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Trellis tree as a screen: evergreen, deciduous and fruit-bearing varieties for the garden

They take up little space, provide sun and privacy protection and bear fruit: espalier trees are enjoying increasing popularity with good reason. What is actually behind the term and why you should plant an espalier tree as a privacy screen in the garden, we explain in the article. We also show the numerous design options with espalier fruit, roof espaliers and evergreen espalier trees.

1. what is an espalier tree?

Privacy screen with espalier trees for terrace

The term “espalier tree” refers to trees whose shape is guided by regular pruning and a trellis first upwards and then, from 2 meters high, horizontally. In effect, their crowns form a roof or remain flat and can serve as a windbreak and privacy screen. In garden centers you can find special varieties of trees that tolerate pruning well, and therefore are well suited as espalier trees for privacy screens. Experienced amateur gardeners buy young trees with incipient steering of the crown, which they then shape into the desired form themselves. Beginners can opt for ready-made “hedge elements”. These are, in principle, espalier trees with advanced steering of the branches and a high trunk.

Trellis tree fruit planting in the garden varieties

Trellis trees are used for different purposes:

  • To delineate the perimeter of the property
  • As wind and sun protection for the terrace
  • As a privacy screen in the allotment garden
  • High trunk trees are planted as an additional privacy screen in front of the garden fence
  • Trellis fruit is suitable for allotment gardens

1.1 What types of espalier trees are there?

Plant trellis tree as privacy screen around lawn garden design ideas

There are three types of espalier trees that are suitable for most amateur gardeners.

The evergreen espalier trees are mostly hedge bushes that are pruned into the desired shape. Evergreen espalier trees with a tall trunk are especially popular. Certain conifers such as the Lebanon cedar or green tree cypress may also be considered. Most of these trees remain compact and do not grow taller than 5 feet.

Trellis fruit is enjoying growing popularity. Trellis fruit trees do not take up much space and are usually aligned with a trellis on the garden wall.

Roof trellises such as the roof plane are planted around the terrace to provide shade.

1.2 How much does an espalier tree cost?

evergreen espalier trees as privacy screens in the garden

The cost of espalier trees starts from 100 euros and varies greatly depending on the type of tree and variety. Many amateur gardeners are not willing to spend much on espalier trees. Especially when it comes to espalier fruit, this is a mistake. After all, in terms of quality, the fruits are not inferior to “normal” fruit trees. Often they are even sweeter, because they get more sunlight due to the tree crown and the cut shape. It is therefore worth investing money in high-bearing, disease-resistant espalier trees.

1.3 When to plant espalier trees?

Trellis tree planting tips and varieties at a glance

Most types of espalier trees are usually planted in the fall. The planting season begins as early as September and ends with the first frost. Only certain sensitive fruit trees, such as figs, are better planted in the spring.

1.4 Pruning the espalier tree

evergreen espalier trees for garden and terrace varieties

Topiary and pruning are essential for the espalier tree as a screen. You can give the trees the topiary pruning in late summer (late August and early September). Pruning is usually done in winter, when fruit trees have shed their foliage and evergreen espalier trees are in a dormant period. If done properly, pruning can stimulate growth in the spring. Prune trees on frost-free days to allow the cuts to heal.

1.5 Roof Trellises

Roof trellises provide privacy screen for terrace

Roof trellises are espalier trees whose crowns are pruned in a parasol shape. However, this is only possible from a trunk height of 2 meters. Once the tree has reached this height, its branches are stretched wide with a special trellis. It is also possible to direct the branches of several trees so that they grow together.

2. which trellis tree to plant in the garden as a screen?

Trellis tree as privacy screen evergreen species for home garden and terrace

If you are looking for a suitable espalier tree that will provide privacy, then you can choose from several varieties:

  • Trellis tree, evergreen. The evergreen espalier trees shield the garden from prying eyes all year round.
  • Trellis tree, deciduous. The deciduous espalier trees are suitable for small plots. They provide sun and privacy protection during the gardening season and then shed their foliage in the fall. This keeps the house and garden from being shaded in the winter.
  • Certain varieties of espalier fruit trees can also provide the necessary privacy screen. Trellis fruit also comes as a space-saving alternative to the orchard.
  • Roof trellises can also keep foreign eyes out of the garden. They are particularly suitable for plots in densely built-up parts of the city or for terraced houses.

Below, we take a closer look at the four trellis tree varieties.

2.1 Trellis tree: evergreen varieties

Trellis trees in front of garden wall as privacy screen

An espalier tree that is evergreen provides year-round privacy for the garden and patio. Evergreen espalier trees with tall trunks can be staged especially effectively in front of the garden fence or wall.

  • The glossy medlar “Red Robin”: an espalier tree that is evergreen, frost-resistant and winter-hardy. Immediately after topiary in autumn and pruning in winter, it forms new red-brown shoots. It scores with a fast growth and gains 50 cm in height every year until it reaches 6 meters.
  • Portuguese cherry laurel “Novita” is also an evergreen espalier tree. It is pruned twice a year – once in spring after the end of flowering and once in autumn. It reaches a maximum height of growth of 4 meters. It is hardy only to a limited extent and requires frost protection in winter.

