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From My Own Garden Today: The Espalier Apple

My love of gardening was greatly inspired by the gardens my grandparents had at their home in Ithaca. Both were enthusiastic gardeners. While my grandmother tended the flower borders, my grandfather's domain was the espaliered apple he meticulously maintained. It was his pride and joy. Espaliering is the long practiced art of training trees, shrubs, and woody vines against a flat surface, such as a wall. You can also train them to a freestanding fence or trellis. He was given the space on the backside of the garage - out of public view -my grandmother told me many years later with a wink.

What was originally the eyesore of the house became over the years its centerpiece. It was a great event when it came time to pick the enormous fruit which had been coddled throughout the summer. Picking time was carefully chosen to be able to maximize the enjoyment of seeing so many fruit on the tree for the longest amount of time, while still getting the perfectly ripe fruit. Baked apples became the only choice at breakfast for several weeks every fall.

The tree also became the backdrop of every family photo taken when weather permitted. As a child i recall the dread of being marched out for another photo in front of the apple. Recently i came across a group of photos which showed the growth and training of the tree over many years in the late 60s through the 70s when it filled in the space completely.

Espaliers are a fun way to explore having fruit when you have limited space or when you may need a focal point to a garden. Most any tree will work.

They don't always have to be fruit as well. Vita Sackville West spoke of the joy of training magnolias on the walls at Sissinghurst with the flowers appearing like doves on the branches.

Espaliers are a great way to let your imagination run free and see what you can create. We also have many further images and design ideas on our Pinterest Fruit Tree Board which you can find HERE.

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  • Ulysses Hedrick