Fruit on walls
Growing fruit trees flat against a wall or along a wire is a great way to produce a lot of fruit in a small space.
Espalier tree training is an age-old art originating in Europe where very old espalier fruit trees can be found growing on brick and plaster walls. This method of tree training is becoming popular with New Zealand gardeners keen to create an attractive formal feature or grow more fruit in limited space.
Espalier trees are often grown against a wall, traditionally brick or plaster. Alternatively, they can be supported by a strong post and wire structure. This creates a part-wall, perfect for dividing areas of a garden while still retaining sunlight and visibility.
GETTING STARTED WITH YOUR OWN ESPALIER FRUIT TREE
1Decide on a pattern to suit the type of fruit tree you are growing (see right).
2Choose a sunny location. Most fruit trees need a minimum of six hours of direct sunlight.
3Choose the plant and appropriate rootstock. As most espaliered trees are subjected to intense pruning and ‘braking’ of growth, semi-dwarf or vigorous rootstocks should be used in all but the most fertile soils. Generally, any fruit tree variety can be espaliered, but selecting a disease-resistant variety will ensure minimal spraying is required.
4Prepare the support. You will need to fix wires to a structure that will support your espalier. These will be used to train the branches at desired angles. Wires can be spaced 30cm to 60cm apart. With fences and walls, fix the wires using eyebolts to keep the plant away from the structure and allow air flow behind the plant. Using turnbuckles to keep the wires taut is recommended.
5Plant your tree. Set the plant in the ground about 30cm from the wall to allow room for root growth.
6Start training your tree. Use soft cloth (like strips of tee shirt fabric) to tie the branches, making sure the end 20cm of horizontal branches is left untied otherwise the growth will slow or cease.