The espalier begins its training as a one-year-old tree or shrub with no developed lateral shoots at its base. It may be planted against a wall initially and a support frame set behind it, or it may be grown in a container for several years with a training frame inserted into the container.
The plant is installed like any other tree or shrub, set about 12 inches from the wall, fence, or lattice that is to support it. At the time of installation, the plant should be dormant (Figure 12-5).
Step 1: Select an unbranched, one-year-old plant and install while it is dormant. Prune back the single stem to a height of 15 to 18 inches. Allow three healthy buds to remain near the top of the cut stem. The lower two must point in opposite directions.
Step 2: After the shoots break dormancy, train the top shoot to grow vertically and the lower two shoots to grow horizontally. The shoots may be supported with bamboo stakes tied to the support frame.
In the first growing season for each set of horizontal branches, train and tie the branches at 45° angles rather than full 90° angles. Remove any lateral shoots growing outward from the wall, and cut back any vertical shoots from the horizontal branches to allow only two or three nodes on each vertical spur.
Step 3: At the end of the growing season, the two horizontal shoots (now branches) should be removed from the bamboo stakes and tied to the frame at 90° angles.
Step 4: After the plant has gone dormant again, prune the central branch back to a point 15 to 18 inches above the horizontal branches. Allow three more healthy buds to remain near the top of the cut stem. The lower two must point in opposite directions. Prune back both of the horizontal branches about one-third. A downward-
Cut a dormant, unbranched one – year-old plant back to height of 15 to 18 inches.
figure 12-5. Steps involved in training an espalier (Delmar/Cengage Learning)
oriented bud should be left at each cut. Lateral buds along the main trunk should be reduced to three or four, not counting the three at the top, which will form the new branches during the next growing season.
Step 5: Repeat these steps until the plant attains the height and width desired. After that, little or no additional extension of the framework branches should be permitted. They can be kept pruned back to the previous year’s terminal points.
Should the support frame or trellis weaken over time, the espalier can be attached to the wall with special nails, part steel and part pliable lead. The steel end is driven into the wall and the pliable portion is hooked around the branch of the plant.
Horticulturists with enthusiasm and opportunity for espalier training have developed numerous complicated style variations (Figure 12-6).
• single, double, and triple U-shapes
• palmette verrier
• palmette oblique
• fan shape
• Belgian fence
• free-standing spiral
• free-standing pyramidal
Truly, espalier training is one of the highest manifestations of the horticulturist’s skills.
figure 12-6. Eleven different styles of espalier pruning (Delmar/Cengage Learning)