Meyer Lemon/Mexican Lime Espalier

missinformationSeptember 26, 2007

I have 2 large brick areas that run along the south side of my house where I have all the raised bed gardens. I have been trying to figure out what edible I could espalier in these spots, when it occurred to me that I would prefer to not bring the lemon and lime trees inside with the evil cat all winter. We're here all the time and could cover them in frosts, but the area is completely protected from north winds, and there's another house 10 feet away... I think it's an ideal area to attempt something like this.

Have any of you seen an espalier done with citrus? I've never done one with anything, and I'm not sure where to start. Should I let it adjust to life in the ground first before pruning it back, or do you think it's tough enough to take it all at once?

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Also, I have a big north-facing brick garage wall that is screaming for plants. Can you think of any type of shade-loving edible we could espalier? Blueberries were suggested, but I don't want to baby anything. We're in DFW black gumbo. It gets a little morning and a little late afternoon sun, but not much.

    Bookmark   September 26, 2007 at 3:45PM
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Yeah! Another espalier enthusiast!

I'll have to tell you, I'm just getting started with espalier and gardening in general. But I do have two going - a fig (as a fan) and a plum (as a 3 tiered).

I let mine sit in the ground a week before I started hacking at them, but that doesn't mean that they needed it.

what form are you trying for? What do they look like now...

Here's my before (april) and after (August) with the plum (I made a huge mistake and will be cutting off the top two tiers soon):

    Bookmark   September 27, 2007 at 2:16PM
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Oooh I can already see what you're doing - That's going to look wonderful! I will probably not be very symmetrical with mine. I'm more interested in getting more food out of a very tight space/filling up those wall areas. Is there a reason for the lines other than to encourage symmetry? I was planning to just hack off anything that tries to grow out away from the wall and let the tree free form along the brick. Will that work do you think?

    Bookmark   September 27, 2007 at 2:25PM
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yeah - that's what I ended up doing with my fig - just letting it wander and cutting off the growing tips when I wanted more branching.

The wires support the branches until they're big enough. If I keep it that small (which I hope to), then I'll be able to remove the wires once it's all mature. I also tie down the growing tips to the wire to encourage them to stay down.

Here's my before/current with the fig:

baby fig in April:

just a few weeks ago:

    Bookmark   September 28, 2007 at 2:41PM
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Hey - I was scared to death that I'd killed my trees when I lopped off the tops, but they are going absolutely wild out there! I'm about to set up poles and twine to really get these things started. I'm so excited that this is working so far! It's scary to hack so much off of them!

    Bookmark   October 13, 2007 at 12:31PM
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Pomegranite would work. Likes sun.

    Bookmark   October 13, 2007 at 6:47PM
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bobbi_p(z8/9 Cypress, TX)

Sorry I don't recognize either of your names, but I was a regular on the Texas Forums until a little over a year ago when we moved to the UK. I read your post and just had to share some inspiration with you.

This photo is of a magnificent pear tree in Ballenberg Park in Central Switzerland taken this past August. I don't know how old the tree was, but isn't it magnificent? I reduced the resolution quite a bit for the web, but it was absolutely loaded with fruit as well.

    Bookmark   October 14, 2007 at 7:55PM
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Holy cow, that thing is incredible! Did you just about faint when you saw it? It makes me want to go out in the dark right away and build a trellis.

How is the transition from Texas to the UK going?

    Bookmark   October 14, 2007 at 9:32PM
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bobbi_p(z8/9 Cypress, TX)

It was amazing. Of course my husband, 7 year old, and 4 year old weren't nearly as impressed, but what can a person do?

Transition from TX to UK ok. Unfortunately, (because we were planning on being here for 3-5 years) it's now become a transition from the UK back to Texas! We'll be coming back probably within 6 months to the Houston area due to my husband's job changes.

We'll probably have a smaller garden this time, and that's what drew me to read this post to begin with, because the kids loved our peach tree and vegetable garden at our old place in Cypress. We'll see where we end up!

    Bookmark   October 15, 2007 at 2:45AM
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Be prepared for major reverse culture shock! I lived and worked in Spain, Andorra and Portugal for about 4 years, and it was quite an adjustment returning to Dallas, even though I had visited regularly.

How neat that your kids are getting to experience all of this at such young ages!

    Bookmark   October 15, 2007 at 9:17AM
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I ended up lopping off the top of that plum tree (the damaged part) and it's growing like mad again.

