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Apple tree fruit espalier

Although apples trees can be beautiful ornemental plants even if they don't really belong on wall espaliers but in an open field. Wire trellises such as the 0050 may be used to build free standing trellises. Most apple varieties are already hard to cultivate outdoors and won't really benefit from a wall microclimate. Instead of using the extra heat to mature faste they tend to lose their aroma and tanginess (acidity) and become susceptible to diseases or pests. They should only be grown as espaliers next to walls when no space is available in the garden.

(lat.: Malus domestica)

Apple tree as espalier fruit

Requirements / Provenance

Apples should be grown on west facing walls, because apples may "boil" if the temperature is too high. The soil should be deep, humose and damp with a good water supply. The weaker the grafted rootstock, the less the tree should share the soil with other plants, bushes and grasses. In the most extreme cases the ground needs to be mulched. Apple trees are available in tree nurseries or online.

Apple varieties and grafting

Two matching apple varieties must always be present near each other so as to ensure fertilisation, either as two individual plants or as one espalier apple with double grafting. There are special varieties for espalier whose fruits are in high demands as rarities, such as "White Winter Calvill". Many of the old varieties are susceptible to mildew and can't be used as wall espaliers. New, multi-resistant varieties are often better suited.

Apple trees are always grafted. For small or low trellises (height x width: 3 m x 2 m) mostly on the slowly growing base "M 9". Such graftings are then sold as "low trunk", "quarter standard", "bush" or "tall spindles". There are also expensive trees available that are pre-trained as espaliers. The lifespan of an espalier is only 20 years. For medium-sized espaliers (height x width: 4 m x 3 m) apples on the stronger base "M 26" should be used, these trees are sold as "half standard". Larger trellises (height x width: 6 m x 3 m) require medium-strong rootstocks such as "M 4", "M 7" or "MM 106", which can last for 30-50 years.

Columnar apple tree and dwarf fruit trees aren't suitable as facade espalier trees.

Training, pruning and trellis

There is a table of all suitable shapes for wire rope trellises a the bottom of the page. For an optimal distance between the tree and the facade, choose a trellis in the heavy or massive range, if needed also in the middle or simple ranges. Pear espalier trees can be grown on a wooden trellis. In a field, use a 0050 trellis.

The trees are trained to their final shape through pruning, bending and binding. Apple espaliers are usually grown as "tall spindles" (see photos below). Older names for this shape are "vertical cordon" or "vertical cord tree". The fruit bearing wood branches off directly from the middle trunk and the shoots are tied horizontally 60 cm above the ground in levels of every approx. 40 cm. When apple trees are planted next to each other they build long hedges. Other shapes such as the Palmette Verrier are used for larger trellises. Technical literature on pruning is available online. Without correct pruning technique, the trees will bear less fruits and may not bear any fruit at all. The design of the trellis and the shape of the tree need to fit each other. As described in "Shaped trees", the main axes of the trellis should be 35 - 40 cm apart.

Suitable wire rope trellis

Click on the image to find a suitable facade trellis design.

Apple tree as a half standard next to an espalier wall, wuch mulched ground without undergrowth. Moritzburg / Saxony
Apple espalier with two strong espalier trees (quarter standard), undergrowth.
Apple as a fruit espalier next to a wall
Flowering espalier apple as a half standard tree

Apples and wire trellises

Horizontal or vertical wires can be used for apple espalier trees, as you can see on the pictures.

This is how apples are cultivated today: mainly formed as "Tall Spindles", supported by a trellis with horizontal wires.
Design of an apple orchard with tall spindle apple trees (Wire trellis 0050)
This small apple tree is being trained as a tall spindle.
Fully trained "tall spindle" apple tree during harvest season. The horizontal fruit bearing branches have been attached to the wires.
This fruit espalier has been trained as a tall spindle from a small tree grafted to a slow growing rootstock.
Five small apple bushes as "tall spindles", attached to wire trellises build in a similar way as our 1020 trellises. Photo taken in winter.
Small apple bush during flowering, trained as a tall spindle.
Espalier apple tree as a large "tall spindle" - hieght of 4 meters - after winter pruning.
There is a 4 meter high apple tree trained as a "tall spindle" attached to the wooden trellis to the left. Because of the height and the presence of undergrowth (bushes and others), a stronger grafting base, such as M 26 is necessary. Winter picture.
This apple has been trained as a trunk limb spindle. Winter picture.
Small apple hedge trained as free fan form on a specially built espalier wall. Picture taken during budding in spring.
Bigger apple hedge, built with pre-trained espalier trees. Winter picture.
Espalier apple tree trained to a strict double "U" shape. Historical representation
A wire trellis system (4030) has been installed - the double "U" tree is now attached to the trellis.
Flowering apple trees shaped in a double "U" shape in an espalier garden - see also the main picture on this page with fruits.
Apple espalier in a double "U" shape during flowering
Flowering espalier tree - the double "U" shape has been trained to a height of " meters. Espalier grade in Weimar / Thuringia
Large apple espalier tree, with mainly vertical branches, a shape similar to a Verrier-Palmette. Picture taken in Winter.
The indicated life expectancy of espalier trees is frighteningly short: what are 20 years when you want to plan for a lifetime? But this age-old apple palmette tree proves that espaliers can last for a very long time if cared for correctly.
"The dumbest farmer grows the biggest potatoes" (German saying) - neglected espalier trees bearing a massive amount of apples.
Fruit espalier as dividers in the garden: this apple has been grown as a horizontal cordon, after the flowering.

Suitable trellis designs for espalier apples

Please click on the graphics to see a detailed view of each design!

 = suitable         = sometimes suitable       = not suitable