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Fruitful fence-art’s modern revival

fencing the fence july 2019

Espaliering is the art of training a tree or shrub to grow against a wall or a fence to create a flat two-dimensional affect.

It’s an ancient gardening art, but Espalier is making a big comeback in gardens to save on space and bring structural elegance to the modern garden.

Espaliering creates a decorative compact tree perfect for city courtyards and small spaces. Because trained trees are more compact, they make picking fruit easier, fruit often ripens earlier and the flowers and fruit are artfully displayed.

So, with a little patience and thoughtful pruning you can create a living work of art in your garden.

Virtually any tree can be espaliered into a basic shape, but some trees do work better than others. Apples and Pears create beautiful espaliers, so do Olives and Citrus.

Other fruit trees like Cherries, Peaches, Plums, Nectarines and Apricots can also be crafted into simple designs.

For something different, try your hand at espaliering a fruiting vine like a grape or kiwi fruit. If you prefer blooms to fruit, flowering Cherries and Plums, Crab Apples, Cercis and Crepe Myrtle all make lovely espaliers.

Winter reveals the bare branches and form of deciduous fruit trees like apples and pears, so it’s the perfect time to design and create an espalier.

Adventurous gardeners can choose from a range of designs, from fan shapes to U shapes, candelabra designs and intricate diamond patterns that command attention, but if you’re just starting out then opt for a simple horizontal espalier.


You’ll need a quality pair of secateurs to get your espalier started and maintain the decorative shape over time, so get your hands on a pair of Cyclone Aluminium Bypass Pruners.

This durable pruner has a strong aluminium body with a drop forged cutting blade to make light work of creating an espalier. It also features over-moulded soft grips for extra comfort and grip, so you can prune with ease for longer and create a living sculpture in the garden.


1. Erect a series of wires on your fence or wall roughly 30 cm apart using eye bolts, to create a tight network of guide wires. The eye bolts push the wire out from the wall to allow for good air circulation and make it easier to maintain and prune the tree.

2. Plant your tree as close to the fence or wall as possible and line up the trunk with the centre of the wires.

3. Then simply match the side branches to each wire to create a series of horizontal tiers. You might need to lightly bend a few branches to meet the guide wires. Tie each branch to the wire using flexible ties, placed every 20 cm or so. Then prune off any branches that don’t fit the pattern.

4. As the branches grow, gently tie them to the wires and prune out any new growth that doesn’t match your shape. Prune up to 3 times a year to keep your espalier looking good.

Over time you’ll see the shape of your tree develop beautifully.

It’s a labour of love, but an artfully trained espalier on your wall or fence, laden with flowers or fruit, is sure to be a main attraction in your garden or courtyard.

This article was first published in The Fence magazine.

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