A sunny Saturday morning in the orchard. One of the few days that felt like summer this year in Edmonton, and yet there was a buzz in the air… something was going on. In the orchard, a few people gathered around the large ten-foot diameter table. Everyone was eager to learn about espalier. The event, our Espalier Workshop 2019, took place on Saturday, July 13th.
The Roots of Espalier
The word espalier is French. The root of espalier comes from the Italian word, spallier, meaning “something to rest the shoulder (spalla) against”. The practice of espalier started in ancient Rome. Espalier in Rome involved wood posts and beams used to rest the branches of trees against. Refined by the Europeans, espalier today most often uses some sort of wire.
Espalier History at the Orchard
Two years ago, Dustin Bajer, helped Operation Fruit Rescue Edmonton (OFRE) set up the espalier lines in the orchard. With Dustin’s help, OFRE could show people the beauty of training fruit trees along a line.
There is something inherently beautiful with such care and respect for the trees. But, over the two years the espalier lines started to sag. The trees were not kept well trained, and two of the original trees died at the feet of a hungry rabbit. This was about to change.
McCauley Grows Dynamic Gardens
Dustin has been working on espalier in his backyard, only a few blocks away. On Saturday, Dustin took the team on a journey through the back alleys and streets of McCauley. Dustin showed us the vital gardening culture around the orchard and his backyard.
Our neighbourhood demonstrates an abundant amount of gardening experimentation. From rouge grafting, to urban grain growing, and an assortment of various type of fruit. Our fruits somehow survive the harsh winters in Edmonton.
This foray into the inner city showed the volunteers that McCauley is a gardening mecca. OFRE stands proud to be part of this vibrant, warm and loving neighbourhood. Despite its reputation for homelessness, garbage, and drug use, McCauley grows dynamic gardens.
Espalier Enthusiasm at the Orchard
Inspired by the vivid McCauley backyards, our volunteers enthusiastically espaliered at the orchard!
Our workshop participants:
- straightened the espalier lines at the orchard
- determined which branches to tie to the lines
- decided which branches needed chopping
Since the original workshop 2 years ago, Dustin’s thoughts on espalier have evolved. The fewer branches removed stimulates more growth. Espalier is more about a method in time and patience than instant beauty.
Nurturing Gardens Nurtures Community
The morning flew by with lots of laughs, smiles and friendly camaraderie. The newly straightened lines gave a breath of fresh air to the garden. The volunteers went home inspired.
The mutual sharing of information and experience created a profound sense of community. This nurturing of community often emerges with like minded people at OFRE’s events.
Join OFRE Today
If you learn feel inspired, we invite you to join our organization. Rescue some fruit, and meet some great apples.