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.
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. 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. 7/10 yrs: 1.5m x 1m
Hybrid. A delightful little Camellia that is smothered with small deep lavender pink blooms that are semi-double. Golden stamens add to the overall effect. The new spring growth is an attractive bronze shade gradually maturing to green. Upright growth habit. What a gay little bush! Evergreen.
Colour: Pink Habit: Upright Est. Hgt. 7/10 yrs: 2m x 1.5m
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. 7/10 yrs: 2.5m x 2m
Sasanqua. One of NZ's favourite Camellias and deservedly so. An abundance of large wavy white blooms with prominent yellow stamens appear in early autumn through to winter. The blooms are softly scented. Happiest in semi-shade. Evergreen.
Presented here espaliered.
This beautiful Camellia is definitely one of my favourites. Introduced from Japan in 1898 so a proven winner! Translation of the name means Snow, Moon and Flowers - isn't that just lovely?
Colour: White Habit: Upright Est. Hgt. 7/10 yrs: 3m x 1.5m
A relatively new introduction which is sure to be a winner amongst the gardening fraternity. Glossy leathery rounded foliage which always looks neat and tidy. Fuzzy brown flower buds which open to beautifully scented cream flowers in early spring. Will grow well in a container. Espalier. Evergreen.
Michelia gracipes is easy to grow but will do best in a semi-shaded position with protection from strong winds. Prefers soil that is slightly on the acid side. If you can grow Camellias in your garden you will easily grow this beautiful small evergreen tree.
Colour: Cream Habit: Upright Est. Hgt. 7/10 yrs: 4m x 3m