L’esprit d’espalier


I love fruit trees. I love the blossom in spring. The fruit in summer. I even love the knobbly bare branches in winter. But with such a small backyard, fruit trees are going to be an issue. We have three dwarf citruses already – lime, kaffir lime and lemon, which I intend to keep small. And I think I’ve got a spot where I can stick an apricot tree. There’s the pomegranate out the front. But I want apples.

The problem with apples, is that you really need more than one, for pollination. And I definitely don’t have room for two apple trees.

Bu then I started to do some reading about espalier.


Espalier is a very old (possibly thousands of years old!) technique of training a tree against a flat surface. Sometimes it’s in a fancy pattern, sometimes not (although the fancy ones are gorgeous, I think I prefer a slightly more natural shape). It turns out that apples are one of the most common and easiest things to espalier, because they have such whippy, pliable branches.


So once our big ugly asbestos shed comes down, we’ll have a big long stretch of bare fence. With espaliering, you can plant trees much closer together. I could probably squeeze five trees in, but I think I’ll be sensible and go for two or three. Except the area won’t be ready to plant til the end of the year, and apple trees are best planted in winter. So it looks like another year before I can start my espaliering adventures.


Replacing trees



I feel so guilty cutting down trees.

But there are three trees in our backyard that just have to go, because they’re in the wrong spot, they’ll grow too big, and they’re just plain ugly. My friend Esther said to me recently that she doesn’t want anything in her garden that isn’t either useful or beautiful, and I’m adopting this as my mantra. Our yard is so tiny (it’ll be 90m2 once the studio is built) that I can’t afford to have light and space taken up by something that we can’t eat or at least enjoy looking at.

So I’ve made myself a deal. For every tree we cut down, I’ll plant a new one.

So far we have cut down one of the straggly useless trees, and planted two citruses. Soon the other two will go, and I have plans to replace them with an apricot, and a potted Wurtz avocado.

This weekend I impulse-bought a pomegranate. While pomegranate isn’t the most useful of trees (I mean, we don’t eat pomegranates as much as we eat, say apples), it’s very pretty. And our front yard doesn’t get much sun. A house two doors down has a fruiting pomegranate in the same position, so I know for sure it’ll produce, which I couldn’t guarantee with an apple.

So it’s in the front yard. There was a small drama involving a stormwater drain when digging the hole, but it’s patched up now, the hole is relocated, and the pomegranate is in!