The Art of Espalier Pruning

sample of espalier pruning technique

Espalier is one of the most artistic types of pruning. This pruning method encourages a tree or shrub to grow against a flat surface, wall, or structure to create an open and sculpted look. It is believed to have originated in the Middle Ages as a way to grow fruit within the confines of castle grounds in a more safe and controlled environment or to conserve space that might have been taken up by traditional orchards or gardens. Nevertheless, you don’t have to live in a castle or need to grow fruit to have espalier trees and shrubs. Many non-fruit bearing trees can be pruned in this way, such as Magnolias, Sasanqua, and Yews. Trees and shrubs that have more flexible branches are good candidates to espalier, and there are many different patterns or shapes in which a plant can be pruned.

Many of these plants are purchased already on a wooden trellis and trained to have this flattened growth habit in the nursery. Typically, they are put into the landscape and never touched, so the wooden trellis rots away, and the tree or shrub returns to its natural form. To have a successful espalier form, the trellis is removed, and often nails and wires are attached to a wall or side of the house which acts as guides to tie and direct the limbs. Then, aggressive pruning is done regularly throughout the growing season to create a form and keep the plant flat and open.

Espalier is not only beautiful; it’s also functional in its design. This pruning type increases the ornamental value and can take any traditional tree, shrub, or garden and transform it into a work of art. This style requires patience and diligence but is well worth it for the final product. Talk to one of our neighborhood Arborists for more information on Espalier Pruning and how to get started or how to restructure one you already have. We provide many services centered around shrub and tree pruning as well as shrub and tree care programs. We look forward to talking with you about your specific shrub and tree care needs.