Espalier fruit trees are a great way to save space and have
fresh home-grown fruit too!
First a few things you should know
All espalier forms need a strong structure for support and training while they are young. Once the branches are thicker the structure can sometimes be removed.
Branches that grow horizontally produce more fruit. An espalier tree may not produce as much fruit as a 3-D tree, but it still produces a lot.
Pruning at least twice a year is part of the deal. It may sound daunting, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll be fine. Espalier are smaller, but definitely not more hands-off, than regular fruit trees.
Most fruit trees require a lot of care. Be prepared to apply dormant spray once or twice during winter as a preventative measure, to keep an eye out for pest and disease issues, and to treat them. Many organic solutions for treatment are available.
Fruit trees can be trained into many different designs.
To train fruit trees into these forms you would need to start with very young, unbranched trees called whips. While Portland Nursery stocks small fig trees, the other fruit trees we sell are more mature. The Home Orchard Society is a good resource for finding starts or to learn to graft your own.
Come in and see us if you have any questions!
Pruning Espalier Apples
Site – Fruit trees need full sun, at least 6 hours a day. Espaliers can fit in narrow spaces, but need plenty of light.
Soil – Well-drained moist soil is best for most fruit trees. Soil pH needs vary by tree type, but adding lime to increase pH is generally a good idea in Portland.
Space – Plants should be placed 6-12” from the wall or support structure to allow for air circulation & easy access. Branches on espalier trees can be kept shorter to fit into small spaces or can be allowed to grow to their full width (4-10’ in both directions, depending on root stock). Spacing depends on how wide you plan to allow branches to extend, and what kind of espalier design you choose.
Support – A support structure is important, especially during the early training period. Set it up before planting. Structures can be built with many different materials - wood posts connected with wire are commonly used. Existing fences, trellis and buildings are good to start, but may need adjustments - a scaffold created with eye hooks & wire can create a strong support structure.
Training on a Fence
Espaliers at Portland Nursery
At Portland Nursery we carry several types of fruits trained in a fence shape. Each tree has two or three tiers, with two to six different varieties grafted to a central stem. Because these fruits mostly require the presence of at least two different varieties for pollination and fruiting, combinations of compatible varieties are used. Our growers choose the combinations so we usually don’t know what varieties are available until trees arrive on site.
This is an example of a dormant 3-tier, 3 variety Asian pear. Each tier is one variety.
Find the best Fruit and Nut-bearing Trees for your Garden
We carry a variety of fruit and nut-bearing trees appropriate to our region. Our best selection is from February through May.