Espalier is the horticultural and ancient agricultural practice of controlling woody plant growth for the production of fruit, by pruning and tying branches to a frame, frequently in formal patterns, flat against a structure such as a wall, fence, or trellis, and also plants which have been shaped in this way.
Espaliers, trained into flat two-dimensional forms, are ideal not only for decorative purposes, but also for gardens in which space is limited. In a temperate climate, they may be planted next to a wall that can reflect more sunlight and retain heat overnight or planted so that they absorb maximum sunlight by training them parallel to the equator. These two facts allow the season to be extended so that fruit has more time to mature.
Landscape Design with Espaliered Trees
River Road Farms owner and espalier master, Peter Thevenot, was first inspired by the espaliered trees at George Washington's Mount Vernon. He devoted himself to learning the art of espalier and currently has thousands of the ornamental trees at River Road Farms in Decatur, TN. River Road Farms works with landscape designers, landscape architects, garden designers, public gardens, and private residences to find the right espaliered tree or trees for a given project.
As he told the Saturday Evening Post:
“Aside from the beauty and character espalier brings to any garden, these magnificent pieces of living architecture are part of our country’s gardening history and perhaps America’s best-kept secret,” Thevenot says.
“They boast practicality as well. Their architecture lends structure to the garden, and can define and separate outdoor rooms. Use them to accent bare walls or provide privacy as living screens.
“They are also ideal for small spaces because unlike a standard-size fruit tree, you can place an espalier plant in a 15-inch-wide garden bed. So someone living in a condominium or tending a rooftop garden can essentially enjoy a fruit orchard that’s no bigger than 4 feet tall by 5 feet wide.”
Landscape architects across the nation regularly consult with River Road Farms on projects using multi and single espaliered tree installations.