Espaliered fruit trees are used as ornaments in landscapes. They disguise walls, fences and undesired views like utility areas and compost piles. They also make an attractive division between vegetable and flower gardens. Training begins within the first or second year of growth of a fruit tree. Older trees are more difficult to train because bending mature branches can take up to 3 years to achieve. Espalier training is a labor intensive activity. It takes around 5 to 10 years to train a fruit tree to a finished espalier form.
Lay out your design in galvanized wire, and screw the wire design into the wooden wall that you are training your fruit tree on. Leave 8 inches of space between the wire and the surface of the wall to allow movement of the tree during windy weather, then plant your fruit tree.
Tie each branch in place as it develops and grows in the spring and early summer. Use soft string, strips of rags, rubber grafting bands or plant ties. Each month as the tree grows adjust the branches to match the pattern. Do this gradually over a period of time. Bend the branches gently by making tiny adjustments.
Remove branches that do not fit in the plan with pruning shears every winter while the fruit tree is dormant. Prune away the branch buds that are not growing in the proper direction. Do this once a month or whenever you notice a stray branch bud.
Check the ties every two months. Loosen any ties restricting branch growth or causing damage to the tree. Replace any ties that are deteriorating.
Remove all ties once the final form of the tree is achieved. Maintain the form by minor pruning. Remove any stray branches or twigs that do not fall along the espalier pattern.