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Apple

While apple trees are beautiful ornamental fruit, they really do belong out in the open field (free-standing) and not on walls. Most apple varieties are already demanding enough and won't really benefit from a wall microclimate. Instead of using the extra heat to mature fast, they tend to lose their aroma and tanginess (acidity) and become susceptible to diseases or pests. Wire trellises like the 0050 may be used to build free-standing trellises for one or more apple trees. If there is no other space in the garden, it is then worth it to try growing them as espaliers on the facade. Wire trellises like the 0050 may be used to build free-standing trellises for one or more apple trees.

(lat.: Malus domestica)

Apple tree as espalier fruit
Apple tree as espalier fruit

How to thrive... where to find...

Apples should be grown on west facing walls, because apples can "boil" if the temperature is too high, which is possible on hot south walls. The soil should be deep, humus-rich, and damp with a good water supply. The weaker the grafted rootstock, the less the tree should share the soil with other plants, bushes, or grasses. In extreme cases the ground needs to be mulched. Apple trees are available in tree nurseries or through mail order companies online.

Apple Varieties and Rootstocks / Grafting

To insure fertilisation, you'll want to always have two apple varieties that match each other, either as two single plants or as one espalier apple with double grafting. There are special varieties of espalier fruit which are in high demand as rarities, like "White Winter Calvill." Many of the old varieties are, however, susceptible to mildew and therefore not so suitable as wall espaliers. New, multi-resistant varieties are often better, e.g. the RE varieties from Dresden-Pillnitz.

 

Apple trees are always grafted; for low trellises (height x width: 3 m x 2 m) they are grafted mostly on the slowly growing rootstock "M9." 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," having a lifespan of 30-50 years. Columnar apple trees and dwarf apple trees are not suitable for facades.

Training Forms, Pruning, and Climbing Supports

Below is a table of all suitable shapes for wire rope trellises. For an optimal distance between the tree and the facade, choose a trellis in our heavy or massive range; a system in the medium or easy range would also work. Apple espalier trees can be grown on a wooden trellis. In an open field / free-standing situation, 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 shoots then branch off directly from the middle trunk and are tied horizontally about 60 cm above the ground in tiers every 40 cm or so. In this way, apple 'hedges' can also be created. Other shapes, such as the Palmette Verrier, are used for larger trellises. Technical literature on pruning is available online. If pruning is done incorrectly or not at all, the trees will bear fewer fruits or may not bear any fruit! The design of the trellis and the shape of the tree need to fit each other. As described in the section on shaped trees, the main axes of the trellis should be 35 - 40 cm apart.

 

Suitable wire rope trellises

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

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

Apples and Wire Rope Trellises

Horizontal or vertical wires can be used for apple espalier trees, as you can see in these photos.

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 rope system 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 analogous to 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" - height of 4 metres - after winter pruning
Here: a 4 metre high apple tree trained as a "tall spindle," attached to the wooden trellis on the left. Because of the height and presence of undergrowth (bushes, etc..), a stronger grafting base (such as M26) is necessary; winter picture.
This apple has been trained as a 'branch-framework spindle' (winter photo).
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 photo
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 the corresponding picture (above) with fruit
Apple espalier in a double "U" shape during flowering
Flowering espalier tree -- the double "U" shape has been trained to a height of 3 metres; espalier garden in Weimar / Thuringia
Large apple espalier tree, with mainly vertical branches-- a shape similar to a Verrier-Palmette; photo taken in winter.
The indicated life expectancy of espalier trees is shockingly 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): here, a 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 (photo taken shortly after flowering.
 
 
 

Wire rope trellises for apple trees

Please click on the graphic illustrations for details!

   = suitable              = of limited suitability              = unsuitable