The Willamette Valley is best-known for its wines but, along with grapes, its unique micro-climate is particularly suited to growing many types of fruit trees. A popular method of growing in the Valley is espalier, which allows full-size fruit to grow on carefully trained branches tied to a trellis system. It is one of the most efficient methods of growing tree fruit.
Most northern apples with a moderate chill requirement grow well in the Willamette Valley. The best varieties for espalier are Braeburn, Granny Smith, Earligold and Empire. There are new dwarf varieties made especially for espalier appearing all the time. Apples will produce a full crop beginning in the third year after planting.
Anjou and Bartlett are the most popular espalier pear varieties in the northwest and are most hardy for this region. Pear trees have more aggressive growth than apples and need to be trained more intensively. Pear trees can be espaliered alongside apples and two or more trees are recommended for best fruiting.
Cherries grow well in the Willamette Valley but can be more difficult to manage as espaliered fruit than apples or pears. Espaliered cherries are almost always grown on dwarf rootstocks as old-fashioned cherry trees can grow 40 feet tall. The best cherry varieties for espalier include Rainier, Bing, and Montmorency. Cherries are a favorite fruit of birds, so covering the trees with netting in late spring as fruit is developing is recommended.
Figs are more difficult to espalier than many other fruits but they grow vigorously and produce well in this climate. Figs require root containment in order to produce fruit within a few years of planting. Normally, a fig tree can spend up to twenty years established its root system if left alone. Planting fig trees in sunken containers allows the tree to focus on fruit production. The highest-yielding espalier varieties of fig include Black Mission and Brown Turkey.
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