If I lived in France I’d have fields and fields of vegetable gardens, rock walls, a French lover and a reasonable sized chateau surrounded by a fence made from espaliered apple trees.

Yes I would. You can’t tell me any different. I would have all that on my mediocre blogger’s salary.

Because in my imagination that’s the way it is.  In fact it’s even a little bit better because I’d be able to speak fluent french, my clothes would all be made out of linen and lavender and I’d drive a little ivory convertible which is always in to be repaired by Henri, the village mechanic/clothing designer (French men are multitalented like that).  Luckily Henri is happy to trade late evening dinners in my courtyard in exchange for repair costs.  I usually hear him crunching across the pea gravel around 9:30 at night after work, just as I’m ripping apart a freshly baked loaf of rustic bread and placing it in with the charcuterie of olives, cured meats, ripe cheeses and sliced apples.  A drop of sweat runs down his neck, rolling over the hard curve of his chest, landing somewhere below  ….

Oh shit. That’s right, this post is about apples.  Sorry, I don’t know what happened there.

As it turns out I don’t live on a French farm with rolling hills of hot farm hands.  Instead I live in a small town on what’s as close to a microfarm as I can manage.  I’ve smashed  vegetables, chickens, a maple syrup tree, rhubarb and a smattering of flowers into my lot and am generally pretty happy with  it all.

What I always wanted was a fruit tree though.

But with fruit trees you need TWO fruit trees so they can pollenate each other, THEN you need a lot of space because … they’re fruit trees.    They’re big and bushy and kind of bossy in general.

But a few years ago, several years ago I started really researching Espaliered fruit trees.  Apples specifically.  They’re pruned so they grow flat and beautiful against a fence or wall.  They get wider and thicker but they don’t get taller. Kind of like women after the magical age of 40.

I considered planting some along my big side fence but I already have boxwoods there (which coincidentally also surround my French courtyard.  Henri sometimes trims them for me).

Also if any kids picked the apples (and of course they would, why wouldn’t they?) I’d be FURIOUS.  I might even cry and I’d definitely make a scene.  I don’t care if kids pick my tomatoes or cucumbers or anything else that hangs outside of my front vegetable garden fence.  In fact I encourage people passing by to pick whatever they want.  But the APPLES?  No.  No, no, no.

Then a few years ago things got even worse.   A fruit nursery about an hours drive from my house started selling 6 in 1 apple trees.  One apple tree, with 6 different types of apple branches grafted onto it.

This meant you got 6 different varieties from one tree.  And that tree happened to be an Espaliered tree.

It was a match made in tiny lot heaven.  But it was a long drive and I had no way to transport the tree and they were expensive and  I still didn’t think I had anywhere to plant it where it would thrive; so every spring I’d dream about one but never go and actually buy one.

Cut to 3 weeks ago with me twirling through Home Depot in a Julie Andrews, Sound of Music, type manner  – because that’s how I always act and feel when I’m in a home improvement store.  Mid twirl, arms spread wide open, I Von Trapped myself right into a row of 6 in 1 Espaliered apple trees for sale.

I immediately bought two.

I had no idea where I was going to plant them but at $54 each I wasn’t going to miss out on this once in an imaginary lifetime opportunity.  France Karen would never pass up an espaliered apple tree for $54.  Never.  Henri would never forgive her.  Jacque would probably be pretty upset too.  Jacque is my neighbour with the vineyard and 4 donkeys who are always escaping into my pool area to graze on my Rosemary.  Heh.  Those donkeys.

Since I’ve been researching these trees for years now I knew exactly how to plant them. And by the time I got home I knew where I was going to plant them too.

The trick to keeping an espalier tree in shape is wiring the branches into place so they don’t go all willy nilly on you.  It seems intimidating because you need to you  know, go to the hardware store, but as long as you know exactly what it is you need to buy, it’s as easy as pie.  Or as they say in France, it’s as easy as a tarte.





These are the things you need and what they’ll look like when you get them from the store.


