If you are looking for a new idea for your home landscape this spring, you may want to try the espalier technique to add interest to your garden.
Espalier is a French word for a tree or other plant trained to grow flat against a wall or trellis with its branches arranged in a pattern. With proper care, plants can be trained into almost any desired shape, formal or informal.
For centuries, European castles, estates and cottage gardens have used espalier trees for decoration, symmetry and utility. Today apple and pear trees are common selections for espaliering. In spring they are covered with flowers, during the summer the leafy green branches shelter the growing fruit. At harvest you can proudly show off your apples and pears. And, espaliered trees are interesting in winter landscapes. Shrubs such as pyracantha, with its bright orange or red berries in the fall are also good candidates. Ivy works nicely but must always be tied to the frame to maintain the design.
To grow an espalier, it is easiest to start with a trained plant purchased from a commercial source. If a trained plant is not available, a 1-year plant should be used. You will need to commit to training the plant over a number of years. It's all about pruning and training the plant to grow in the desired form. There are many formal patterns but free form plants can also be grown along a wall. It depends on the effect you wish to create. If you make pruning mistakes, you can correct them the next year when growth begins again.
Espalier plants are interesting and challenging. They can solve space problems in a small garden and provide living fences at lot lines. For specific directions and patterns, call the Extension office for the flier, ``Espalier Plants for Home Landscapes.''
-- The Garden Calendar is sponsored by K-State Research and Extension-Douglas County and written this week by Master Gardener Dottie Daugherty. For more information call the Master Gardener Hotline at the Extension office, 843-7058.