Espalier, a French word by way of Italian, literally translates to mean "something to rest the shoulder against." In horticulture, espalier is the artful tradition of training trees to grow flat against a wall or fence. This attractive, space-saving technique is incredibly popular in Europe, where it is also used by some commercial orchards to increase productivity. Apple, along with pear and apricot, are just a few of the most popular trees used in espalier. Once established, these beautiful, unique-looking trees require very little pruning care.
Use sharpened and sterilised cutting tools when pruning your espaliered apple trees. Clean, tear-free cuts are easier for your tree to heal and sterilised tools will help prevent the spread of dangerous plant diseases.
Prune your espaliered apple trees in late winter or early spring, while your trees are still dormant. This ensures that your trees will have plenty of time to heal their wounds before cold temperatures set in again.
Remove all of the spring blossoms from your espaliered apple trees for their first three years of growth. Eliminating the blossoms helps your trees concentrate their energy on producing new growth.
Pinch off unwanted new plant growth to maintain the desired design of your espaliered apple trees. Avoid pinching off plant growth in the late fall as it will encourage new growth that may be damaged by the coming winter frosts.
Use pruning shears or a pruning saw to remove any damaged, dead or diseased wood from your espaliered apple trees. This will help keep your trees looking healthy and attractive.
Make pruning cuts just above the branch's bud union or branch collar, which is the part of the tree where the branch meets the trunk. The branch tissue and trunk tissue are separate, but touching. If the branch is pruned without damaging the branch collar, only the branch tissue is affected. If both the branch and trunk tissues are damaged, your trees will have to work doubly hard to seal their wounds.
Train the branches of your espaliered apple trees into designs when they are young and pliable. Gently bend the branches to the desired shape and secure with gardening twine or strips of nylon pantyhose.
When pruning your espaliered apple trees, allow enough room for sufficient air flow around the branches of your trees. If branches are allowed to grow too close together, your apple trees may experience fungal problems. Treat your trees with a fungicide product if necessary.