I decided the only place I had to grow these trees was along my front porch where they’ll get about 8 hours of sunlight a day.



I’ve planted one to the left, and as soon as you stop bugging me, I’ll plant the other one on the right.



You can see here the eye bolts that hold the wire straight across for me to clamp the branches onto to keep them straight.



There may be errors.  For me there were errors. I thought I was screwing into a solid portion of the post but as it turns out, I wasn’t.  So I had to perform a do-over and place my eye bolts a little further to the right where they were going into solid wood.




On the other end of the length of wire is another eye bolt and the turnbuckle.




Turnbuckles come in different sizes. You’ll just need a small one.  Once it’s attached you just twist it and it tightens the wire.  If it stretches or comes loose over the years you just turn the turnbuckle some more.

One tip for a turnbuckle is make sure you have it opened right up before you attach your wire.  That way you’ll have the most amount of space for tightening it.



If you don’t have a clamping tool for squishing your sleeve together you can hammer it with a mallet.




One, two, three, four, five, SIX different types of branches that will produce SIX different types of apples.




For now I’m just using small plastic clamps to hold the branches along the straight wire.  They’re cheap.  They’re from the dollar store.  So we’ll see if they hold up.




Henri would love this.




Oh, I’m sorry, you want to know what kind of apples?




You’re impressed aren’t you?  You love it don’t you?

To that I say Merci Beaucoup.



  1. Benjamin says:

    I loved our little visit to your chateau in France. Had such a fancy fine time. I hope you’ll tell Henri hello for me and we’ll make plans to catch up soon.

  2. Cynthia Wehrwein says:

    Turnbuckle…..I want to know where the drop of sweat landed. Oh, and I am calling Home Depot right now.

  3. FarmKid Marti says:

    “Henri sometimes trims the boxwood.”

    Gracious, is that what we’re calling it these days? Hahaha!
    Those are going to be gorgeous trees! Count me in for a MacIntosh and Fiji or two. Good job!

  4. Flash says:

    Looks like some type of tree bondage! but would love to find a tree and see if it will grow in Alaska.

  5. Linda in Illinois says:

    Holly Molly !! Henri can come to my house and help me anytime.. :)
    Love the apple espalier, I do that with my raspberry bush, it’s awesome.

  6. Lynne says:

    I’ve just died and gone to Apple (pie) heaven!
    How did I not know this was even a possibility? Now I must find such a tree and build another garden enclosure to protect it from the deer (and odd bear) that wanders into our yard.
    I have visions of twirling in the sunshine in a few years with my favourite apple (a luscious Gravenstien) in hand as birds sing. Henri would be impressed non?

  7. Jody says:

    That post read like a Harlequin romance novel. What happens next? Never mind, I think we can all guess.
    Who knew Domicile Depot had such great apple tree specimens. Looking forward to seeing the apples the trees produce.
    Have you seen the espaliered apples trees on the north side of Aberdeen Ave. They’re are spectacular.

  8. Tammy says:


    I have a south facing wall and want to re-do the flower bed along this wall. These espaliered trees would be perfect there! I live in Kansas where the summers are HOT, so I wasn’t going to rip out all the plants there until fall. I know fall is a great time to plant trees, but Home Depot will probably not have these trees then. Do you, or your gal pals, know where I could mail order these trees?

  9. Ev Wilcox says:

    Not being a fan of “Bonsai” (tortured little house plants), the espalier look is not for me! But getting 6 kinds of apples on one tree would be great! If they could put more branches of different kinds on a standard dwarf tree- that would speak to me. Maybe they do this already? Hmmm….
    Good luck to you-glad you got the chance to do this!

  10. jill says:

    Can you plant these against a brick wall? Would the brick hold too much heat and damage the tree?

  11. june says:

    This reminds me of the artist Sam Van Aken. Google his name and 40 kinds of fruit tree. You should take a look at the video on YouTube. Pretty fantastic stuff.

