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beeleeee
5 Posts
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June 8, 2024 - 7:35 am

IMG_1932.jpgScreenshot-2024-06-08-at-10.33.16-AM.pngI am not experienced gardener or fruit grower. But I love espaliers and decided to attempt one at my home (inland SC, Zone 8a). I have a Pink Lady espalier on semi-dwarf root stock, now entering it's 5th season. (I have not seen an apple yet, but will be making a separate post about that.) My question here is about my overall design for the tree shape. I've chosen the candalabra or palmette verrier shape, but with an asymmetrical modification, due to a window on the wall where the tree is. I recently read an article which vaguely mentioned it's crucial that espaliers are symmetrical. But it didn't explain why. The first photo below shows my tree's current shape (looking a little sloppy ahead of the solstice prune); the white lines in the second photo show the intended final form. Is my Pink Lady already doomed? 

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John S
PDX OR
2849 Posts
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2
June 8, 2024 - 10:27 am

Welcome to the forum Beeleeeee.

I am not specifically very experienced in espaliers, but I don't see why it should be doomed. How far is the rootstock planted from the house?

 

John S
PDX OR

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beeleeee
5 Posts
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June 8, 2024 - 5:48 pm

It's probably too close to the house but not sure there's much i can do about that now. It's not much more than 4" from the wall. 

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John S
PDX OR
2849 Posts
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June 10, 2024 - 8:57 am

Many people have suggested that paint chips, some containing lead, might be in the soil.  You could move it in the fall to say, 2' from the wall. Not a guarantee, but it could decrease the chance.

John S
PDX OR

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jafar
787 Posts
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June 10, 2024 - 1:02 pm

John, are you concerned that lead would harm the tree, or that it could end up in the fruit?   

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John S
PDX OR
2849 Posts
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June 11, 2024 - 7:46 pm

Fruit. A small espalier shouldn't harm the foundation of the house, either. Literally millions of Americans have heavy metal toxicity and our main allopathic "health" system sees no profit in doing anything about it.  I avoid it.

John S
PDX OR

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Viron
1407 Posts
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June 12, 2024 - 6:11 am

I agree with John’s lead paint chip concern..  Not sure if a soil sample could be reasonably tested?  

I’ve always had too much deer pressure for espaliered fruit tree work, though have pruned many of them for others.  Your existing work and plan looks fine to me with regard to “balance.”  

The project looks more for aesthetics than edible fruit production.  I wonder if any previously shed paint wouldn’t have stayed very near the surface, as opposed to migrating into the root zone?  Would scraping/ removing the top ..six or so inches of soil elevate concern for severe toxicity..?  

From OR, I’m now in VA; the most impressive and inspirational espalier work I’ve ever seen was while touring Mt. Vernon, George & Martha Washington’s home on the Potomac..  Beyond their original orchard being intact, the ‘kitchen garden,’ with multiple varieties of espaliered fruit trees was worth the drive!

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beeleeee
5 Posts
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June 12, 2024 - 8:47 am

A soil test is a great idea; I will work on that before we eat any apples! Thanks for the suggestion. But you are also right that the project is more aesthetic than for fruit production.

As far as battling toxicity, here are a few other facts:

-the house WAS fully painted sometime in the early 2000s and again just a year or two before the tree was planted (maybe the new layers of paint help to contain the older lead stuff?)

-the tree IS under a roof overhang. it gets watered by a trickle of drop irrigation and that's about it. Even when we have an absolute deluge, the ground in that spot does not get flushed out (which probably makes it easy for any contamination to hang around)

-last fall, i had a masonry guy come and "retuck" the mortar behind the tree. we talked about catching all the debris with a tarp, but on the day, I came home from work to find the job nearly done, no tarp, and tons of masonry chunks and powder all over the garden soil. I picked up the chunks and crossed my fingers that it would be fine. But this spring, I noticed the tree was very late to leaf out. It also looked yellow and anemic and unhappy. I removed all the mulch and as much soil as I could without disturbing roots. I flushed out the area several times with the hose over the course of a few days, then replaced with fresh soil and mulch. The tree seems to have bounced back at this point, but still agree it's worth knowing what's in that soil...

Unfortunately, I went through a LOT of effort to get the hooks and wires mounted on that wall. If I move the tree 2' away, I'd have to start all over from scratch, this time with a free-standing trellis (which would also raise the question of shaping the tree differently because now it's no longer on the wall where that window is...) In other words, it's a whole can of worms. But I will absolutely test the soil before we consume fruit (if i ever even get any, ha). And even if the tree is strictly ornamental, I can be happy with that!

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