Espalier a fruit tree in a pot

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Making an espalier yourself is easy to do. Firstly select the site. You should leave plenty of room between the trunk and the fence or trellis behind. For example, to espalier a Lisbon lemon, just tie the trunk onto the back of the trellis, so that it’s sturdy, and always use a flexible tie. Remember that there’s always a back and front to a plant. Look for leading branches and what you’re trying to do is create a horizontal look so that the sap runs horizontally and not encourage any vertical growth. Use little clips available from the nursery to clip the horizontal branches to the trellis. The clips are placed halfway down the branch and another at the end.

As you are making the espalier, look to see that it’s going to be nicely planed on one dimension. Any branches that look wrong need to be trained back or trimmed.

Espaliers need to be attached to something sturdy. If you decide to use wires, then they need to take some weight, so tension them, and ensure they are fixed to something well constructed. Any horizontal wires should be placed about 30 centimetres apart – that’s a good average and means the plant should grow well.

Before you buy a deciduous plant as an espalier, make sure you’re happy with the bare winter look before planting. For example, apples are a common espalier plant. Try planting different varieties so even in a small space it’s possible to enjoy the different flavours. Just remember to prune to encourage the tiny fruiting spurs because that’s where the apples will appear.

Espaliers need constant work, especially over the growing season. But if you’re the kind of gardener who likes to get out with the secateurs, to prune and shape plants, then they are probably right up your alley. They are not only good space-savers but a really good espalier makes a fine feature in the garden.

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