Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Espalier : not for the faint of heart!

As much as I’m a fan of autumn with its attendant colorful sights, sounds and scents, I actually relish this time of the year when the leaves have almost all dropped! Walking around the Arboretum on any given day presents a terrific opportunity to truly see the trees with their unique forms, shapes and structures. As aspiring horticulturists know, it is one thing to read about a tree that is described as vase-shaped or pyramidal and quite another to view this tree up close and in person. This time of the year lets me study the trees without the leafy distractions!

In addition to a tree’s natural form, the Arboretum has several examples of espaliered trees. Espalier as defined by The American Horticultural Society Encyclopedia of Gardening is “a plant trained with the main stem vertical and (usually) three or more tiers of branches horizontally placed on either side in a single plane; often applied to fruit trees.” Two shining examples of espaliered trees at the Arboretum can be found in the May T. Watts Reading Garden adjacent to the
Sterling Morton Library. These remarkable trees planted in 1963, trained to grow on the Library walls are the dawn redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides) and ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba). Both of these trees were selected for the garden because of their fascinating horticultural and botanical history. When you visit this special garden, you'll see that they've done remarkably well over the past 43 years in a fairly narrow space. Our horticulturists work their magic at nurturing and maintaining these plants. Another example of this training/pruning technique can be found near the temporary entrance to the Library/Administration Building. As you walk from the parking lot toward the temporary entrance, you'll see a fairly young espaliered Prairifire crabapple growing on the Library exterior wall.

Consider using this interesting technique in your own landscape!

For additional information, please see these resources in the Sterling Morton Library:

Peruse the Library’s catalog searching under the subject heading of pruning. Information on this technique typically can be found within resources on pruning and training of trees and shrubs.

Also look at these monographs on the topic:
Espalier fruit trees : their history and culture by Alan Edmunds - SB359.5 .E34 1986
Special cases : pruning for particular purposes by Karan Davis Cutler in Pruning trees, shrubs & vines - SB125 .C76

Journal articles of interest:
Patterned artistry by Craig Bergmann in Chicagoland Gardening, v. 12, issue 2, p. 70-73.
Tight spot training by Jason Upright in Garden Design, issue 136, p. 100.
An espalier for every garden by Peter Thevenot in Fine Gardening, issue 70, p54-59.
As the twig is bent : training trees into espaliers turns blank walls into living tapestries by Jack Ruttle in Garden Design, v. 16, issue 3, p. 78-85.
The elegant espalier by Lee Reich in Horticulture, v. 74, issue 2, p. 38-42.

Websites of interest:
Starting an espalier from the Victory Garden
Wikipedia article
Step by step guide from the BBC

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