Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Espalier, a Different Way to Prune Fruit Trees

   We just got back from a short trip to Virginia.  Bill gave a talk on growing pecans, black walnuts & Chinese chestnuts at the Virginia Biological Farming Conference in Richmond.  Since February is the only time of year we can get away from our farm, we took advantage of this trip to spend a couple days in colonial Williamsburg.
   Williamsburg is landscaped as it was in colonial days, and planted with many fruit trees.  The freestanding fruit trees are unfortunately not pruned much or cared for, and we saw many peach and plum pits on the ground where fruit had dropped, unharvested.  Some nice espaliered figs, apples, pears and peaches are maintained at the Governor's Mansion, however.
These espaliered fig trees are trained to a flat plane against a south-facing brick wall.
   Espalier is a technique of growing fruit trees in a flat plane, against a wall or trellis.  This saves growing space, although it also reduces the yield per tree.  Espaliering figs and other less cold-hardy trees against a south-facing brick wall keeps them warmer, protecting them over winter, and providing a longer growing season.  Espalier is also considered ornamental in a formal garden.
These young apple trees are being espaliered against rail fences.
   Espaliered trees need more frequent and more extensive pruning, but the pruning techniques are quite rigorous, and seem to be more easily grasped and followed by workers.  The espaliered trees in colonial Williamsburg were pruned regularly and well, in contrast to the freestanding fruit trees.
A grape arbor provides a canopy and summer shade over an outdoor eating area outside a tavern in colonial Williamsburg.
   Now that we're back, we still have many 'Enterprise' & 'GoldRush' apples for sale, protected from freezes and kept in top condition in our sales building.  If you want to buy some, call 620-597-2450 and leave a message on the phone answering machine saying when you'll be coming.  Thanks.