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Painting Your Espalier

How should I seal/coat/paint my trellis for a vine or a rose? Is coating necessary? What colour tones are possible? These questions apply to classic trellises as well as to modern trellises. Wooden climbing supports will take on a grey patina over the years, but this effect is not necessarily to be considered a defect, as it can give a rustic and natural effect. The three hardwoods-- robinia (black locust), oak, and chestnut can be but need not be painted (coated). All other types of wood should be given a protective coating outdoors. The edges of the lattice laths will need to be lightly sanded for the coating to hold properly (otherwise, expect the dreaded 'edge curling' of the coating).

Old wooden trellis for a rosebush
Old wooden trellis for a rosebush
Bautzen / Saxony, Sorbian "Witches Hut" from around 1600: trellis, roof shingles, and gable cladding all in black
Middelhagen / Rügen / Meckl.-Vorp.
Same colour on wooden cladding and the attached trellis crossbeams
Pirna / Saxony
Garden city Marienbrunn / Leipzig / Saxony, white wooden trellis
Püchau / Saxony, white trellis with grapes
Wall greening
Brockwitz near Dresden / Saxony: White is an especially noble coating. The higher the quality paint that you choose, the longer you can postpone repainting.
Wire rope systems are an alternative on already structured walls-- here, a rose trellis in FassadenGrün's heavy construction style.
Graceful rose trellis - stainless steel wire rope from FassadenGrün
A warm yellow-brown wood colour can be maintained outdoors for at least a few years with thick-layered conventional- or even better organic- glazes. They have to be repainted after 2-3 years, at the latest about 7 yrs. Weatherproof coatings and varnishes made from historical recipes sometimes last even longer.
Dippelsdorf b. Radebeul / Saxony
Pillnitz / Saxony: green on dark brown
Bautzen / Saxony
Leipzig / Saxony, trellises reattached after renovation
Halle / Salle / Saxony-Anhalt, old wooden trellis in white
Dresden: white grapevine trellis
With white paint, the weather-related colour loss can be particularly unsightly. Use high-quality weatherproof paint / oil coatings which do not flake off in chips but in tiny grains, and that can be recoated without time-consuming extra sanding. Organic egg tempera has proven to be a reasonable and proven alternative.
Pillnitz / Saxony
Pillnitz / Saxony
Dresden / Saxony: varnished, wood coloured rose trellis
Historical ochre-coloured grapevine trellis
Dresden / Saxony, Leonhardi-Museum
If you want a dark paint for your trellis, it would be best to use narrow wooden profiles for laths to avoid an imposing or bulky appearance.
Kamenz / Saxony, new trellis in light grey with honeysuckle
Leipzig / Saxony: newly attached light grey trellis
Wooden trellis for wisteria in blue grey
Meißen / Saxony, newly attached wood coloured and varnished trellis, after renovation
Conventional wood preservative coatings are suited for trellis laths due to their toxic fungicidal finish, however, it is better not to use them for grapevine and fruit trellises.
Black trellis matched to black-coloured framework: the heating up of very dark coloured laths can lead to problems (cracks) in low-grade and not pre-dried woods, possibly also affecting the behavior of the climbing plants.
Meißen / Saxony
Red grapes on a red-brown trellis
Kötzschenbroda / Saxony, trellis and cladding in blue grey
Sörnewitz / Saxony, trellis in blue gray
Pillnitz / Saxony
Unprocessed, natural oak wood trellis on wooden cladding. The natural greying process is already starting (Patina).
Dresden / Saxony: grapevine trellis in classic light green. Whether the frequent use of this colour is due to the limited product range of the GDR, or is part of a longer tradition, is not clear!
Leisnig / Saxony
Altleisnig / Saxony, trellis with a new coating of green
Pulsitz / Saxony, robinia grapevine trellis made from a historical model with coating of "Sweden-Falun Red," -- a purely mineral colour from the copper mines of Falun. This colour gives a strong contrast but looks warm and pleasant from close up. It lasts 8 years and much longer. Important: The colour does not peel off in stripes and flakes, but rubs off fine, so you can easily repaint when needed, without having to scrape the old paint away.
New robinia wood grapevine trellis painted in Sweden Red
Basic colours of the product group "Sweden/Falun Red." The ochre tone is only sometimes suitable for robinia and oak wood.
Moritzburg / Saxony, new sturdy trellises made of untreated oak wood for espaliered apple
"Patina" on a raspberry trellis made of robinia wood. Only weather-resistant hard woods (robinia/black locust, oak... to some degree also larch) can survive in the open air without varnish; other woods need it for reasons of moisture and UV protection, and it must then be regularly renewed.
Wood patina on a grapevine trellis
Gaussig / Saxony
Dresden / Saxony
A metal square pipe trellis, varnished (powder-coated)
Trellises made of metal
Cannewitz / Saxony: unpainted old trellis
Grimma / Muldental / Saxony: old vine trellis; in unfavourable micro-climates, grey wood may also be overgrown with moss or algae. Here it is probably a result of the nearby river with the resulting high humidity. Even dirt particles from the air can "dock" more easily on the wood at such locations and influence the patina colouration.
Middelhagen / Rügen Meckl.-Vorp.
Radebeul / Saxony
Gauernitz / Saxony: Grapevine trellis, blue on yellow background - an effective contrast even in leafless times