  12. Theda says:

    Yes, very impressed! : )

  13. Donna says:

    Three years ago I purchased two apple trees from someone on Craigslist. One was the five-variety tree, but as I did not have a flat wall in the sun to plant it on espalier style, I planted it in the middle of the front lawn. My horrified son promptly asked “do you have clearance from Dad to do this?” Hah hah, as if.

    Anyway, in year 3 the five-variety, non-espaliered espalier is doing best with a good crop of 4 types; the Granny Smith branch has only one apple.

    My point is to not be deterred by the lack of a wall; you can still grow multiple varieties! Until the neighbourhood bears and raccoons discover the fruit.

  14. Jules says:

    I’m loving the word turnbuckle! Can I borrow Henri to trim my bush please, it’s all over the bloody place.

  15. Lindy says:

    Fab: I saw you had planted one tree on the left side of the house and immediately thought: ‘please tell me she has learned her lessons in symmetry and French garden design and will plant one in exactly the same place on the opposite side’.

    Hah! Ye of little faith. Of course you did. This is beautiful and I am very proud of you . Now excuse me while I finish baking my jostaberry tart for Henri who is coming round later to sort out my plumbing.

  16. Mary W says:

    When it grows won’t it require rewiring? I’m very confused. Does each type blossom sequentially so that they don’t cross pollinate? If this turns out looking like I picture it – it is going to be the “thing” that people drive by just to look at. So pretty in my mind like a Mary Engelbreit painting. I know that you are busy “splaining yourself Lucy” to Edris right now, but when you get done can you please tell us how you will keep kids from climbing up the tree and onto your roof. I planted my first tree this year – an expensive peach tree. It was growing beautifully and lots of blossoms. Then came the tiny green orbs of potential bliss. Then came the deer and in one night, stripped it naked. I had one very tiny low hanging peach and 18 leaves left. The peach ripened into sweet and yummy peachness and leaves came back but deer have left it alone. So I ate the peach. They also ate the dill, basil, and some flowers. The bugs (strange ones I’ve never seen before – probably morphed due to all the nasty spray the county uses at night to control mosquitoes) ate the tomatoes and the eggplants died of too much rain. Great year in my garden. Vowed not to try to garden anymore but read your blog and just pretend. Still getting stuff done here!

  17. jainegayer says:

    I have a visual of you making an apple tart for Henri, and as you’re rolling out the tender, flaky crust on your proving cloth (from Rough Linen) you are thinking about the sweet sticky juice on his lips and… oh wait a minute what are we talking about, turnbuckles?

  18. Sonia says:

    Whatever happened with your book? Did you decide not to do it after all?

  19. I’ve always wanted a French chateau with a rich Frenchman who will bring me a fresh croissant every morning. would my coffee still be an Americano?? Oui, Oui instead of Wee, wee.
    But more than that I’ve wanted espaliered fruit trees all my life. My daughter and I were talking about them on the WEEkend. now I have a better shot at the fruit. thanks

  20. Mel Robicheau says:

    Karen, is the trunk too close to the edge of your porch or does it just loom that way from the angle of the photos? I’m worried that the trunk will get thicker and you will need to trim your porch boards!
    Also as an aspiring homesteader in impressed with the sheer volume you grow and produce! Brilliant!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Mel! It should be fine. It won’t grow too, too much. Generally as a rule you plant the espalier 6″ from the area you’re wiring it against. That’s to give it air flow between the space and tree. ~ karen!

  21. Gwennie says:

    I thought I was the only one that dreamed of a quaint stone house in the countryside of France, with a lover, er, I mean mechanic/clothing designer named Henri. Tell me you hold your shampoo bottle and practice you Academy Award speech for Best Actress. I would hate to think I’m alone in that too.

