Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Summer 2013 Notes: Planting an espaliered pear tree

This morning while I was out in the garden puttering around, I caught myself thinking, "You really need to sit down with your journal and note the plants you've put in this year so that you won't forget their names. And while you're at it, you should make some notes on your hard scape projects for future reference."

And then it occurred to me that I had, you know, a blog where I could record my garden notes. So that's what I'm going to try to do this garden season--make daily journal notes here. It doesn't have to be fancy. No deep thoughts. No pretty pictures required. No re-writing (so a lot of the free-form thinking probably won't make sense, especially if I am writing early in the morning before my tea, or in the evening, when I am usually a bit heat-sick). No pressure. Just record some notes.

Expect typos.

And careless grammar.

So here is my first journal entry.

I have a Bartlett pear that is refusing to bear fruit, so I'm guessing there isn't another pear tree close enough in the neighborhood to do the cross-pollinating trick. It could also be the late freezes we've had during the two years since it has been planted, but who is to say? I figure I need another pear for pollinating insurance, but I don't really have any room for it, so I've decided to espalier one along the back fence of the farm. I've always liked the look of espaliered trees, and last year I decided to do a fig that way, but it froze back to the ground this winter, so I haven't actually gotten very far with it. Hope springs eternal and usually along thin wires, much like, well, an espalier trellis.

It was too hot to work in the garden this afternoon (I am teaching summer school in the mornings, so my gardening will take place either very, very early, or on the weekends), so I decided to go look for a tree that would be suitable. My go-to place for trees is Tom's Tree Place, mostly because it is on 34th Street, which is practically in the neighborhood, and because I worked on a farmer's market committee for a short while with one of the owners. On the way to TTP, though, is Little Red Nursery, also in the neighborhood, and a bit pricey, but oh-so-magical. On a whim, I decided to stop in, and sure enough, they had a Bartlett Pear already all espaliered-up for me, a tree that was probably 6 or 8 years old, pretty as a picture. And $500.

Which is, like, practically my whole seasonal garden budget. OK, maybe I spend a little more than that each year, but still. A lot.

So I tucked the pretty tree back in my head and thought that if I absolutely couldn't find anything else, I'd reconsider that $500 tub of magic.

Down the road I continued to TTP. They had three pears left that were small enough to train, but it was clear that the lot had been pretty well picked over, and what was left looked a little like what Charlie Brown might find had he waited until the last minute to buy his tree. You know.

But they were $27 each, which is, let's see, eleventy-million, minus sixty, carry the eight...much less than $500. My choice was fairly clear. I picked out one that was already more or less flattened, though whether it was by accident or design was not clear. While I was getting it rung up, I asked the guy at the register if he thought it would make a good tree to espalier.

"Oh sure," he replied, looking up at it doubtfully.

"What about that leader?" I asked. "It's been topped. I can probably turn the new growth outward, right?"

"You bet!" he said.

"You never espaliered a tree before, have you?" I asked.

"No. But we have one in the back," he replied. "But it's a XXXX," (naming something I've never heard of).

"You can pretty much espalier any tree, though," he said confidently.

Well, at this point it was clear to me that we were both just making shit up as we went along, which I am generally okay with, since that's how life is most of the time anyway.

 I trundled the tree home in the back of the 'ru and gave it a good drink. It awaits a hole, which will be dug early in the day sometime this week.

On a side note, I called the 811 phone number you are supposed to contact whenever you are planning to dig. Normally, I don't bother because I generally know where everything is buried (goodness, that sounds mysterious, doesn't it?). But this time I'm sinking a couple of fence posts (for the trellis) fairly close to some lines, and I though it might be good to double-check. The first question I got from the person taking my information was, "Will you be using explosives?"

You know, I hadn't though I'd need them to plant a pear tree, but perhaps I should re-think it, since using explosives is at least common enough to warrant being the very first question they ask you. On the other hand, I'm guessing that anyone using explosives to plant a pear tree is also probably just making shit up as s/he goes along.

Here is a photo of my Charlie Brown pear taking a break in the shade, waiting for someone to show up with some explosives*:

*For the record, I will not be using explosives. Just to be clear on that. I am more or less opposed to explosives in general, and for planting pear trees specifically.


  1. This is the funniest espalier-related post I've ever read. It has everything - pear tree sex (or lack thereof), large sums of money changing hands (or lack thereof), reference to possible buried bodies, a man and a woman knowingly lying to one another – and explosives! I can't wait for the movie!

  2. Yeah, well, pear trees are pretty exciting. ;-)

  3. Looking forward to more escapades with espaliering.

    I am constantly contemplating adding another fruit tree to the yard and then I look out the door to see the damn deer grazing in the gardens.... sigh.

  4. I've tried a couple of natural repellents from Havahart with some success for the rat-bastard squirrels that plague me. They are supposed to work on deer, too. I keep thinking I should do a post on them. Coming soon.

  5. Great laugh at the end of a long, hot day! xo

  6. I have 2 'espaliered' pears on the allotment. I made it up as I went along too, but I'm happy with the reults.

    Perhaps you could use the explosives to shape your tree ;)

    1. Good to know it is the kind of thing you can improvise. When I see them in public gardens, they always seem complicated.

      Can't wait to see you at the Fling!