Saturday, 5 April 2014

Attempting Espalier

My family and friends tend to give me gift vouchers for Christmas.  The kind of vouchers I can spend in Garden Centres are my favourites.  I don't have a big family therefore it didn't take long for word to get around that I'd far appreciate them than a gift that will sit in a cupboard gathering dust for the foreseeable!  In years past, power tools were my favourite gift but since I've got all the tools a girl could possibly use, they needed another option. 

The first year I started doing the garden (2011) - I gave everyone fair warning of what to buy me.  To some of you that may sound incredibly self centred but I am what I am!  I hate surprises and much prefer a gift that is practical.  A trait I inherited from my mother. 

Christmas 2011 was the year I treated myself to a couple of new Camellias.  One was growing as a shrub, the other was trained as a climber.  After identifying a spot for them, I decided to have a go at training the climber as an sort of Espalier/Fan against the fence in the side garden.  The border here is really quite narrow and has no scope to be widened.  Growing it against the fence would take up the least amount of precious garden space.

It flowered beautifully it's first year, as the always do and when flowering was over, I planted it in it's new home.  It settled in well and the following spring it had plenty of leaf buds.  A sure sign it was happy.  I knew not to expect flowers Spring 2012.  Plants will often take 3 years to settle into a garden.
January 2013 - plenty of leaf buds forming, alas no flowers this year!
 
This year however, it's a different story. With Camellias is often difficult to tell immediately if new buds are a leaf or a flower.  As the weeks went by those buds fattened rather than unfurled.  I knew I was going to have flowers this year.  Admittedly, there wasn't many of them but they were there nonetheless.  It's a start, right?  
A few more weeks went by but the buds seemed to be stuck in limbo.  It had been warm, I couldn't understand why they remained tight.   Then I thought about bud drop - I had all my fingers crossed that the plant would not suffer such loss.  The summer may have been hot and dry but I did not forget to keep this plant well watered.  I've learned enough to know that lack of water when the plant is forming it's flower buds is the main cause of bud drop.  On a large mature plant it would not be an issue - they can afford to loose a few blooms here and there.  Please, please, please Camellia God - don't make me wait this long only to watch in horror when the buds fall flat to the ground.  Temperatures dropped this last week, low cloud, drizzle and mist for the last 5 days.  I had spent little time out in the garden this week.  As I walked up the path this afternoon, something caught my attention.  Just as a watched pot never boils, it appears that a watched Camellia never blooms!  There may not be many flowers but I'm well pleased that it has produced some this year.
 

Flowers are described as Formal semi double - pale blush pink or white
When flowering is finished, I'll take the opportunity to tighten up the stems on the wires whilst they are still a bit flexible.  I'm very pleased with my efforts - not bad for a beginner, I keep telling myself!  Incidentally, I'm also having a go at Espalier with a rambling rose - more on the success of that later in the year.
 
A mistake I made at the beginning was to have the wires spaced too far apart.  I originally spaced them 1ft apart but found that was a bit too wide - I introduced wires midway as a bit of an after thought.  It seems to work a bit better, although there are a couple of wire that has no stems to grow along them.  I don't know how to address this or if the chance to rectify this has passed.  Have you any idea?  I'm not unhappy with the shape and doubt my ability in producing one of those floral masterpieces I've seen.  I don't think the formality as such would suit my style of gardening anyhow.  
 
Have you ever attempted Espalier?  I'd love to hear about it, it's a topic I've not come across on many blogs and most of the information out there tends to be of a technical nature and some or most of the terms are lost on me!
 
Once again, thank you all for reading and all that's left for me to say is I hope you are all having a wonderful weekend out in the garden.  I'm hoping for good weather this week.  The forecast tells me to expect it - time will tell!      

31 comments:

  1. Congratulations on your Camelia flowers! As to Christmas, in our family we usually discuss what we want for gifts in advance, so there aren't many surprises.

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    1. Thanks Jason, I like us to discuss the gifts too. We gardeners are the practical type, aren't we?

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  2. Well I think your 'espaliering' looks pretty neat to me, it's flat. it's against a wall / fence in a formal arrangement. Nowt technical there...you got it just right, except with a Camelia. Monty Don will be copying you next week...just wait. Bravo!

