Creating an espalier

Episode: 5
Title: Creating an espalier
Broadcast: 20 September
Presenter: Melissa King

Espaliering is the ancient art of training a plant to grow flat against a fence or wall. It may be an old fashioned technique but it has enormous modern appeal for saving space in the garden and dressing up an ugly fence or wall.If you’re adventurous there are lots of different patterns you can try - fan shapes, U shapes informal patterns or even intricate diamond patterns. But one of the simplest designs is the horizontal espalier. Here Mel show’s you how to do it.

  • Mel has erected some wires at regular spacing about 30 cm apart. She has done so using simple eyebolts and drilled them into the fence posts, make sure the wires are nice and tense. There are also espalier frames on the market if you don’t want to go to this extent.
  • You can espalier most plants but there are definitely trees and shrubs that lend themselves to this type of technique. A lot of the fruit trees work really well – things like apples and pears, quinces or if you want a Mediterranean look, you could use olives or citrus. But among the ornamental plants I think camellias – particular the sasanquas and some of the hybrids – are some of the best choices. They’ve got nice pliable branches that you can manipulate and of course you get the bonus of evergreen foliage and stunning flowers.
  • The idea of an espalier is really quite simple – you want to train the plant to the fit the design. Mel has used flexible ties that will accommodate the plant as it grows. Initially you’ll want to use ties at fairly regular interval like every 20cm or so.
  • Once you've done the early training you'll need to maintain it to keep the shape and that means pruning up to three times a year. With deciduous plants most of the serious pruning would be done in winter, but for flowering plants like Camellias, which bloom through the cooler months, it’s a good idea to wait till they finish before you prune so you don’t sacrifice the beautiful flowers.
  • What a fantastic way to decorate a bare fence!