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Espalier is the art of training trees to specific designs by pruning and tying them to structures and is commonly used to reduce the footprint of normal sized trees without compromising the crop - although I believe it takes an extra year when talking about fruit trees (4 - 6 instead of 3 - 5). In saying this, I have just started researching this project so please feel free to disagree :)

I have been researching like mad and am intending to espalier the following in an average size back yard:

* Self pollinating almond tree (by itself)
* Granny Smith Apple & Nashi Pear (together)

I would appreciate any tips or advice that anyone with previous experience can give me, the plants are (unfortunately) not dwarf root stock but are quite young.

Hubby will build a structure for the two sets and I will then prune (if necessary) and tie down the existing branches (twigs really) then as they grow this winter I believe I keep pruning every week or two leaving only one or two upward growing branches.

Then next year I prune these to just below the level of my next wires, and as the new shoots emerge I train/ tie down these.

The almond is a very new concept for my garden - took awhile to convince hubby that it was essential, considering the number of existing trees and lack of space! I think it may need a fan type espalier which is different to the method I have (tried) to ouline above so will look into this again. It is very hard to research because a lot of the information is contradictary and as always it seems to be expected that a lot of knowledge already exists...

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Reply by Scarlett:
As long as you have a warm weather variety an almond should be good. I've got a pecan, but I'm going to let it go.
Your espalier notes sound right - I pruned my way through uni :) - I think the main aim of ongoing pruning is to nip out anything that's going the wrong way, probably not much to it and not essential. Either a fan or horizontal trellis would work. It's the diligence of maintenance that will decide how well it works - you can't let it go, it's hard to rescue it if you do. Love that almond blossom :)
Reply by Christopher:
I am very intrested in espalier as I have a long narrow block where shade could be a issue if I put in the amount of trees that I would like to . hope to hear how you go .
Reply by Scarlett:
You never get as much fruit (obviously), and it's more strain on the plant to produce it so you have to really coddle the plants and make sure they are super healthy. You get more per branch than a standard tree though. To make it work in a small garden I think you need early middle and late varieties of each tree type so you get a better ongoing supply, sort of mimicking the fruiting pattern of a big tree, because with the little ones you only really get one burst
Reply by Anthony:
In order to be able to grow an Espalier, you must first know what it is. “A plant trained to grow flat against a wall or framework. To train a tree or shrub with its branches growing in a two dimensional plane, flat against a building or fence.” A normal growing tree or shrub has three planes, which are height, width and depth. An Espalier has two, height and width. There is no depth since it has been trained to grow flat. This method of growing trees and shrubs was generally used where space was a problem. But many gardeners are now growing espaliers because of the interesting design that it will add to their gardens. Do remember though, these will take a lot of effort, time and will need frequent attention. If you are not interested in spending a lot of time with this, don’t do it.

Any tree or shrub that has long, flexible branches is suitable for training. But must be planted when young and supple. You will also need to consider the mature height of the tree or plant in question. You want make sure that you choose a tree or plant that will not outgrow the area that you have intended. If you have questions as to whether a tree or plant would be suitable to be an espalier, ask a person at your local nursery or gardening center. They should be able to point you in the right direction.

The first thing that you will need to do is to set up a wooden, metal or wire framework. This will be the guide for the espaliers horizontal and vertical stems. Build this framework at least a foot away from your wall or fence to allow for circulation. The framework is basically just a strip of metal, wire or wood, that has been attached about a foot or two off the ground, but running parallel to the ground. Now plant your new tree or shrub at the base of the framework. Cut the main stem back, this will stimulate the growth of a single vertical shoot. Other than this vertical shoot, trim off any other shoots at ground level.

After the main stem has a six inch growth, above the place at where it is to split into two stems, (this will usually happen at about 60cm) cut it back to 15cm. You will generally be able to do this at the end of it’s first growing season. At least two of the uppermost remaining buds will sprout. Cut off all but two that will grow opposite of each other, at the same level. At this stage your espalier will look like a T. With the main stem and two opposite growing shoots.

When each of the two opposite growing stems are about a foot long, it is time to start training your limbs to grow where you want them. Attach the T stems to the framework, using twine or some other gentle ties. Be sure to keep these ties rather loose to allow for expansion of the branch. The tips of the branches will naturally start growing upwards, making your branch into a 45 degree angle. Your espalier will now start looking like a goal post. It is also alright to force the tips to stay down and let some other upwards growing shoots to take over. Just make sure that the upwards growing shoots are even and symmetrical on both sides of your espalier. This stage your espalier will look like a dinner fork. You will now have to add vertical supports to your framework. Tie the tips that have started growing vertically to these support, again loosely to allow for the branch to grow and expand. You will need to keep pinching off any buds that insist on growing in an unwanted place. After a time, and repeating this process you will have a full grown tree that is growing flat against the framework, that is full of 45 degree angles and split trunks and branches.

Each winter you will need to cut back a quarter or even half of the new growth, it is also a good idea to really cut back on any weaker shoots. Do be sure to pay attention to pruning times in the area where you live, this is when you should be doing any pruning to your espalier. And if your espalier is a fruit tree, follow any basic pruning instructions to force fruit growth as you would with any fruit tree.

It will generally take five years to complete the growing and training of this unusual looking shrub or tree. After that basic maintenance is a must, to make sure that your espalier remains the gardening wonder that it is. Also you will be amazed that if you are growing a fruit tree, how easy it will be to harvest the fruit from this short compact tree.

Pulled this from a web resource site hope it helps
Hi Donna, how's your Espalier trees growing? I intend to do this for my Mulberry and Guava trees ~~~ Haven't find any books specializing in Fruit tree training though... and any information in other general food growing books seems to be on Apples & stone fruits if there's anything on espalier....
I have a great book that I am happy to lend you, I will bring it to the next garden visit if you are attending. From memory it is called Pruning & Training and is written by the Royal Horticultural Society.

They are doing pretty well, my garden visit is July so you will have an opportunity to see it.

I had a setback with the nashi (David snapped it about 2 inches from the graft) so it only has a single leader, I will prune it this winter for my first side branches.

The apple (granny smith) missed a level, but I have decided to try and graft a different variety at that level at some point - no hurry at this stage, need to find someone with an apple I can get a cutting from. Also, I am hoping to get a new leader as I only got two branches at the last prune which are now tied down.

It is very hard to describe, I will try to take a photo of them to add this weekend which might make more sense - the almond I decided not to espalier as I found a spot for it.

Not sure if I would espalier again, it is supposed to be a lot of extra work for a reduced fruit bearing capacity. Now I know a lot more about what fruit trees grow in Bne, and about dwarf rootstock it would be tempting to do it differently. In saying that it is a novelty and very unusual, a lot of people have commented on them, hopefully when they are fully grown they will make a bit more sense...


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