Growing plants using Espalier Trellis
What is Espalier Trellis?
Espalier Trellis is a technique that teaches the plants and trees to grow flat. This technique was used by the ancient Romans in their courtyards where their space was limited. The process in which we use Espalier to train trees, woody vines and shrubs against a flat wall or fence doesn’t stop there, you can train them to grow on a freestanding object as well. To use Espalier Trellis, you need to prune the plant to make a vertical stem, then go on to send the side branches into the shape you desire. It can take a year or so depending on the plant you are using but with regular care, while it is establishing itself it will then only require a small amount of pruning to keep the anticipated shape.
Types of Espalier
There are two basic types of Espalier Trellis. You have formal and informal, the informal Espalier is by far the easiest. The best way to explain what it is we’re doing is basically filling the whole area with branches that can be grown with the Espalier Trellis to keep them flat. The aim is to let them spread out but keep them level. By taking the informal technique you’re allowing your tree to take on a more natural shape with only needing a prune here and there to keep it on a dimensional plane. Apple, plum, and pear trees are common for Espalier but all fruit trees can be done this way. It’s the best if the tree is a youngster, in its first year of growth before you start to Espalier it. Older trees can be Espaliered, but it is more difficult as bending the mature branches can take up to three years.
- The basic Espalier has a stem that is vertical which is called the trunk. The trunk supports each pair of horizontal branches. If you train your plants, it is possible with the proper treatment and care to create a new growth tier each year until you have reached your expectations then you can start to limit your growth.
- There is the Belgian fence which is made by letting the tree develop one tier each side of the trunk at a certain angle. After some time, the trunk can then be cut back to leave only the two tiers, this can then be trained to connect with the other tiers from other plants to run along and create a fence.
- Arcure Espalier is created by tying the stems into a semi-circle, then clip off the side branches except for the one shoot right at the top which will become the next tier for growth.
What Espalier trellis style will suit me?
- Fan: This type is suitable for places you want the plants to grow in a vertical position.
- Cordon: This is a form of Espalier where the plant grows horizontal to a certain point which makes it suitable for a divider between plants. Two types of these can come in single cordon or a multi-cordon which has many tiers of branches.
- Palmetto Verrier: This type of trellis adds nice definition to tree plants against a wall as it trains them to grow with a vertical branching.
Will I get any benefits from Espalier?
Espalier is a space saver. A fruit tree grown this way will provide lots of fresh fruit but with a fraction of the natural tree size. Good news, an Espaliered tree will bear fruit earlier than that of a natural tree, and will often remain fruitful for years and years if it is well-trained and cared for. Training your fruit tree to grow with trellis will help it to focus its energies on the production of fruit. Using trellis gives fruit trees increased air circulation throughout the whole tree, plus its easier and not to mention faster to harvest.
Treatments and care can also be done easily and quickly with a lesser volume to work with and spray than what appears on a natural tree. Espalier Trellis is not only a great technique used by horticulturists for their crops but they always play a role in a beautiful landscape sculpture. The creation of Espalier is good for training against a wall or fence without the damage from holdfasts, as the Espalier plant will simply cling flat to the wall or fence. Using this technique gives the plants more light which will give healthy development of the natural sugars. A sneaky secret when using your Espalier is if you train them on a south facing wall the micro-climate will help you grow plants that require a much warmer climate.
Shade cloth and Espalier Trellis
Most vegetables and fruits like sun but in the scorching hot days of summer, the plants can fry. Shade cloth is perfect for plants trained on trellis as all plants need shade especially for those connected to a fence or wall. The heat from walls and fences can cook the stem and fruit of immature trees. It’s quite simple to fix this problem by attaching some shade cloth to the trellis to help cover it like a curtain. Shade cloth with Espalier is suitable for temporary or permanent use.
If you aren’t familiar with a Scrog net, it refers to a growing technique using net or wire to regulate the height of a plant. For this type of netting the most important piece of the equipment is the screen base which should be strong and sturdy. Espalier trellis works well for this as it allows the plants to remain short but without taking away any of their natural growth rate. By using the Scrog net with plants you limit the plants from growing high. Their height is limited which then allows them to grow wide so that the light can be distributed to the plants evenly.