Espalier is French but is derived from the Italian word for "support", "or rest shoulder against". Espalier is art of pruning and training trees or shrubs usually flat against a wall or trellis to form symmetrical and flat geometric shapes.
Espalier dates back to 1600's in France when fruit trees were getting killed by the frost so farmers decided to plant the trees next to walls. Then space became limited as the trees spread out, so the farmers decided to cut back the trees and realized this "pruning" caused the trees to bear even more fruit the next season.
Assorted espalier patterns that exist from Attic Mag
Famed landscape architect here in Atlanta is John Howard of Howard & Associates who designs the most classic yet opulent outdoor living spaces and gardens. Ironically, a few of his projects featured beautiful espalier designs among other beautiful landscape detail.
Other Beautful Espalier Designs
Blooming espalier from This Old House
Smaller patio using the horizontal espalier design from BHG
Can you believe this magnolia tree is being grown so flat and narrow in the fan pattern of espalier from Barbara Berry's Beyond Beauty book featured on The Style Saloniste. I think this photo truly shows the art of espalier "to train a tree to grow flat against a wall".
Vines such as ivy or wisteria may be used, or flowering camellias, pyracantha, jasmine, and flowering quince are other good choices for design patterns against a wall.
Camelia branches create a criss cross design from This Old House
Beautiful belgian fence design on the front of the house from Deborah Silver
Here is an example using ivy in the belgian fence design from BHG
Fruit Bearing Trees
Fruit bearing trees, typically apples and pears, can be grown against walls and this practice allows for typically larger sized trees to be grown in smaller, more compact spaces. Heat generated from the walls help the fruits riped more quickly. The fruit bearing trees provide beautiful blooms in the spring, and vibrant foliage and fruits in the fall. See some of the various patterns patterns below.
I had not seen a citrus espalier yet from Ian Barker Gardens
Circular pear tree espalier at Museum Garden Gaasbeek, Belgium from Avantgardens
2 tier candalabra espalier (Pear tree) from renowned grower, River Road Farms in TN.
Close up of the actual tree bearing fruit
Ready to try your own? With a little patience and a few years, you can get your own espalier. Check out these instructions featured on P Allen Smith from Peter Thevenot at River Road Farms.
George Washington's Mount Vernon Espalier's
Against the wall you can see some of the espalier from George Washington's Mount Vernon
Close up at Mount Vernon from AD