Magazine article Sunset

Small-Lot Orchard

Magazine article Sunset

Small-Lot Orchard

Article excerpt

Espaliered apple and Asian pear trees produce plenty of fruit

Here's a riddle: How do you fit an entire orchard of 24 fruit trees into a small San Francisco garden? For landscape designer Stephen Suzman, the answer is simple: Espalier the trees on an arched iron arbor, 6 feet wide by 56 feet long across the back of the garden.

Suzman, inspired by the works of English landscape designer Gertrude Jekyll, developed the structure (with designer John Dorr) as a support system for the trees-spaced 8 feet apart-and as a leafy tunnel for the owners' two small children to explore. Despite the lack of winter cold, six types of apples thrive here, `Cox's Orange Pippin', 'Fuji', 'Lady', 'McIntosh' ('MacSpur McIntosh'), `Pink Pearl', `Red Astrachan', plus crabapple and two Asian pears. "We chose mostly heirloom varieties with a low chill requirement, because they're so much more interesting to grow," says Suzman. "`Pink Pearl' is lovely just to look at."

Before planting the young fruit trees (which were purchased as 4foot-tall espaliers), Suzman first had to overcome a severe soil drainage problem. To correct it, the top 2 1/2 feet of soil were removed, then a drainage system was installed and covered with new topsoil.

The trees produce a bountiful harvest, and the handsome arbor provides interest through the seasons.

How to care for an espalier

Landscape gardener Hilary Gordon has been caring for the tunnel of trees since 1992. …

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