Gardening: Wall Harvest

Espaliered trees bring fruit to flat spaces

Popularized in 17th-century France, the elegant espalier bedecks some of the world’s toniest estates: Versailles, Fontainebleau, Mount Vernon. What makes a tree an espalier? Careful training. Planted against a wall or fence, trunk and branches rise on a single plane and, with the help of wire and pruning, grow into whimsical shapes — fans, serpents, hearts. But not all trees are espalier material: Bill Craig, arborist at Glenside’s Primex Garden Center, recommends that beginners test their shears on dwarf or semi-dwarf pear or antique apple plants. For more ambitious gardeners, he suggests three-tiered, self-pollinating, ready-to-plant apple espaliers (due to arrive at Primex in March) that have three varieties grafted onto a single rootstock, to yield — you guessed it — three types of apples. Whichever your pleasure, it’s a win-win-win: Empty walls bear fruit, you eat local, and pruning takes on new allure, with beautiful results. Primex Garden Center, 435 West Glenside Avenue, Glenside, 215-887-7500, primexgardencenter.com.  —