Thursday, July 25, 2013

Espalier madness and one proto-topiary

It all started with this fig, which I thought might be fun to try to espalier:

I planted it last year and then watched it die back to the ground during some hard frosts this winter. In spring it came back, but I put off constructing a trellis until I figured out how the espalier thing worked. In the meantime, I have a Bartlett pear that has not borne fruit in the two years it's been planted in the farmlet. It's probably the late hard freezes we've had, but I also have been wondering if I needed a second tree to act as a pollinator. The trouble was, I had no room for another tree. But wait! What if I espaliered another pear in the farmlet?

I planted it (more on that story here; it involves explosives, just like a summer movie) and pruned it according to some instructions I found on the interwebs, and it doesn't seem to have killed it. This makes me the most knowledgeable and experienced espalierer I personally know in the Hub City, and so when I ran across an already-started espaliered Fuji apple tree at a local nursery, I decided I had to have it. I've always wanted an espaliered something-or-other to line the fences of our bicycle allée.

The trouble is, as I found in the research I did after purchasing the tree, apple trees not only are not self-pollinating, they won't even pollinate with another of their variety. Worse, they won't even pollinate with just any old apple of another variety, it has to be specific varieties matched with specific varieties. For goodness sake. So I bought a Gala, which gets along with a Fuji, only I couldn't find a Gala already espaliered, so I bought a sapling, which, come winter dormancy, I will chop off mercilessly at the trunk to start the process. Because, as you know, I am now an expert at this (see above).

Mind you, I don't even like apples.  This is all about the espalier. Plus, I figure I can trade whatever apples Walu doesn't eat for some neighborhood chicken eggs.

All this training limbs to wires has been rather thrilling, so I decided the that next logical step was topiary. I've never been a fan of shrubs pruned to look like meatballs* before, so I have no idea were this is coming from.

Well, maybe I do. I've been reading about Nicole de Vésian's garden in France in Louisa Jones' book, Modern Design in Provence, and she was big into doing that. For her, it worked beautifully. I don't recommend that any of the rest of this try it at home...unless you find out that there is a lime tree for sale at a local hardware store and you start thinking, "Wouldn't it be really, really cool to grow your own limes for summer margaritas?" but the only problem is, as I've said before, there is no more room for trees. Good news! You can plant a lime tree in a container (which you should do anywhere beside s Zones 9 or 10 anyway, since lime trees don't like the cold and you will be bringing that little maragrita-maker inside come winter), and then you can prune it into a topiary shape! I am so excited to try this now. Nicole de Vesian's got nothing on me.

Ironically, the fig tree has yet to be espaliered.

*I'm sure I'm not the first person to point out the resemblance between meatballs and topiary.


  1. "Mind you, I don't even like apples. This is all about the espalier."

    My apple espalier has never produced an edible apple. It had two this year, but they fell off. My pear espalier has five pears on it this year. My first. You're right, you don't espalier for the fruit!

    Now, topiary - that I have not tried! You're more adventurous than me!

    1. Jim, I've read that you're supposed to prune the apples the first three years, instead of harvesting them. It's supposed to increase the harvest and make bigger apples in later years. Did you do that? I wonder if that works...

      Not that it matters, since I don't like apples. Pears, on the other hand...but I have a regular pear tree in addition to the espalier, so hopefully, one way or another, I'll eventually get pears.

  2. I appreciate irony, yes, I do, very much and espalier, too. xo


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