If you’ve always dreamed of having a fruit tree in your own backyard but were unsure what to grow, Ciscoe Morris has an easy and delicious option! He's a big fan of espalier fruit trees because they look great and are easy to take care of because they don’t grow very tall!
Grow a beautiful, easy to prune fruit tree.
If you're in the market for an apple or pear tree this spring, consider buying an espalier. Espalier is a form of pruning where a tree is trained to grow flat, usually against a wall or fence. There are a number of forms to choose from but I find the easiest and most attractive is to train multiple tiers of branches (usually 3) to grow horizontally from a single vertical trunk.
There are a number of reasons why I recommend espalier over growing an apple or pear in an upright form. First of all, espaliered trees are highly attractive. Once established, they are living sculptures and often become a focal point in the garden.
At the same time espaliered trees take up much less space than an upright tree. They're actually much easier to care for than an upright tree, as well. In espalier trees the majority of the energy is concentrated in production of fruit bearing wood. Pruning generally consists of cutting back upright growth above long lasting fruiting buds and maintaining the desired form by removing outward growing branches. Upright growing trees on the other hand, especially ones pruned hard to control for size, tend to produce gazillions of unproductive vertical shoots that must be removed on a yearly basis to allow air and light to penetrate into the canopy.
Best of all, on a 3 tiered espalier, everything is within easy reach. You'll never have to climb a ladder to prune, thin or harvest fruit. Espaliered trees are usually grown against a wall or fence where the horizontal branches can be tied in to eyebolts or other fixtures for support, but they can also be grown in the open supported by wire stretched between fence posts. It's best to run the branches from north to south to allow for good sun penetration. Apple and pear trees require a second variety for cross pollination, but if you prefer to plant only one tree, there are 'combination' espaliered pear and apple trees available with cross pollinating varieties grafted on the same tree.
If you have trouble finding pre-espaliered trees a good mail order source is Raintree Nursery. Trees are shipped in special protective boxes.
Don't forget to eat an apple (or pear) a day!