Plant of the month for October 2016
Espaliered trees have a centuries-long tradition and were first cultivated in France in the late 16th century. While they have increasingly become forgotten recent decades, there are now enjoying a veritable revival. These days, house and garden owners are increasingly confronted with the problem of lack of space. Property prices are on the rise, buildings are taller, houses closer together, the gardens are smaller. With this compactness increases the need for individuality and security. The issue of perpetual ‘visibility’ is becoming increasingly important. Plant lovers have to comprise due to such physical limitations. There is simply no space for broad growing trees that create an incomparable ambience in ‘normal’ gardens. Vertical topiaries such as flat espaliers offer a wonderful alternative and meet the demands for green while also providing some privacy. This makes it possible for woody plants to grow with all the advantages of freely growing trees such as flowers, ornamental fruit or autumn colours yet in confined spaces.
The different espaliers in box-shaped or straight create the effect of a hedge on a trunk. In the garden, they serve as modern space dividers instead of a tall hedge, a wall or fence, for example. The ‘floating hedges' give the garden more depth and create cosy elements or retreats for the soul. In winter, the architectural habitus remains clearly visible and creates a special charm. The classics among espaliered trees are lime, white and red beech, field maple and the ironwood tree and sweet gum. Tilia x europaea, ‘pallida’ 'the Kaiser lime’ also known in the Netherlands as the "Leilinde", is one of the most commonly used species. This variety is especially used on farms, planted in most cases in front of a gable wall, as protection against flies and mosquitoes in the house. This works because certain varieties of Kaiser limes secrete a sticky liquid on their leaves on which insects get stuck. Kaiser limes were used as protection from the sun. In addition to the classics among the espaliered trees, attractive flowering woody plants are also offered as espaliered types such as the juneberry, amelanchier lamarckii, the cornelian cherry or lovely ornamental apple varieties such as malus ‘Evereste’ 'Red Jewel' and 'Coccinella'
Fruit trees can be easily grown as espaliered trees and enjoy a long-standing tradition especially in France and Germany. On sunny and wind-protected walls of buildings such as a south or west wall, the espalier creates additional accents. Historical forms are the U or double-U, fan shape or solitaire with vertical branches. The shoots are attached to an espalier and cut regularly. The fruits can be observed during growth and can be eaten after ripening or immediately consumed.