Espalier (Es-pah-lee-yay) is a horticultural term derived from the French word for trellis, and is used to describe a plant that has been trained to grow flat against a trellis or wall. This is particularly desirable when space is limited, because, as we know, Camellias can be ‘space gluttons’, and in smaller gardens the solution for lovers of Camellias is to grow them using this technique.
When selecting a plant for use as an espalier, look for one with open, sprawling growth and several leading branches. Plant the camellia against the wall or trellis, then tie the branches back in the desired position using soft plastic ties or twine – don’t use wire as it can cut into the branches. Prune off any unnecessary growth, training the leaders to grow horizontally or at an upward angle, with the best displays generally being symmetrical. Try to keep any major pruning until after flowering and your espalier will reward you year after year with a display of flowers that will always be in clear view.
Most sasanqua varieties are suitable, although any camellia can be trained as an espalier.
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The word espalier initially referred to the actual trellis on which the plant was trained to grow, but over time has come to be used to describe the technique. An espalier collects almost as much sunlight as a regular tree, yet has far less mass. This makes them ideal not only for decorative purposes, but also for gardens in which space is limited. They may also be planted next to a wall, which can reflect more sunlight and retain heat overnight, or be planted so that they are facing north and absorb maximum sunlight. These two factors allow an espalier to succeed in cooler climates, where a non-espaliered tree of the same variety would fail.
Varieties that can be successfully espaliered:
Mine No Yuki
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Japonica Espalier. An oldie but a goody. Beautiful, formal, double blooms of deepest red make this a highly desirable Camellia. Flowers late winter to spring, quite a compact shrubby habit. Happiest in semi-shade and acid soil. Evergreen.
Colour: Red Habit: Upright Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 2m x 1.5m
Hybrid Esp. This is a delightful little Camellia with semi-double flowers that are white with pink tinges on the petal edges and backs. In full bloom the overall effect is very soft and pretty. An added bonus of fragrance makes this a definite must have. Strong upright growth habit. Evergreen.
Colour: Pink / White Habit: Upright Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: Esp
Sasanqua. A very good performing Camellia that flowers from early autumn through to early winter. The blooms are double, white, with just a hint of blush pink on the outer edges. Upright vigorous habit. Happiest in semi-shade. Presented here espaliered. Evergreen.
Colour: White Habit: Upright Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 2m x 1.5m
Hybrid Espalier. This beautiful Camellia has tight bright pink buds that open to miniature, single, apple-blossom pink blooms which are lightly fragrant. A pretty Camellia which would suit a small courtyard or patio area. Flowers for a long period. Happiest in semi-shade with acid soil. Evergreen.
Colour: Pink / White Habit: Upright Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 1.5m x 1m
Hybrid. Simple but sweet single rose-pink blooms with prominent yellow stamens are borne in profusion along attractively arching branches. The blooms are very fragrant blooms and appear autumn to winter. Small rounded bright green leaves. Happiest in semi-shade with acid soil. Evergreen.
Presented here as an Espalier for walls and fences.
Colour: Pink / Yellow Habit: Arching Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 2.5m x 2m
Hybrid Espalier. Produced by and named after NZ's famous plant breeder Les Jury. Les Jury considered this to be the best formal double red Camellia that he produced in his lifetime. Very vigorous upright growth habit, handsome foliage. Happiest in morning sun or semi-shade. Evergreen. RHS AGM.
Colour: Red Habit: Upright Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 2.5m x 2m
Hybrid Miniature Espalier. A very sweet Camellia with small baby pink ruffled flowers that are borne on gently cascading branches. The foliage is dainty and a light olive green in colour. Ideal container plant. Happiest in semi-shade. Evergreen.
Colour: Pink Habit: Upright Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 2m x 1.5m
Sasanqua. A lovely little Camellia with, scented, semi-double blooms. The buds are quite pink but magically open to silky white blooms with just a hint of pink on the edges. 'Pure Silk' has a strong upright growth habit and whilst it is happy in semi-shade this Camellia can cope with sun. Evergreen.
Colour: White / Pink Habit: Upright Est. Hgt/Wdth in 7/10 yrs: 2m x 1.5m