The art of training plants


Espalier traces its roots (..and branches ;-) back to Roman times when the training method was used to produce fruit along castle walls, while at the same time decorating them. Vineyards have used a similar technique for ages. The French word ‘espalier’ comes from the Italian meaning ‘something to rest the shoulder against.'

Espaliers are useful in both function and form, making efficient use of small spaces while also making a blank wall much more pleasing to the eye. Fruit trees benefit from the extra heat absorbed by the masonry walls they are trained against, thereby extending their productive season. Some types of trees and shrubs are more easily trained in this fashion than others. Many nurseries will have espaliers available for purchase that have already been started.

Espalier on wall at Longwood Gardens...

Espaliers in early spring at Biltmore Gardens...


Trees for espalier

  • Acer palmatum - Japanese Maple

  • Cercis canadensis - Redbud

  • Citrus

  • Euonymus alata - Burning Bush

  • Ficus carica - Fig

  • Ilex - Holly

  • Magnolia grandiflora & stellata

  • Malus - Apples & Crabapples

  • Prunus - Almond, Peach, Plum

  • Pyrus - Pear


Wire supports and turnbuckles anchored to a stone wall


Shrubs for espalier

  • Camellia japonica - Camelia

  • Chaenomeles - Flowering quince

  • Cotoneaster

  • Gardenia

  • Juniperus - Pfitzer juniper

  • Ligustrum - Privet

  • Podocarpus

  • Pyracantha - Firethorn

  • Taxus - Yew

  • Viburnum

Common espalier patterns

  • Baldassari palmette

  • Belgian Fence

  • Cordon

  • Drapeau marchand

  • Fan or Palmette

  • Horizontal T

  • Stepover

  • U-shaped

  • V-shaped

  • Verrier candelabra