Just like a climbing vine, fruit trees can be trained to grow up a fence or wire frame. It’s called espalier, which is a decorative style of fruit tree training. It’s the perfect method if you have limited space or if there is a fence you’d like to disguise. It also allows the fruit good access to the sun so that they ripen well.

You can grow the tree in many shapes and patterns although a simple fan or horizontal format is easiest to start with.

Getting started

The best location is a north-facing fence so that the fruit on the espaliered tree gets lots of sunlight to ripen.

Fix horizontal wires to your fence, 30-60cm apart, using eyebolts so that the tree will be kept slightly off the fence. Plant your tree as close to the fence as possible.

 

  

 

Getting the shape right

Make sure the branches of the young tree are tied outwards along the horizontal wires. Ensure there is plenty of space between each of the branches, for the fruit to grow.

The idea is to encourage the branches to go horizontally so that you get lots of light into the plant. Tie the branches to the wires with plant ties. Once the branches are in place, new foliage with sprout off them and that’s where your fruit will grow.

All citrus plants are well suited to espalier, as well as apples and pears.