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    1. Now that would be a turn up for the books Jane!

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  3. I'm impressed! I've always thought espalier is a great approach to vertical gardening but I've yet to attempt it myself, afraid that I'll destroy the selected plant in the process. I'd be interested to see your step-by-step process when you espalier the rose.

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    1. Kris, my attempt with the Rose is also far from technical - it's just more of a pull in and tie kind of effort. I've not quite got to grips with the growing habits of Roses yet but it's all been a learning curve for me.
      Vertical gardening, as I've seen it here on TV looks kind of daunting to me especially as it's often done 'en masse' but I do get the concept and it's been nice to give this a go.

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  4. Hi Angie, congratulations on your camellia growing success! The plant looks healthy and vigorous and the flowers are just plain beautiful. I haven't tried to espalier anything in my garden, yet, but it doesn't bother me at all that in your case not all wires are covered with branches. To me the wires are just disappearing into the background to together with the fence. Wishing you a lovely gardening weekend as well! Warm regards,
    Christina

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    1. Your lovely comments are much appreciated. The wires probably stand out more to me than anyone else, that's often the way isn't it? We always pick up the negatives in our own gardens yet see past them in others. Personally, I give things in my own garden way too much thought!

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  5. I like practical gifts too, and much prefer them over surprises, although once in a while my husband gets the surprise so right, he gives me something I didn't know I wanted. I've never tried espaliering anything. But yours looks good! I've been keeping an eye on my Camellia lately too.

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    1. Stop watching Alison! I tell you, it will work! Glad to read your husband gets the occasional surprise just right, he sounds perfect!

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  6. I don't mind how the shrub looks it's great to see you have flowers in your camellia. They are beautiful. We have stoped giving eachother pressents for birthdays or christmas. I have cupboards full of things once given wich I don't like at all. And for those who givin this pressents I don't want to throw it away. A giftcheck of the garden is more welcome to me.(lol).
    Have a wonderful week ahead Angie I hope it's a week with lot's of sunshine

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    1. Marijke - when I moved here I had masses of accumulated gifts, most of which I ended up taking to the charity shop. It was great that someone benefited. That was the defining moment we decided to do practical gifts.

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  7. I've never seen a wall trained camellia nor have I ever tried making an espalier

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    1. I know you grow lots of fruit Sue - they are usually an ideal candidate for Espalier.

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  8. Hi Angie,

    Lovely Camellia you have there! I've sort of espaliered a pyracanthus in the back garden... Although for the past few years I've struggled to get close to it to tie branches onto the wires and cut branches off that are growing the wrong way... It did at first look rather good, even though espalier wasn't my initial intention.

    I like surprises... as long as they're good! heehee. My mum has a knack of getting me things which I really rather she hadn't wasted her money on. I'd rather she just didn't get me anything and I know that's mean but I feel worse having to throw the stuff away!

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    1. Ah Liz, I've also got an espaliered pyracanthus. It's the one I moved from the other end of the garden a while back. I did wonder just how long I can keep it going before it does me any harm. You confirmed my suspicions. Might be time to have a rethink about mine before it gets too much.
      My mother used to have the knack of buying me tender plants - I've since persuaded her into buying me Sunflower hearts for the birds if she insists to give me a wee treat ;)

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  9. Your comment about being self-centred made me laugh; I give my partner a list of what I want, with web links and all!

    I wouldn't worry too much about the wires. As the plants grow they will be hidden by the growth. If it really bothers you, you could prune after flowering to encourge more sideshoots. Though I think you should leave it as it is, it's looking good.

    Someone gave me a Camilla once but it never flowered. I would get some leaf growth, but no flowers I found out eventually it was because it prefers acid-neutral soil and I had alkaline soil. So as long as your soil is on the acid side, as it settles in it should give you more flowers.

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    1. argh, I forgot to sign out of WDM Sheffield and in as Gwenfar's Garden. Again. Sorry about that.

