Gallery of Espalier Forms

By on May 30, 2014

Tiered cordons decorate the side of this barn.

Espalier is a beautiful and functional way to grow fruit trees. In our latest video, Tricia talks about the techniques needed to prune and train an espalier. Espaliered trees and plants may be time intensive to maintain but they repay you in high fruit production in a very small space. If you’re considering adding an espalier to your garden, the first step is planning. Choose a shape you find beautiful and appropriate for the space you’re filling.

This type of tree training may date back to ancient Egypt and was practiced by the Romans. The practice was refined into to high art in 17th century Europe. Espalier, as you may have guessed, is a French word borrowed from the Italian for “something to lean against.” The word originally referred only to the trellis the tree was trained upon. In modern use it means the tree, the trellis, and the act of training the tree.

Espalier forms are usually divided into two styles: formal and informal.

Informal Espalier

Informal espaliers are much more free form and can be any shape as long as they are trained to have only hight and width. Informal espaliers may not need a trellis to support them.

Informal Fan
Informal Fan
Let your fancy go and choose naturally fanning branches. Use branch bending techniques to fill out the shape.

Formal Espalier

Formal espaliers follow a very defined pattern, although each pattern has multiple names and variations. These shapes are sure to garner attention in any yard.

Formal Fan
Formal Fan
Big blank wall of a house? The formal fan is perfect. The formal fan creates beautiful leading lines to draw the eye to a focal point such as a fountain or statuary.

Palmette Oblique
Palmette Oblique
The palmette oblique gives you the desirable leading lines of the formal fan but in a taller, narrower package.

Belgian Fence
Belgian Fence
Instead of an unsightly board fence grow a Belgian fence for a privacy screen.

Drapeau Marchand
Drapeau Marchand
Forget the photinia and grow an attractive, productive hedge with the drapeau marchand espalier form.

Tiered Cordon
Tiered Horizontal Cordon
This is an easy formal espalier form ideal for creating a living fence. There are many variations of horizontal cordons. Create a form with with one, two, three or more tiers of horizontal cordons.

Imagine a single cordon with more vertical flare and you have this striking form. Use it along a fence where more vertical fill is desired than horizontal cordons provide.

Palmette Verrier
Palmette Verrier
Similar to the candelabra form, but more upright in form. Use the palmette verrier for those tricky, narrow areas or for an alcove.

Triple U-Shape
Triple U-Shape
Think of it as a cross between the upright palmette verrier and the spreading candelabra forms.

  Comments (4)


Is there a book on espallier methods that you can recommend? 
I remember seeing the different forms of espalliered fruit trees in Paris at the Luxembourg Gardens and how amazing they were - old, established, elegant - and wanting to learn how to do it.  Your email this morning was a reminder.

Posted by Andrea on May. 31, 2014 at 9:03:14 AM

Hello Andrea,

The book “Pruning Made Easy” has some more in depth advise on pruning:

They are such beautiful trees, good luck with training your tree.

Posted by on Jun. 02, 2014 at 8:16:51 AM


Hi! I ordered 3 types of apple, Fuji, Golden delicious and honey crisp. I read somewhere that you need spur bearing varieties to espalier with… then I found out Fuji is only semi spur bearing.  Should I not espalier the Fuji if I want a good crop? Does espalier cut drastically the amount of fruit vs a 3-d Normal tree would? I’m trying to plan my home orchard with many different fruits and trying to save space as well because I think I ordered too many trees. Are there other fruit trees that produce well as an espalier besides apple and pear?

Posted by Danielle Diakoff-King on Dec. 04, 2016 at 11:50:38 PM

Danielle, the spur bearing trees work the best for espalier, but really depends on the shape you are going for, it just may be a bigger form. You would not get as much fruit as a full size tree but if your space is limited then you may not be able to have a full size tree anyway. The best trees to use are apples, pears, or figs. But you can also try cherries, plums, peaches, nectarines or persimmons.

Posted by Suzanne at on Dec. 07, 2016 at 10:19:02 AM

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