Last week I wrote about the apricot tree I’m putting in to my garden this year, but I’m not going to stop my home-grown fruit attempts there. We’re building a fence this year (really- not like last year, when we just talked about building a fence), and I’ve managed to convince Brian that we should build a lattice fence, rather than the less complicated stockade-style fence. I’m pushing for the lattice fence not just because it will look good, but because it will let lots of light through for plants, including for espaliered apple trees.
Espaliered trees are trained so that the branches grow along a plane, rather than a sphere, cone, or vase. They can be trained along a fence, a wall, or wires that are connected to posts. In Seattle, you can see espaliered apple trees grown along wires in Magnuson Park, or out in Eastern Washington, there are plenty of orchards with espaliered trees. In fact, once you start looking for them, you’ll see them all over the place.
I’ll be growing espaliered trees mostly because they fit in small spaces that would be impractical for even a regular dwarf apple tree. I’m also excited for the challenge of pruning the trees, and because I think they’ll look really neat. My espaliered trees won’t get more than 5 feet tall, so they’ll be convenient for pruning, picking apples, and inspecting for diseases or pests. Many folks claim that espaliered trees are more productive. I haven’t found any good papers proving this, but I may just not know where to look.
Many people grow espaliered trees by starting with “whips”, which are one or two year old trees that look pretty much like a flexible stick with roots. Apple trees don’t start bearing fruit until they’re a few years old, so I will probably go the impatient route and buy some older trees from Raintree Nursery that have already been trained with three cordons (tiers of horizontal branches). It will be a little more expensive (about $60 per tree), but way less work and harder for me to screw up. We’re lucky to have a somewhat local nursery that sells espaliered trees for an affordable price- many states can’t say the same thing. Raintree Nursery even has several different varieties of espaliered trees for sale, including one which has six apple varieties grafted onto a single tree.
If you want to see lots more pictures of espaliered fruit trees, including some more unusual espaliered fruit trees such as figs and cherries, check out my Pinterest board. I also have photos of some great fences and formal kitchen gardens. If you’d like to interact a bit more with my Pinterest board, but aren’t on Pinterest yet, leave me a comment saying so, and I’ll send you an invite to Pinterest.