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I did it. I was brave.


I did it. I took out the two ailing fruit trees of my five-year-old, diamond-shaped espalier. Had to be brave. Had to be strong. Had to be done. The dwarf plum was so overtaken by aphids that it did not leaf out–even after periodic hosing and harsher chemicals than I would normally use. The dwarf apple had galls all along it’s trunk & main branches and barely leafed out. And the few leaves that did were covered with dusty mildew.

The plum & apple were just failing.

So now, I am left with two dwarf pear trees that are healthy and happy, but only half of an espalier. Knowing the pear trees performed best, I replaced the apple & plum with pear. The pear trees were the slower growers, but gave much more satisfaction in quantity of leaves, size of leaves, color of leaves (they’re bright green) and it is not prone to aphids, galls or mildew.

I bought two root-stock pear trees from Miller Nurseries in Canandaigua, NY– a dwarf Colette and a dwarf Red Anjou. Each tree was $22.85. They are now in and are just starting to leaf out. There’s no branching yet. For an espalier, it’s always sort of chancy where & when the branching will happen. There’s a good amount of training and trickery to get branches where I want them to be.

Did you know pear trees require two different varieties to pollinate properly? There’s even varieties of pear that require two different pear trees for pollination–other than its own variety. This may explain why I’ve not ever gotten any fruit from my existing pear trees.

In context: it takes up the wall of the garage, forming the wall of the deck.

I’ve learned from my last planting. When I installed the espalier originally, I put them in vertically, like trees grow, and had the branches form the diamond pattern. This was tough because the top of the two existing trees are up under the eave of the garage and have to be trimmed constantly.

This time, I planted them so the trunks are on the diagonal. They’ll have more opportunity to get to their destined height, there will be no vertical distractions and the branches will easily grow on the diagonal, with less training.

Seen here, in happier times, when we were both young and in love.

The espalier is under planted with ferns. On one end it hosts a young ginkgo tree, under planted with Solomon’s seal. On the other end, a clematis climbs an upright on the deck.

This summer the house is being painted and I’ve already told the painter I will paint this wall of the garage. The trees are trained along a system of cables & eye hooks and can’t easily be manipulated. I don’t trust anyone else to paint this area.

It was tough to take out half of the espalier. But I’m tougher. I hardly cried.

I have a long-time garden blog, a popular garden on America's largest garden tour, and have co-written a book on garden design titled, "Buffalo-Style Gardens: Create a Quirky, One-of-a-Kind Private Garden with Eye-Catching Designs" When I'm not doing all that, I am an advertising designer always out looking to design things to promote your business. Look me up at #jcharlier.

0 comments on “I did it. I was brave.

  1. Anonymous

    Hi~~ A few years ago my plum tree suffered and died the same way. I think an airplane must have flown over and dumped a 50 gallon drum of aphids right on my vulnerable tree. I can see how hard it would be to amend this well cared for espalier but now you can pride yourself on a job well done. I must say that I inherited a pear tree upon moving to this house. There are no other pear trees around that I know of but I still get pears faithfully every year. Go figure.

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  2. Jim — It's a wonderful look! I'm sorry that you had to remove some plants, but better to get on with it and “cull the herd” when it doesn't work out. Your espalier is so charming and so European on the wall. CameronPS If there is a Trader Joe's grocery near you, you MUST try the frozen chocolate croissants to enjoy on that patio with your cafe express!

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  3. What an incredibly beautiful project, and how determined you have to be to start again on half of it.We have a pear tree that blooms after the others and seldom has fruit. The last time it had fruit, I was so looking forward to the 3 lone pears. DH told a firend to 'help himself' to pears, expecting that he would choose some from the trees that were heavily laden. Guess what? Naturally he took my 3 pineapple pears.

