Grow more fruit in less space
- Provides cross pollination
- Trees bear fruit earlier
- Fewer pest problems
- Harvesting is much easier
Great for Bushes
The shapes can also be performed with bushes when individuals want a specific species in the yard, but are short on space. They can form highly decorative silhouettes that add interest to any space.
Species to Espalier
A variety of plants that will grow in South Florida are good candidates for espaliering and are amenable to the process. They include bougainvillea, camellia, holly, magnolia, pomegranate, witch hazel, and viburnum. Some types of evergreens can also be espaliered.
Six different methods/forms of espaliering can be performed. They are:
- Cordoned – the most traditional, in which branches grow horizontally from a central trunk
- Palmetto Verrier – Branches are shaped into a U and turned up at the ends
- Fan – Branches are trained at a 45-degree angle from a central trunk
- Candelabra – Several vertical branches rise at intervals from a horizontal branch
- Informal – Near natural shape, but still from a single trunk
- Belgian French – 3 or more V-shaped espaliers are woven together – or two trees
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