Pruning an apple tree or pear tree into an espalier shape

Espalier pruning maximizes yields for apple and pear trees.

Pruning apple and pear trees to espalier or palmette is an interesting way to raise fruit productivity for apples and pears, and also to cover a wall.

Pruning following an espalier silhouette is easy, but it requires careful attention and regular follow-up to guide your apple tree and pear tree accordingly.

Espalier pruning of apple trees and pear trees

Here, in a video, you’ll find all the tips on how to prune and shape an apple or pear tree into an espalier shape.

We actually went over to the Valloires Abbey Gardens and talked to the Master gardener there. He opened up his secrets on how to grow trees into an espalier shape.

Examples of apple and pear trees in espalier patterns

These images share examples of apple or pear trees pruned in an espalier shape. Each particular type of espalier has a name which often draws back to the far past.

To train each, usually a square grid lattice must be set up and attached to the wall or to strong posts. String thick wire to mark out the “pattern” and tether new growth to the wire.

Palmette is a type of espalier pruning that resembles a fishbone.Palmette pruning

This resembles a “fishbone”.

  • From a single vertical stem, shoots are trained out at an angle.
  • Each branch runs parallel to the other.
  • With palmette pruning, space is freed around the base of the tree for low-lying interstitial crops like vegetables, short flower shrubs, or ornamental flowers.

Candelabra pruning

Candelabra verrier palmette pruning for espalier apple and pearAlso called Verrier, and palmette verrier. Candelabra pruning is a variant of the basic “Palmette” pruning shown just above.

  • Lateral branches form a “U” shape.
  • Pairs of branches are selected and trained regularly.
  • With Verrier palmette, wall surfaces are maximized and productivity increases slightly compared to regular palmette patterns.

Learn more about espalier training

The word “espalier” itself originates from old French, which previously had taken it from Italian “espalliera”. Going further back, the Italian word came from “spalla” which meant “shoulder”, from the Latin root “spatula” which was how the shoulder blade bone was called. Indeed, this type of pruning is only on a single plane. The overall shape of the tree looks like that curious flat bone!

Usually these forms are trained along a wall to which a lattice or trellis was affixed for easy tying. This made it possible to maximize yields in tiny, often urban gardens. It also made double use of walls and fences to reflect extra light and warmth on the trees.

But it’s also seen in open fields, where it makes it possible for motorized tractors to weave between rows of trees. This facilitates harvesting, weeding, and other mechanical tasks.

Images: CC BY-NC-ND 2.0: Melinda Young Stuart; own work: Nature & Garden; Public Domain: KVDP