  22. Kim K. says:

    Love eye bolts — turning mechanism scares me a bit. Thinking donkeys won’t munch rosemary so much as your apple tree says me twirling Julie Andrews style :)

  23. Denise De Filippis says:

    Hey Karen we have a tiny property as well and have researched for about 3 years. I ordered one of these babies from a company in Oregon 2 years ago only to be disappointed by a letter saying the grafting failed 2x. This spring when while perusing Home Depot for butterfly bushes….I was attacked by a horizontal bamboo stick from a 4 branch apple espalier! Omg a sign from above..I squished 3 of them in my VW as I thought they would disappear! Like a mirage! I had a few people entertained loading these babies…but got them home whole and safe. They’re planted and they have little baby apples on many of the branches. I’m in love! Best wishes on yours….so much fun!

  24. Mary says:

    Very cool, but in the future, how do you plan on painting your porch?

  25. Marna says:

    Wow, would love to have that same dream, well for real, not imaginary! I would love to grow any espaliered plant, but especially one of those apple trees, wow 6 in 1! I have a couple of dwarf trees, lemon, peach and fig. How much sun will they get where you planted them? The sun is so hot here in Texas, right now a bunch of my plants are dying, but some others are coming to replace them, like bulbs. My house gets either all day sun, a lot of it, or shade, not much in between. I grow a lot of plants right where the shade and sun meet, even plants that say they can take all day sun don’t seem to make it if they are out in full sun all day. Good luck, and yes think of writing a full story of living in France! :)

  26. Sarah says:

    Ha ! I live in France and was transported, even so, by your vision ! I don’t have any espaliered trees, but hope to one day…in the meantime I have a stone wall in progress and the veggie gardens and a British version of Henri, so not doing too badly ! Haven’t got the ivory convertible though – will a battered Renault Espace do ?
    Looking forward to seeing how your trees progress. I planted a pear tree this year (needed it for cross pollinating with another one) – but the blackfly got it and the leaves are looking a bit shrivelled. No pears for me this year.

  27. allyn says:

    truly impressed and not a little bit envious! Well done.

  28. Gillian says:

    I am impressed. Completely. Not only with the incredible detail in your imaginary love life and the magical trees but, with your aluminum sleeve mashing abilities. My hands cringe and I still cry when I think about that job. I did some last fall and the only way I could do it (they were no longer in a place where I could smash them with a hammer) was with a pair of vise-grip jaw locking pliers. *sob* lol.

    I have a few questions though. One I thought that you’d answer in the post but, you bought two trees.
    **If there are six types of apples will they pollinate each other?
    **Do they have to grow flat against a wall? or is that just the Espaliered style? Can they grow…like a regular tree?

    Yes, I just may go and look this up…I’ve got some ideas.

    • Karen says:

      The tree does pollinate itself Gillian! I thought for sure I mentioned that because it’s important, lol. But maybe not. These particular trees were already trained in the espalier style with horizontal branches so yes you would probably only grow them on a wall or fence where you can attach wires to keep them in shape. But there are 6 variety apple trees that aren’t trained in the espalier style. They’re just regular looking trees. ~ karen!

      • GC Lehman says:

        Awesome! Thanks!! I may have been distracted while reading by visions of French Countryside and rippling muscles….lol

  29. Alexandra says:

    Like Robert, I would totally read your romance novel series.
    And I am beyond thrilled that there’s a Macintosh on the tree, because I love Macintosh apples. We get a decent variety of apples in the stores and on the markets (I live in Germany), but for some reason I am having a hard time finding the “old fashioned” apples. I guess I’m at that age where you feel like things are not as great as they used to be (skin, TV, apples …) Actually it really is true, as I’ve noticed even the people at farmer’s markets don’t always know the old apple cultivars!
    In short: YAY, Macintosh! :D

  30. Grammy says:

    Nice apples.

    Is Henri your only French lover, or are you cheating on one lover with the hired help? Henri sounds fabulous, but you need to consider that being your pretty-much full time auto mechanic, in addition to designing your lovely natural fiber French frocks, won’t leave him much time or energy for “cozy times”. At least for the long term, and you’d want to keep a peach like Henri healthy over the long haul.

