Compact? Think Espalier

Compact? Think Espalier

Grafted Apple Espalier (c) 2008Compact spaces have challenges for the average gardener-especially when it comes to fruit trees. But alas, there is an answer to this issue. Trying growing a tree against a wall of your home, or a fence.

The word “Espalier” is a French word, with Italian roots, that means “shoulder support.” It refers to the support used to train a tree and is now used as a technique of training trees (or shrubs) to grow in a flat plane against a wall or fence.

The benefits are numerous. In addition to space-saving and additional warmth for the tree, it adds fantastic and whimsical shaping to your landscape plan. My tree is always a conversation-starter and yours will be too. And if you graft different types of (per say) apples, you can accomplish cross-pollination without planting additional trees.

How to a Start a Successful Espalier


Look for sun and warmth if you need extended growing season, but be aware that the one above, even in the Northwest, requires some shade to keep from getting sunburned. This one receives shade from the eaves of the roof part of the day.


If you are planning a grafted one, consider buying one that has already been grafted. Try a local nursery or AppleArt. For grafted trees, select varieties that bloom about the same time. A late bloomer should not be coupled with an early bloomer. However, either could be coupled with a mid-season bloomer.

Design and Support Method

We used hooks in the wall of the house. Always remember to check the ties as you don’t want them to cut through the bark. As the limbs become thicker, they become self supporting and some ties can be removed. See design ideas.


You will need to support your design by pruning the shape of your tree each year. More about care and support is available from the Espalier Society.


I find that the crop is better each year if I thin the apples to one per cluster. When I didn’t, I ended up with a bumper crop one year and very little the next as the tree recuperated.

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