Apple tree espalier is one of the most beautiful ways to enhance a landscape with edibles. It is also a great way to fit something productive into a small space. Do you have a narrow bed, perhaps next to a wall or fence? Depending upon the orientation (not facing north) you can fit a trellised apple tree into that space. A small amount of soil between houses, or between driveways or sidewalks can be a suitable place for them. They are usually formed into flat, two dimensional forms, but can also be three dimensional - just organized into the desired shape. These trees are usually planted on dwarfing root stock. This enables the homeowner to keep the size of the tree down. Dwarf trees also produce apples earlier than the standard size trees.
I have done a Belgian fence in the past. Now I am planning to do something like this again in my front yard. Why? I live on a dirt road and the dust gets pretty bad in the house as cars drive by. Most people on my street live a little farther back from the road, and they have a thick row of trees blocking the dust. I live closer, and I do not want to lose my view to the lovely scenery by planting a bunch of trees and shrubs. So I will do a more organized project of a low apple tree fence just tall enough to block the dust, but not so tall as to block my view.
Before doing anything else, decide where the trees are to be. Then get a soil sample and start amending the soil to make this a good planting area. How is the drainage? Drainage can be improved with organic matter and mulch (also organic matter). If you can plan ahead a year or two, you can mulch the area well and get some good worm action going in the area. This will all help with drainage and fertility, too. Make sure you have the appropriate amount of sunlight for apple trees. Once you have started this, you can make the trees, or order them. Make sure you get dwarfing root stock. Also, if you live in a fire blight prone area, try to get a cultivar that is fire blight resistant. I once had fire blight hit a Belgian fence and lost several of the branches that made the design. It takes years to replace them. As a matter of fact, life will be easier on you if you get cultivars that are resistant to any fungal pathogen if possible. Otherwise, you will be spraying more.
See the grafting pages if you want to make your own trees. You will need a trellis, and it would be best if this was in place before you plant the trees. Trellises can be made of wood, metal, bamboo, etc. The picture at the top of this page shows espalier apple trees trellised with old galvanized pipe. Of course, you will want to decide what shape you want to make your trees, and this will help to dictate what material to make them from. Once all this is in place, you can plant your little tree(s). It will be just a whip if possible. After the first year's growth, clip off the top of the whip at the level where you want it to branch. Chose one branch on each side to train laterally. From here, you will need to prune and train specifically for your style of espalier.
Espalier is fun, and it is not really hard, but it does require dilligent pruning, so stay on top of that task. Go back to the home page from Espalier