  31. MrsChris SA says:

    I want one………………….. now find someone in SA that supplies them………………….

  32. steph says:

    I have wanted to espalier fruit trees for years but was sure I’d mess it up. Now I have much too large Mulberry, Lemon, Cherry, Olive (massive), Quince & Pear You are genius, thank you SO much for this post with all necessary detail. Now I’m ready to try.
    Thanks again Karen

  33. Dale says:

    (or other fruit tree gardeners)

    You mentioned that you need two trees to pollinate the blossoms. Will this 6 in 1 tree allow each type of apple to pollinate the others? So the one tree will pollinate itself?

  34. Suel says:

    What a great idea! I want to try this since I live in the heart of apple country in Western North Carolina. This reminds me of an ancient apple tree in my grandparent’s orchard. It was called the cider tree. There were three varieties grafted, and when they were blended made the most delicious cider. Your trees look much more manageable, I wonder if I can find any in our area.


  35. Kathleen says:

    Your trees and porch are going to look wonderful once the apples have appeared. Who needs to love / live in France?
    I am off to Google the apple trees here in South Africa… I have the perfect spot for one!

  36. Stephbo says:

    If you had never ventured into talking about the apple trees, I honestly never would have noticed. I was way too into the daydream of the French countryside. But thanks for bringing us back. I love the idea of several varieties of apples on the same tree. And thanks for doing at HD. My hubby works there, and his 401k is what we’re planning in living off of in our retirement. ?

  37. Isabella says:

    I am also seriously impressed. You are everything Henri said, plus more. I’ve wanted to espalier apples( or anything) for ever so long. Now I must. Merci beau coup Madamoiselle.

  38. Angelique Vela says:

    Yes, I’m impressed. Yes, I love it. I hope they thrive for you.

  39. Amanda says:

    I am impressed, but considering that I only eat honeycrisp apples, I can’t say I’d buy one myself.

    It’s a personal preference. I don’t judge other apple eaters.

    • nancy says:

      I know, I got all excited for a second and then I saw … No Honeycrisps … ho hum. The farmers market still needs my support.

      • Karen says:

        That’s funny because when the Honeycrisp bandwagon started a few years ago I immediately went out and bought some and thought … meh. I like my galas better. Also, you can get trees with honeycrisp. :) ~ karen!

        • Patricia says:

          You must not have had a good honey crispy because they are delicious! Very sweet and crispy…hence the name I guess :)
          I have a small yard and now you have me thinking espaliered apple trees…

  40. Alisa says:

    You might want to check into a book called “Grow a Little Fruit Tree”. I started with four espaliers, and now I have 19 regular, non-espalier trees in my back yard. Nineteen! The author explains how to grow and prune them, so they stay extremely small, yet produce like mad. It’s a brilliant book, and now I’m all excited about fruit trees, and I need to go plant more….

    • Karen says:

      19?!! O.K. I don’t have room for 19 of anything in my backyard. I’ll add the book to my Amazon list tho! thx. ~ karen

      • Nicole says:

        I’ve got 16 espaliered fruit trees in my yard and it’s a great way to get fruit with limited space. Enjoy!

    • maria-to says:

      thanks alisa i just ordered from my local library — sounds like this book has good advice about small fruit trees always wanted to plant apple but dont have room for large trees – espaliers just might work :)

    • Jennifer says:

      Alisa, I’ve been mulling the idea of fruit trees over in my mind, and this idea just might get me to jump in. I planted an orange and mandarin tree a few months ago, but would love to plant more. Keeping them small would allow me to do that! *logs onto Amazon to order that book*

  41. Katie Schneider says:

    Oooh! i have three! and this is the first year I’ll get fruit…planted 3-4 years old. should’ve gotten a few last year, but what the darned neighborhood scavengers (we live in the ‘hood and they’re outside the fence) didn’t pick and sample before they were ripe (i thought everyone knew apples aren’t ripe in June?!), the codling moths got into. so I’m trying an organic method of keeping bugs and people off this year and it seems to be working….

    also have a grafted pear and some columnar apple trees. fun fun!

