espalier-quince

A Look at the Basics of Quince Espalier

Whether you have a garden short on space or a garden wall in need of cover, an espaliered quince tree will solve the problem in style. Espaliering takes patience, but quinces in the cooler part of USDA zones 4 through 9 bear bigger, earlier-ripening harvests when espaliered against a south- or west-facing structure. To see if this medieval garden art might work for you, read on!

Benefits of a Quince Espalier

Delightful spring flowers, aromatic fruit and long, flexible branches make quince trees perfect espalier candidates. In return for beautifying their space, they’ll benefit from:

  • Pruning that channels energy away from vertical growth and into the fruit-bearing spurs.
  • Fewer broken branches.
  • An increase in their fruit-bearing life.
  • Improved air circulation and decreased pest and disease problems.
  • Faster-ripening fruit.
  • Easier pest treatment and harvesting.

How to Espalier Quince

The quickest way to espalier a quince is to start with a two-year old, partially trained tree grown on a fan support. Even this method, however, requires two years to create a recognizable fan.

Things you’ll need:

  • Heavy-gauge galvanized wire
  • Wire cutters
  • Planting spade
  • Sharp pruners
  • Soft, stretchy material or plant ties
  • Scissors
  • Bamboo canes (optional)
  1. String lengths of heavy-gauge, galvanized wire horizontally along your wall beginning 15 inches from the ground. Position them between 1 ½ and 4 inches in front of it and 6 inches from each other.
  2. Plant the tree in early spring. Position it between 6 and 9 inches in front of — and sloping just slightly towards — its permanent support.
  3. Prune its vertical, central leader back to two or more low, vigorous side branches growing at a 45-degree angle from the leader.
  4. Prune the side branches back by one-third (two-thirds if they haven’t done any branching of their own).
  5. In summer, select four shoots on each of the side branches — one at the tip, two on the upper side and one on the underside. Try to find similarly spaced shoots.
  6. Tie the shoots to your wire grid with soft, stretchy material. Arrange them in a fan formation at a 30-degree angle to the branches. If they need extra support, tie bamboo canes to the wires first.
  7. Remove untied shoots that grow toward the wall. Then pinch the ones remaining back to a single leaf.
  8. The next spring, prune each of the original side branches back by a third. Make each cut at an upward-facing bud.
  9. When the tips of original side branches have grown out sufficiently, tie them into the grid along with any side shoots you need to conceal empty spaces.

Expert gardener’s tip: To reduce leafy growth and maintain the fan shape, prune your quince espalier in summer. Pruning in dry weather reduces the chance of fungal infection.