Bobbi, thanks for the pic.... I had never heard of espalier until I was reading a British gardening book. It got me hooked! I'm hoping to be able to cover a good portion of my fence this way, in addition to getting good food!

    Bookmark   October 16, 2007 at 8:17AM
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bobbi_p(z8/9 Cypress, TX)

Eventfarm, I've certainly seen them more often since I've been here in the UK. They sure look funny when, 50 years after they were started, the fence is taken down from behind them for some new "progress."

The States have them as well. I remember one on the River Plantation Route out of New Orleans at Houmas House. It was beautiful as well. They weren't quite done restoring the gardens when we were there (pre-Katrina at that), but that magnificent old espalier had survived. I can't remember for sure what kind it was. I'll have to check out my photos. It's digital, but on a different computer. I'll find it this afternoon for you.

Gotta go, I'm off for a "hack" this morning. (Not trimming shrubs, but horseback riding!)

    Bookmark   October 17, 2007 at 3:21AM
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timintexas(z8 E.Tx.) can be done with Meyer Lemon..I have done it and it worked great. Started mine 4 years ago on a South wall, same as you. I did mine primarily as an experiment with all types of Oranges, lemons, tangerines ect. to see if I could grow and fruit these trees in my zone 8a garden. I was not to formal with my training, mostly just pinning them to the wall. Well, they have run amok and it is fantastic. I picked buckets of fruit last year. In fact, I was sick of eating the stuff. All the trees have now reached the top of the roof and are so loaded with fruit they look like they will break any minut now. I do not give any aditional protection..just the radiant heat the wall gives off on its own.
One thing though, the lime will NOT survive, don't even attempt it. Even a touch of cold fries them. I have been amazed at my Meyer though- probably 60 fruit on it at the moment, though of different size. BTW...the first two years, the Meyer did not fruit or bloom..why I do not have a clue. Anyway, I just let the cold "prune" the branches that stray to far from the wall. Often though, they just defoliate and re-grow thier leaves in spring! I live 100 miles due East of Dallas togive you an idea of where I am in ZONE 8.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2007 at 8:47PM
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Just returned after a 3 week hiatus (no computer) and found this "gift" of a post! I would love to espalier my Meyers--I have 4, 2 of which are heavy with fruit--which are now in very large pots. The 2 which have no fruit were hit by the freezes last winter when they were loaded with fruit and I actually thought they were goners, hence the 2 new ones. Anyway....I do not have a south-facing wall (we shaded those with pergolas and a porch. But I do have east-facing and west-facing dog ear wood fence. Do you think I would be successful using those areas? I am also thinking the Meyers might fare a freeze better being in the ground rather than pots. Heck, I do have 4 of them, enough to take a chance at it but I would like to hear from others, too. Thanks.

    Bookmark   October 18, 2007 at 12:07AM
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bobbi_p(z8/9 Cypress, TX)

I went back through my photos this morning. I guess the espalier in Louisiana really doesn't compare to the pear in Switzerland, but take a look at the size of this magnolia! For those interested in espaliering in general, it demonstrates another species that can handle it. It does look like it's had gardeners with varying experience handling it.

I'm glad to hear of Timh's success with citrus espaliering. Like I said, when we move back, our yard may not be as large this time, so knowing that we'll have the option to try some fruit trees next to the house or a wall is nice to know. Timh, are you concerned at all about foundation problems growing the trees next to the house?

Sorry, couldn't resist posting a picture of the "hacking" from yesterday too! We officially have a Houston Real Estate Agent now, so I'm trying to take advantage of these very "English" opportunities while we're here. Can't wait to have some barbecue and Mexican food without curry in it though!

    Bookmark   October 18, 2007 at 6:15AM
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Look at you! How fun! I rode every weekend when I was in Spain - so pretty up in the mountains!

This is great information about the limes - I'll just move that sucker inside in a few weeks. What kind of oranges have worked for you? I'll try that instead. I also moved my teeny tiny loquat to another section of south-facing garden wall today to see if I'll get any fruit off it with the additional heat from the bricks. I'm so excited about this! Maybe I'll just rig something up so I can espalier the lime in the pot and move it to the patio wall in warm weather.

    Bookmark   October 18, 2007 at 3:42PM
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Red - I think the west facing wall would be your best bet if it gets plenty of sun. Do you have a spot that's more protected from the winter winds?

    Bookmark   October 18, 2007 at 10:09PM
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timintexas(z8 E.Tx.)