    • Karen says:

      You’ll have to let me know about your organic pest control because fruit trees are NOTORIOUSLY difficult to keep without using some sort of spray. ~ karen!

      • Katie Schneider says:

        we get apple maggots and codling moths here.


        this is what I’m trying. bought footies on Amazon (accidentally got black ones) and food-grade kaolin clay. the apples look hilarious with their little black hats! hidden bonus is that nobody takes them because they look weird. so far they look bug free compared to the neighbors’ tree, but some scorched when we had 90-degree temps in April (I’m in Portland, OR, and that is seriously weird La Nina crap or something). I’m not sure if black footies helped or hurt with that…
        we’ll see!

      • Katrina says:

        Karen, You should Join, “My Job Depends on Ag” on FB.

        Lots of help in that group!

  42. Cynthia Jones says:

    Oh bugger! I wanted to be the first to tell you about “Espalier”.

    You know everything, just like that bloody Barbie.

    Never mind.

    Just in case you don’t know this…if you spread the ashes from your pizza oven or any other remants of a wood fire around your trees in the months before flowering, it will help them flower and fruit more prolifically. You know, more better. Works with any flowering plant.

    You’re so naughty, teasing us with names of lovers. You know it gets us all stirred up.

    Lovely trees, great job stringin’ your wires, very pretty result.

    If the clamps dont hold you can get little cables ties from a hardware store in black plastic, just like the ones serial killers keep in the boot.

    Your photography, styling and labelling is magnificent. Well done you. :)

    • Ronda says:

      I put ashes from our charcoal BBQ in the hole before planting two of my peonies, and they grew much better than the two that didn’t have the ashes. So when I move them to our new and improved back yard, I will definitely be putting in some. Bit of a brain fart there! Too many “ashes”! Is there a synonym for ashes??

  43. Bobbles says:

    I lived many years in France and Belgium and the espaliered trees and the groves of trees planted in such perfect diagonal lines were a great joy to me! To me, planting trees that require years to grow to such shapes and in such detail is the ultimate act of selflessness. Thank you for doing this and bringing back a taste of home!

  44. whitequeen96 says:

    OK, this might sound dumb, but I don’t think I’ve eaten any of the apples listed except for the Fuji. I’m a HUGE fan of Fuji apples, which is probably why I don’t remember eating the others. My new favorite is Honey Crisp apples, but you don’t have a branch for them.

    I think this is a fabulous idea and will look beautiful. And they’ll be magic apple trees, since you get 6 different kinds of apples from them! Plus, I know you’ll come up with creative ideas for dressing them up!

  45. Dale says:

    Henri will be as thrilled with your mechanical abilities to manipulate cable and turnbuckles just to raise raise 6 different apples to make him 6 different tarts. When the main tart is the chef herself!!
    Well done.

  46. Mark says:

    Nice job!

  47. robert says:

    I would definitely buy the series of romance novel of the Canadian girl living in France that you apparently aren’t writing so, please start. How long before you get the first apples?

  48. maria-to says:

    p.s. i’ve purchased a couple of home depot trees that have done amazingly well – big box, a great price and they didn’t die!

  49. Kat says:

    I am SERIOUSLY IMPRESSED! Good choice on the location as they look great there.
    Will it take years for fruit to start or will it start to produce come next spring? Do chickens like apples?

    • Karen says:

      Chickens love apples, and there’s no real way to tell when I’ll get apples. Other than one or two, probably not for a couple of years I would guess, once the trees are happy and established. ~ karen!

  50. maria-to says:

    will you get apples this year?

    • Rita says:

      Karen may get some but she’ll need to ditch all but 2 apples per stem for the first year. In reality, it’ll be 3 years before Karen gets a meaniful harvest. Of 6 beautiful varieties ☺

    • Karen says:

      Nope. I might have had one but a bird stole it, lol. ~ karen!

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