Gallery of Espalier Forms

Gallery of Espalier Forms

Espalier is a beautiful and functional way to grow fruit trees. In our 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.
Candelabra Candelabra 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.
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Unfortunately, peaches don’t form spurs (I’ve heard rare varieties might, but in general they don’t). All of the fruit will grow on 1-year-old wood. Candelabra is not a good firm for a peach, because you’re trying to keep l of the fruit close to the main scaffolds – they won’t grow like that. You need to constantly be refreshing the wood by cutting back hard, so you always have a good balance of new growth (next year’s fruit) and 1-year old wood (this year’s fruit).

Try notching (google if you don’t know what that is) at intervals all along your branches to get new shoots to grow. You’re going to have to leave them on and let them get kind of long to get fruit off of them. I would suggest heading them back during the growing season to promote branching – that will help you get more 1-year wood without letting them grow too long, which would spoil the candelabra. Once you’ve got shoots all over your main framework, you’ll have to maintain by refreshing a portion of them yearly. So maybe you cut 1/2 of the 1-year shots back to a single bud every winter and leave 1/2 unpruned or pruned back to about 8 inches (for fruit this year). If you’re keeping your candelabra highly restricted and neat by pruning all of the side shots off or cutting them really short, you won’t ever have peaches. That’s why only fans are recommended for espaliering a peach.


Ingrid, well if your tree is not setting blossoms you may need to fertilize with a high phosphorus fertilizer or if you are doing a lot of pruning on the tree to shape it you just may be cutting off the fruiting wood.


Hi, your espalier video really encouraged me to start my espalier journey. I have three peach trees trained into candelabra. They’re four years old but haven’t fruited yet. Last year the blossoms were taken out by a late frost. This year I didn’t see any blossoms at all. Would you offer advice how and when to prune to get fruiting spurs? Thanks!

Ingrid Lau

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