Espaliered pears

I have a few fruit trees in my current garden and since I have a limited amount of space I have espaliered them along the back fence. Briefly, espalier means to train the trees to grow only in two dimensions. It allows you to grow in restricted space and it gets more sun directly on to the parts of the tree that are there since the sun does not have to penetrate through any other parts the tree.

The trees are now about 5 years old. I will admit that I have done better in  past espaliers because the back fence does not get a full day’s worth of sun. Never the less, I got a decent crop of peaches, apricots and quince last year. This year looks promising for most everything.

I am particularly excited about the pears. They have been slow to develop and only this year are they loaded with fruiting buds. I have two of them, one a Comice and the other a variety of D’Anjou. I have espaliered them differently. The D’Anjou is a 45 degree espalier and the Comice is a 90 degree. The number refers to the angle the branch makes from the trunk of the tree. Pears are exceptional candidates for espalier because of their susceptibility to fire blight. In hot humid conditions, fire blight ravages the soft growing tips of pears. It can be controlled naturally by slowing the growth of the pear branches and one does that by moving the branch from vertical growth to somewhere between 45 and 90 degrees. If you have seen pears growing wild they have a rather columnar appearance. That’s because they love to grow straight to the sky. Espalier controls that. It should also help budding because budding is enhanced by the same technique.  So, now that my pears are getting established at a lower growing angle they are starting to set fruit buds. Here are some pictures.

D'Anjou at 45 degrees.

D'Anjou at 45 degrees.

buds ... sorry bad focus

fruit buds ... sorry bad focus

You can easily see in the espalier picture the scaffold I use to hold the branches in place. The uprights are 2X2 treated posts and the horizontals are 1X2’s … cheapest I could find. The boards that go at 45 degrees are simple wood lath. All of it is held together with small drywall screws. The branches are selected when young and supple for being in the right place and then held in place and angle as they grow with gardener’s velcro tape.  It takes about 12-18 months for the branches to hold the shape you put them into on their own. Every winter you have to prune them to take out the branches that are growing in the third dimension, the branches that are growing up straight or those that are growing where you don’t want them.

Here is the 90 degree Comice … not as vigorous because 45 grows more like vertical than does 90 degrees.

Comice trained to 90 degrees

Comice trained to 90 degrees

Next is a picture of my wife’s quince. It is harder to work with because it is more shrub-like and thus puts out branches like crazy. It also fruits on new wood so you never quite can predict what you will get or where the fruit will grow. You can see the size of the branches I pruned out especially at the top which gives you an idea of the raw vigor in this plant. They were new branches just last spring.

Quince

Quince

Finally, here is my Gravenstein Apple … the single best apple for sauce there is and a good eating apple for early September. BTW all of my trees came from Raintree Nursery

Gravenstein Apple

Gravenstein Apple

There is a lot to cover about espalier. If you have specific questions, drop a comment

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2 Responses to “Espaliered pears”

  1. Jean Says:

    How are your espaliers coming along now that it’s 2 years later?

  2. pjkobulnicky Says:

    Exceptional and poor. The one that I espaliered at 45 degrees is terrific. I have had three straight years of heavy crops. It was the D’Anjou. The Comice that I espaliered at 90 degrees has not had a crop. Not sure why. Both trees are very healthy with NO fire blight. I recently took away the framework behind the trees since they are permanently affixed in their final shape.

    I’d show pictures but I recently sold the house and moved away. Maybe I can get some picts later.

    I need to start posting again to my New Garden blog.

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