How Do I Espalier Roses?

Updated November 21, 2016

The most difficult part of creating a rose espalier is being patient while it grows. Progress is slow, but the finished project can be stunning. The practice is a good choice for gardens where space is limited and you have a blank wall and good sun. An espaliered rose needs regular, but not excessive, pruning. You can make a double-hued espalier by starting with two rose plants and intertwining them as you train the branches up the frame.

Select a site for your rose on a south- or east- facing wall. Purchase a potted climbing rose. Choose a two-dimensional shape for your espaliered rose. Traditional choices are candelabra, tier or fan shapes. Draw a plan on graph paper for how you want the rose to look when mature. Draw the design you have created with chalk on the wall so that you can envision how the rose will look when is trained.

Cut the wire into manageable lengths to lay along all the chalk lines. Drill holes in the wall for the eye-bolts. Use a carbide drill bit and install anchors if you are putting the espalier on a brick, stone or concrete wall. Use a wood bit if you are working on wood. Screw in the eye bolts at 1-foot intervals on the design. Run and loop the wire tautly through the eye bolts, keeping them about 3 inches away from the surface so they make a frame on which to train the rose.

Dig a hole 2 feet in diameter and 6 to 10 inches away from the wall. Place the climbing rose into it. Fill the hole in with soil. Mulch the rose and water it. Tend the rose as you would if you were growing it over a trellis, fertilising and watering. Watch for signs of mould, since the rose growing close to the wall will have less air circulation surrounding it.

Let the rose establish itself for two or three months. Prune and train the rose. Begin by selecting two or three branches that are strong and tall enough to reach the wires. Bend them toward the wires and secure them gently to the lower reaches of the wire with plastic ties. Smaller branches can be pruned lightly and left alone until they too are long enough to reach the wire. Extremely low branches should be removed. Remove flower buds in the earliest part of training the rose.

Prune the rose and continue to train it on the wire, attending it once or twice each year. During the winter, prune away the shortest stems that sprout from main branches. Prune branches on the wire back to the first two or three buds but not fewer, and do not tip prune until they reach the desired length on the wire. Remove branches that can't be easily trained to the wire after they reach 1 foot in length.

Things You'll Need

  • Graph paper and pen
  • Chalk
  • Rose plant
  • Shovel
  • Mulch
  • Drill with carbide bit or wood bit
  • Eye bolts sufficient to place at 1-foot intervals on the espalier design
  • Anchors for the eye bolts
  • 14-gauge or thicker galvanised wire
  • Plastic ties
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About the Author

Roz Calvert was a contributing writer for the award-winning ezine Urban Desires where her travel writing and fiction appeared. Writing professionally since 1980, she has penned promotional collateral for Music Magnet Media and various musicians. The "Now Jazz Consortium" published her jazz educational fiction. She published a juvenile book about Zora Neale Hurston and attended West Virginia University and the New School.