Hi Bobbi- no, I am not worried about my foundation, mainly because I do not have one, ha ha. My house, like most in this area, are built on 12 inch piers (high water table). This, I suspect, has been a good thing. The root run for my trees includes the area under the house. Helps keep excess moisture outta' there too! I figure also, when the day comes that a massive blue Norther' comes roaring down out of Canada, the blanket of warmer air under the house will help protect the trunks of the trees. Since Meyer is not grafted anyway, even if the whole top were ruined, it should still sucker up from the trunk.

As for varieties..huhm...Meyer (of course), Blood Orange, Washington Navel(yuck), Browns select Satsuma, Owari Satsuma (the BEST) Seto Satsuma, Varigated Owari (pretty!), Calamondin, Buddas hand citron (I want that to die but it won't- ugly, coarse, never fruits). I also have a grapefruit from seed I just stuck there and it has survived for 2 years.
I will say this...the Satsumas are by far the best choice for this type of work. 1) they are very cold hardy and 2) they have very flexable branches- you can mold them to your whims. The oranges on the other hand, are very ridgid. Lemons, about in between. The fruit from the Oranges have been, well, marginal. Satsumas...terrific! I must admit that the reason I grow them is simply for the show-off factor. To hand someone a tangerine that I grew in my yard (with regular dips into the teens all winter) is kinda' cool. BTW...mostly the fruit ripens next month. The sweetness is comming up now but the fruit is still mostly green. Not enough cool nights yet but they are starting. I have picked the tangerines in January,after many freezes and they have still been good. I would not recomend that though- they were just ones that were hiding.

    Bookmark   October 20, 2007 at 12:20PM
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Let me ask another question. I have a huge north-facing garage wall. there is a wiggly bed running down that side of the house, and the whole thing just bores me to tears. Pulled the azaleas, and now it's mostly just Asian jasmine (because it's happy there). I'd love to get something interesting going on that big wall, and it's a perfect place to practice espalier. It gets maybe an hour of morning sun and maybe 1/2 hour of very late afternoon sun - that's it. Our house is 1-story and has 3' eves, so it needs to be something that won't get too tall. I'd love more food, but I think it's probably too shady there, right?

By the way, I moved my pathetic little loquat over to the south wall where I have the lemon. I've got one more spot over on that side of the house, and I think you've convinced me to look for a satsuma.

This is so much fun!

    Bookmark   October 28, 2007 at 1:38PM
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Here's an interesting idea for folks who live in zones with warm summers and cool winters. These pics show lemons espaliered in a circular bamboo and wire framework built into large pots. In the winter the pots go into a greenhouse, and for about 8 months a year they're outside. Some of the pots are producing as many as 40 lemons at once. They use a combination of manure compost and potting soil in the pots. I took these pictures in the Tuscan region of Italy.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2008 at 6:21AM
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Ana53(Tx7a/8b sun33)

Hi there, I'm in DFW and looking for kumquat bushes, and maybe another sort of citrus. I read about one called the 10 Degree Tangerine that is supposed to do fine in this Zone.

Thing is no one ships citrus trees to Texas (or other commercial citrus states.) For those of you that arnt in the know, the Texas Citrus growing region is like 800 miles from me. It's nuts.

So any idea where I can get Kumquats?

    Bookmark   June 10, 2008 at 7:58PM
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Hi everyone - I found this post from a goodle search, and I am glad for it. I'm going to try an espalier of a mexican lime on the side of my house. I think the heat from the house combined with the cover of the overhanging eaves will protect it from our infrequent frosts (I'm in San Antonio). I will post some pictures when I start.

Thanks for the ideas,

    Bookmark   February 2, 2009 at 4:39PM
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I have some fruit, but don't know if you would want to try seeds or if they would still be good by the time they would reach you by mail, if you do, email me. Temp address

    Bookmark   February 6, 2009 at 8:33AM
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Brad Edwards

Bump for a great article on citrus.

I live in East texas as well, thanks tim. I wonder how there still doing. How did your citrus fare work out?

I have seen people wrap palms in burlap and use pinestraw inside to help insulate. I have also seen people wrap them in heating cable designed for pipes that cuts on at 33.

After all the espalier was used extensivly in france to grow things facing south blocking the cold NW wind and maximizing sunlight.

Hope this helps somebody, about to try my shot at growing lemons, satsumas, blood oranges, and a grapefruit, though some of those will be in the greenhouse.

    Bookmark   September 12, 2012 at 11:50PM
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