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  10. Your camellia is looking great Angie!
    Once it gets a bit bigger you will be able to utilise all the wires so don’t worry about that. I have made an espalier before, many years ago, of a Chaenomeles. It looked lovely for a good few years but finally it just grew too big and I had to prune it too much as it grew like mad so I decided to ‘set it free’. I still have the Chaenomeles, it is my red 'Crimson and Gold' and I still prune it to keep it small, but it was probably not the right thing to have as an espalier when mature.

    As for gifts, my son gives me a gift card from B&Q every Christmas and that is my favourite present to get as I can spend it on either plants or necessary things for the garden like fertilisers, compost and bark.

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  11. I have never tried to espalier, but whenever I see a plant or photo of a plant espaliered, I want to give it a try. Finding the right spot - and upping my nerve - is keeping me from doing it. Kudos to you for giving it a go! And you're doing great at it, too. I would have never thought of espaliering a camellia, but yours looks fabulous. And I do believe that camellias know when we're watching. They are always so slow to bloom, and it seems as soon as I'm busy elsewhere, forgetting all about them, they will suddenly bloom - perhaps they're just shy! ;) I can't wait to see your espaliered rose!

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  12. I have tried making an espalier once and failed... :( I hope you will find success with this one. You have chose an beautiful specimen! I 'heart' this pretty Camellia. Keep posting yeah, I want to learn more about how to make one. You have a great day!

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  13. Well done! The plant is off to a great start and I agree with everyone above - you won't notice the wires later on and you are training yours beautifully. I did actually get the wretched bud drop you were worried about. Like you my plants are young and I'm keeping them in pots because the garden is unsuitable but I wanted the flowers & foliage on a shady terrace. My pink camellia was fine, but the red has dropped quite a few buds. Looking at it, I think it was self-defense! The poor thing just couldn't handle the pressure of so many buds. Once again - looking good!

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  14. I love garden vouchers, too, the only problem is choosing what to use them for! They are a real treat. It's good to see your Camellia in bloom, the Camellias are looking lovely at the moment. That is interesting about espalier. I trained two apple trees as espaliers (against a fence) and fifteen years later, both trees are as healthy as ever and are still producing lots of fruit.

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  15. I very much like espaliered fruit trees but it takes a rigorous regime to get it right and I don't like pruning fruit trees anyway. I'm glad your Camellia god listened to your plea and think it's very clever to tell people what you wish for. We have so many things just sitting in the shelves, doing nothing. Maybe I should be braver ;)

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  16. Garden vouchers are my present of choice - much to my mother's amusement! There's nothing better than a trip to the garden centre, knowing you don't have to open your purse! Your camellia espalier is fascinating me - not something I would have thought about. But certainly something I would now consider. Your first attempt at an espalier looks v. impressive. The perfect white flower is gorgeous!

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  17. I bought a second fan-trained Victoria Plum last year (see blog for what happened to first one) so this summer I will have to tackle the pruning. I think I had better get the books out now.!

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  18. I love the idea of espaliering a camelia. They so often turn into giant blobs when left to their own devices. I, too, have a pyracantha that I'm training up a wall. It's very free-form, though, and bolted to the house at strategic points. Lord help me when it comes time to paint the house.

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  19. It's looking real good and your effort for training has certainly paid off for what you wanted it for.
    Cher Sunray Gardens

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  20. I've never tried espalier, but I find the concept interesting. Are there definite rules to it, or can you train/attach it in various ways? Your Camellias are lovely! I just ordered one that I'm planning to grow in my sunroom for part of the winter, and then move outside during the summer, fall, and early winter. I love Camellias!

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  21. Glad your efforts are being rewarded Angie, how satisfying. I've never attempted any formal training against a wall, I tend to have too much planted in front of any climbers to make access for training possible. I am with you on letting people know what gifts will be best appreciated, such a waste otherwise!! Though I can't imagine ever having all the power tools I could possibly want...

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  22. Angie well done your Camellia its beautiful ,I wish I had trained my one andonly 24yr old Camelia in same shape but have to say it delights with blooms every year.Miine is full of buds ready to open.

    I cover mine with fleece the end of Oct and have just taken off the fleece yesterday mind you we do have a frost this morning.

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