Trellis tree in garden evergreen magnolia as privacy screen

  • The Evergreen Magnolia (Magnolia Grandiflora) impresses with its beautiful foliage. The top of your crown is dark green and the underside is bronze in color. When pruned regularly, it grows up to 6 feet tall. It is frost sensitive and, unlike other espalier trees, is pruned back only in the spring.
  • Big-leaved holly belongs to the cultivar group of shrubs, but can be shaped with topiary and trellising. When fully grown, the shrub grows to about 6 feet tall.
  • The olive willow: espalier tree with a tall trunk, evergreen. It scores with an upright and dense growth. It grows around 3 meters high and wide. The special feature of the olive willow is its maroon shoots, which turn gray with time.
  • The holm oak is a medium-sized tree that can grow up to 10 meters tall without a topiary. However, for the home garden it is kept compact at around 5 – 6 meters.
  • The hornbeam Carpinus betulus is a wintergreen woody plant that retains its foliage until February. Therefore, it provides visual and wind protection all year round.

2.2 Trellis fruit: the most important questions

Planting and growing espalier fruit apples by garden fence

Unlike the evergreen espalier trees, fruit trees usually provide limited visual protection. However, they can decorate garden fences and beautify dull garden walls. Especially frost-sensitive espalier trees thrive best in front of a garden wall, because the stones give off stored heat and protect the woody plants from the strong wind in winter. Below we answer the most important questions about espalier fruit trees.

How high does espalier fruit grow?

Fruit espalier apples planting on garden wall

Normally, espalier fruit reaches a maximum growth height of 3 meters. Unlike espalier trees, where people prefer tall-stemmed grafting forms, most espalier fruit varieties have a low trunk. This significantly facilitates gardening and picking fruit is much easier compared to ordinary fruit trees.

A fruit-bearing espalier tree as a screen : what species are suitable?

Grow fruit trellis as privacy screen on garden fence

The most suitable for the garden are apricots, apples, pears, quinces and peaches.

  • Pears are true survivors and can be grown both in the north, on sunny walls, and in the south on the trellis. The autumn variety “Gute Luise” is robust and adaptable. The variety “Countess of Paris” scores with a long storage time.
  • Unlike pears, which feel at home on a sunny wall, apples prefer an outdoor location. Particularly high-yielding varieties are, for example, “Auralia” and “Gerlinde” The fruits of the variety “Rubinola” have a long shelf life.
  • Peaches are true sun worshippers and can not withstand frost. A southern garden wall keeps them warm even on cold days, and therefore provides the best conditions for espalier fruit. Suitable varieties are, for example, “Benedicte” or “Red Haven”. They bear particularly sweet and juicy fruit.

Trellis fruit in the garden planting tips and tree species for open ground

  • Apricots are a good alternative to the delicate peaches. They are less demanding in terms of location and can be easily grown as espalier fruit. A sunny wall provides the necessary privacy screen and keeps them warm on cold days. Suitable varieties are “Harlayne” and “Kuresia”.
  • Other types of fruit that are perfect for fruit espaliers are sour cherries (undemanding and easy to care for), kiwis (grow very strongly and are more suitable for planting pergolas), figs (can be cultivated only in the southern regions with a very mild climate).

What trellis fruit framework?

Of course, you can buy a trellis for the fruit trees in the garden center, but experienced amateur gardeners and DIYers make the framework yourself. With a little patience and skill, even beginners will succeed in assembling the trellis from bamboo sticks. There are many trellis shapes, the most common of which is the palmette. In this case, the tree trunk or the main shoot is tied to a bamboo pole and the branches are then pulled horizontally on other bamboo poles.

2.3 Deciduous trellis tree varieties with high trunk.

Trellis tree evergreen or deciduous advantages and disadvantages in the garden

Not only evergreen espalier trees are particularly popular among amateur gardeners.  Deciduous espalier tree varieties also offer certain advantages.

  • The espaliered lime is probably the best known espalier tree with a tall trunk. Unlike other tree species, it can grow very tall – up to 12 meters. It reaches a maximum growth width of 5 meters. It tolerates topiary well and is best suited for planting pergolas and as a privacy screen for the terrace.
  • The field maple is also a deciduous espalier tree that does not require much care. It is very hardy and tolerates cold wind without any problems. That is why it is suitable for planting pergolas, similar to the espaliered linden.
  • The amber tree is the most beautiful espalier tree par excellence. In autumn its foliage turns first into yellow-orange and then into orange-red.

2.4 Roof trellises

Roof trellises as privacy and sun protection for the terrace

Roof trellises is a collective term for tree varieties whose crown can be grown in a roof shape. They provide sun protection for terraces and seating areas. The roof plane is the classic among the roof trellises. However, the olive willow and the holm oak are also suitable.