Espalier Me This

April by

Appreciation for good ergonomics got me into espaliering: the training of fruit trees, grape vines, berry bushes, shrubs and roses along flat vertical planes to optimally expose blossoms and fruit to sunlight, observation and harvest.

In the best of outcomes the plants become part of the structure, the more substantial ones eventually replacing or eliminating the need for posts.

This currently works very nicely in the form of a postless fence of concrete reinforcing mesh free-standing between parallel plashed hedges. (Plashing strikes me as a form of espaliering). (

The mesh is of heavy four gauge steel (1/4” thick). It is high enough at 7.5′ to deter deer. It is wobbly enough (because unposted) and formed of an open 6”x6” grid awkward enough for bear paws to so far keep their owners out once fruit begins to form. This gridding comes in 20′ foot lengths, the steel heavy enough to have a degree of structural integrity. Small cable clamps secure the lengths end-to-end.

It will take probably a couple of decades to oxidize away and meanwhile the rust color will render it virtually invisible within the plashed evergreens.

In more visible but still to me pleasing form I use this steel mesh to espalier fruit trees and exclude wildlife from the area close to the house in which more tempting things grow. It also forms the interior structure of a long run that spans most of the inner sanctum and allows my two chickens and one duck to patrol for slugs and insects migrating in from the long grass and surrounding woods. The outside of the run is formed of 52” by 16′ lengths of mesh, similar in weight but galvanized. Stucco wire over this keeps the birds in and smaller predators and raptors out. The birds have plenty of room even when penned and are let out to peck and forage when I’m working outside. I get a couple of eggs a day and diminished insect and slug predation.

Once everything starts to leaf-out and blossom the mesh pretty much disappears.

Even in winter you hardly see it against the background of vegetation and snow on it actually makes for an interesting change in the visuals.

A hedge of plashed alders allowed me to quickly create privacy when first we moved to this property, which was pretty much stripped but for a few fair-sized cedars. I eventually replaced most of that with evergreen hedge, but have retained a stretch of it around my deer-resistant ground-cover garden. People like it. I like it. It’s a great way to use alders, which generally are not seen in the kindest light here in coastal B.C..



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