Espalier Restoration

Photo 1
Photo 1: First dormant season photo shows an espalier overgrown and crowded

Clients who have established espaliers enjoy the living art.  Espaliers need to be maintained.  There are plenty of good books on pruning.  So, I am not going to explain how or when to prune.  Instead I am going to share a espalier restoration adventure.  The restoration and training process requires pruning restraint with an eye for understanding how each cut works to create a decorative structure.

Photo 2
Photo 2: Wire girdling the tree

When espaliers are neglected or mishandled they lose form and the plant health may decline (Photo 1).    A couple of years ago I was called to restore 3 neglected espaliers.  These espaliers are estimated to be more than 50 years old.  They were over grown, girdled by wire, and unsightly  (Photo 2).

Restoration takes time.  Therefore, pruning restraint is part of the maintenance process.  Time is calculated in seasons. How many seasons?  Depends on the project.  For this client I estimated 3 growing seasons to go from unsightly to revealing a decorative structure.

When I first consulted with the home owners I took pictures of the espaliers.  Using the photos I  discussed the issues and options the client choose restoration.   An example of a serious issue is this photo 2 were heavy gauge wire is girdling the tree.  This particular issue is a common problem that I encounter when I am consulting on other properties.

Photo 3
Photo 3: First season: Dormant pruning shows overcrowding reduction

After the first dormant season pruning was completed overcrowding was reduced (Photo 3).  The second season pruning was completed reducing height and overcrowding (Photo 4).  Compare photo 1, 3 and 4 notice the tree has been cleaned and congestion reduced.  Follow up maintenance is scheduled each season after the trees leaf out.

Photo 4
Photo 4: Second season pruning

Scheduled restoration takes time.  After the first maintenance season some clients will want the schedule to be accelerated.  As long as no safety hazards exist I stick to the restoration schedule.   Sticking to the schedule requires pruning restraint.  Keep in mind the health of the plant, the canopy, and what each cut means to restoring an artful structure.

Restoring neglected espaliers requires a maintenance priority discussion with the client.  The task list includes cleaning, reducing overcrowding, and height, remove girdling wires, and evaluation during scheduled maintenance.  During evaluation you are checking how the trees are compartmentalizing and making canopy reduction decisions.  Having a plan reduces maintenance hours during restoration.  Maintained espaliers are wonderful living garden decorations.

Return to this post February 2017 to get an update on this restoration adventure.


Garden Container Love

When I was a child my family sold terra cotta and ceramic containers from Mexico.   We did not have a retail store.  We would scout vacant lots on busy street corners park and sell our merchandise from the back of a truck.  The containers usually sold out by the afternoon.

This large Pennoyer Newman container is filled with tulips and violas.
Pennoyer Newman container filled with tulips and violas.

Winter is a good time to inventory garden containers.  During the winter I use this time to evaluate the containers that I have set in client gardens.  Containers complement the attitude of any garden.

Patapsco Valley Sales wherehouse.
Patapsco Valley Sales

Each one of my clients has a unique landscape attitude.  You can find containers for every attitude.   Client  landscape attitudes shift over time.  I am always looking to add a new garden container.  Hunting for new containers is exciting.  If I love the container sitting on a pallet I will buy it.

Do you love your containers?  Loved containers inspire seasonal plant selections.   If your container love has fizzled out it is time to move or modify your containers.  Best scenario is to add a new container to refresh your container love.

Large urn with bright foliage.
Large urn with bright foliage.

I am always scouting for containers.    Where I look depends on the garden attitude.  Good sources are nurseries, wholesalers, and consignment shops.

Some of the places where I have purchased containers:

  • Patapsco Valley Sales, Baltimore, MD – The inventory quality is fantastic.  Every container that I have purchased from Patapsco looks great.
  • Pennoyer Newman, New York, NY – These containers are tough, lightweight, look great, and can be left outdoors in cold climates.   My experience is with the following designs:  Garland Planter, Dutch Planter, French Florentine Round, The Modern Collection.
  • Southland Nursery, Vancouver BC – This nursery is an adventure.  The selection is amazing the team is happy to assist.