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Espalier - Create beautiful green walls

By Ben Sims
10 June, 2020

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Espalier is an ancient technique of controlling woody plant growth to produce fruit. Modern day Espalier utilizes a wide range of flowering nonedible plants also such as vines, shrubs and trees. 

A great advantage for using Espalier in small gardens is that you can include trees in your garden design in areas that would normally be far too small. Normally you would not have room for a fully grown tree in a small space however with Espalier you do as you can keep pruning it and training it to grow along the wires. When setting up your trellis against a wall or fence make sure you leave some space between the trunk and the flat surface behind as you don’t want the trunk to put pressure on the surface as it won’t be good for the structure or the plant. Nothing creates a relaxing space more than screening ugly fences or walls and it makes you feel like you are in a green room. If this is done effectively a city block can have the feeling that you are in the bush If there are the right accompanying plants. For the more creative and artistic people you can create intricate designs such as different shapes and patterns. The simplest pattern is a vertical wire with horizontal branching however you can get much more creative and have spirals or different branching shapes. 

You can Espalier into a wall by drilling appropriately sized holes I use 10mm holes for 6mm Eye hooks which are set up at the ends of the wire. I use the appropriate builders bog which is a high-quality marine grade putty product. Blow out all the brick and cement dust out of the hole before applying the putty. The Putty needs to be rubbed together to react the 2 different compounds together which starts the hardening reaction. Place the bog firmly in the hole and insert the eye hooks. Add extra bog and firmly press it in and around the eye hook so the hole is filled, and the eye hook is surrounded. In about 1 hour the eye hook will be set like concrete but I like to wait until the next day to attach the wires as you need to tension them and if the putty hasn’t set properly you could pull the eye hooks either partially or completely out of the wall. 

Espalier to cover a color bond fence is cost effective and as simple as drilling 3-4mm holes in the vertical frame of the Color bond fence. Buy some stainless steel wire and if you know how to do some simple fencing knots then tie them off at one end, put it through the hole at the same height on the opposite frame and pull through and tension. For easier tensioning and a more professional finish turn buckles can be inserted along the wire so the tensioning can be done by using the turn buckle. I recommend using wires every 300-400mm depending on what is being grown. 

If you have a free-standing frame, then you can grow Espalier across that which works particularly well for things like Tomatoes or vines like passionfruit. There are many suitable plants that you can try if you want to experiment. 

A few species that Espalier particularly well include Citrus, Pear, Apple, Bay tree(Lauris nobilis), Lavender star(Grewia occidentalis) and vines such as Chinese star jasmine(Trachelospermum jasminoides) and Snake vine(Hibbertia scandens) to mention a few.  

Here are Ben's Gardens we love installing Espalier and can create a beautiful green wall(s) that everyone will admire. Please contact us regarding your Espalier or landscaping requirements.