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  4. Very cool. I would be intimidated to do a diamond pattern with a fruit tree – have only done pears in the straight across style, but you may be on to something regarding hardiness as they have all produced fruit quite young. Do you know they now have six-in-one grafted espalliers? The last time I speced one for a client, three-in-ones were the flashiest available, but of course, we consumers always want more. I don't understand about planting on the diagonal. How exactly do you do that?

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  5. Awfully tempting. . . I loved Rick Bayless' conduit trellis for his espaliered apple tree. On the other hand, there's this really blank brick wall on the side of the garage at my place . . . I love the diamond pattern – probably a bit ambitious for a first attempt (for me,) but very cool nonetheless.

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  6. Wonderful… thank you for sharing this with us. Can't wait to return to see more of your creativity. Happy JUNE – I am off to grow something I can take photos of to share!

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  7. Good for you! I'm proud that you're tough … gardeners creatively tweek the earth 🙂

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  8. Ugh, I can imagine that was tough. The pattern looks really nice though. I hadn't thought of planting espaliered trees on the diagonal but it's a great solution. I have a fig that I'm supposed to be training but I've yet to do it. It'll probably get too big to do next year so you'll find me moving the darn tree then!

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  9. You should be proud of yourself. You'll be much happier in the long run with better trees in there, even though it is hard to pull out underperforming plants which you have planted and tended with care. Sometimes, you just have to be ruthless.

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  10. So sorry you had to take out the plum and apple trees, but I am certainly impressed with your talent in espaliering–your garage wall looks like the outside of the Chicago Botanic Garden.I enjoyed meeting you this past weekend. Though we didn't get to chat very much, my friend Beckie appreciated your sticking by her side on our walk to the train Friday morning. It has been fun seeing all the different posts on Spring Fling. Though most of us were obviously enthralled by the poppies and the Lurie river of salvia, there are photos of so many things I either didn't see or didn't think to photograph. Your photo of the fountain in Grant Park appearing to shoot above the skyscrapers is awesome!

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  11. Grace,Sorry to hear about your plum tree, but glad to know it's not just me.Cameron,Culling the herd sooner than later is what I was planning. Don't have a Trader Joes. Don't like chocolate, Don't drink coffee. I'd make a horrible European.NellJean,Thank you. I've not yet had any pears on these trees. There's always hope for next year. Though I grow them for their look, not their fruit.GardenChick,Intimidated? No need to be. It's just a shape! I've heard tell of the multi-grafted espaliers, but not intent on growing fruit, they weren't attractive to me. Seems like Franken-fruit somehow.Garden Girl,I am always attracted to espaliers and that was the first thing I took note of in his yard.Bren,Happy June to you too! You can come back, but I can't promise creativity.Joey,Tweeking the earth. Never thought I had that much power. But I think that must be my superhero power.Jean,Start it now, while it's young!Mr McG's Daughter,I am proud that I was ruthless and just got it over with. I went looking around the yard looking for other under performers. The plants were quaking in their roots.Rose,I took plenty of pictures of the diamond-shaped apple espalier on the brick wall outside the Chicago Botanic garden. Becker was very sweet but not a speedy walker. I was afraid we'd all leave her in our dust. I see the first thing you did was the tram ride. Probably smart– you may have seen more of the botanic gardens than I did.

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  12. Well done. It is how you can feel yourself learning, as if you could actually feel a plant growing. But I hate getting rid of things too, especially something as major as a tree. It sounds a very well-thought out arrangement though, I hope it thrives in future.

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  13. This is so wonderful. I don't blame you for wanting to paint this yourself – all the time and effort in lining up those cables, growing the espalier … definitely understood. Great gardens … off to see more.

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  14. EB,I'm making this my year of ruthlessness. I don't care how long its been there, if it's too close to the next plant it's getting moved. 2009 is the year of the gardening badass.niartist,Thank you. If you want to help paint, I would trust you…

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  15. JUDITH

    I love the mirrors on the fence and it is just what I need Will have to frequent the swap shops at the dump and see if I can find some old mirrors. Thanks for the great idea.

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