The Art of Espalier

Espalier – the stop-and-stare art of two-dimensional gardening!

Trees trained to grow flat against a wall, along a fence, or on a trellis bring interest and conversation to a garden in the same way that bonsai does. It’s a simple matter of tying, regular pruning, and a little patience, and is an efficient way of using space in small or container gardens. Fruit trees, especially, lend themselves to this art – try the long-bearing kumquat in frost-free areas or an early-fruiting lemon where winters are colder.

What to plant

November can be last chance for sowing tender, warm weather crops in the squash and melon families. The large, easy to plant seeds of sweet melons, pumpkin, courgette, gem and other squashes germinate and grow fast – great for impatient-to-see-results gardeners and kids! Browse the seeds racks at your local garden centre to choose from an exciting selection of watermelon varieties – green, cream, striped and even black rinds with flesh in shades of red, orange or yellow – many of which are seedless for convenient, no-spit, eating. Allow vining squashes and melons to spread and smother weeds if you’ve a large patch of ground to spare, otherwise train them up a trellis or fence for a quick try at espalier.

Bean_BroadIn the kitchen garden now

Harvest the last of winter-sown crops such as peas, broad beans, and kales. Pull out the spent plants for shredding and composting, and prepare the ground for sturdy young plants of spring-sown tomatoes, brinjals and sweet peppers. Tuck in a seedling or few of marigold and zinnia as well to add colour and attract bees.


Veggie of the moment is Baby Beet – its deep and dark flesh in shades of maroon and red look stunning on a white salad platter.

Grate or thinly slice raw young beets as a last-minute sweet and crunchy garnish for crisp leaf salads.

Toss whole or quartered beets in vegetable oil and roast with a little caraway seed and garlic on a baking tray in the oven till tender. Cool, and arrange on a bed of baby leaves – pick-as-you-go butter lettuce, rocket, young Swiss chard and beetroot leaves are all good. Slice a few kumquats and arrange on and around the beet (don’t toss them together because the beet will stain the fruit). Drizzle with a little thick, sweet balsamic vinegar – a side dish as wow on the palate as it is on the eye.

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