Want to add year around greenery and a pop of seasonal color against a bare exterior wall, but have limited outdoor space? Espalier an evergreen shrub against that bare exterior wall and create texture, color and visual interest in a once small, barren outdoor space.
Create the Pattern on the Exterior Wall
Decide upon the desired espalier shape. Do you want a formal espalier pattern such as a fan or candelabra, or an informal pattern? Outline the pattern on the wall with a carpenter’s pencil and insert nails (hot-dipped galvanized steel nails won’t rust) at regular intervals along the pattern outline. Run a thin galvanized or copper wire between the nails, linking each nail to the one beside it, below it and above it.
If the exterior wall has wood siding, don’t grow an espalier right against the wall. It will trap moisture and cause wood rot. Place a trellis a few inches away from the wall and train the espalier on it to allow for air circulation between the evergreen shrub and wood exterior wall.
Plant the Evergreen Shrub to be Espaliered
Some good evergreen shrub choices that are easy to espalier are: Cotoneaster, Firethorn, Sasanqua Camellia, Southern Magnolia (Little Gem), Chinese Fringe, Lemon Bottlebrush and Blue Atlas Cedar.
Dig the planting hole at center of the espalier pattern grid. Dig the hole twice as wide and twice as deep as the root ball, add six inches of compost to the bottom of the planting hole. The evergreen shrub needs to be planted at the same height it was in the pot. Place the shrub in the planting hole, add more compost if needed to get the roots to the right height, then back fill the planting hole with the removed soil. Firm the soil to ensure all roots are in contact with the soil, water in well and add a layer of mulch around the base of the shrub.
Train the Evergreen Shrub to Grow in the Espaliered Pattern
Use twist ties or small pieces of string to secure the main shrub trunk to the center of the espalier pattern. Secure flexible side branches on either side of the espalier pattern in the same manner. Prune off any excess shrub limbs. Prune the evergreen shrub as needed to maintain the espalier shape.
When pruning an evergreen shrub, keep in mind that spring and winter pruning stimulates growth, and summer pruning restricts shrub growth. To keep an espaliered evergreen shrub tidy and have it produce flowers and seasonal berries, prune the new, soft growth off in mid-summer.