Branching Out: A Humble Attempt at Growing an Espaliered Grapefruit Tree

What would mankind be without rudely trying to bend nature to their evil wills? Imagine a world where man realizes that any attempts at control are merely an illusion and every creature danced naked in the woods in joyous celebration of total peace and harmony. Ahh, soothing. And the exact opposite of the grotesque horrors in the form of massive and aggressive amputations gifted to my new grapefruit tree. Poor oroblanco, you came here to suffer for my aesthetic whims. Rest easy though, your suffering will be remembered in song and lore.

All of this would probably be more warmly received if I didn’t twirl my mustache and cackle maniacally during the process. But I have my methods and plant sensibilities be damned. But I’m not doing this just to pander to my false sense of control and dominance. There are very practical reasons to espalier a fruit tree. The rather obvious one is that it looks insanely cool as a landscape design feature. Like a white-gloves touch to the garden. Classy as a MF’er. It also makes for a perfect space-saving solution to those with limited garden space.

There’s an even more impressive scientific reason for this ancient methodology of fruit production.  When trained against a wall, the light is reflected back onto the tree and the heat is stored during the day to keep the area warmer during the cooler nights.  When trained in an open space, you can line it up to be parallel to the equator to totally maximize its fruit maturing potential.  Both strategies serve to lengthen the fruit maturing season.  Science is amazing. Be sure to science more than you do now.


“The word espalier is French, and it comes from the Italian spalliera, meaning “something to rest the shoulder (spalla) against.  During the 17th Century, the word initially referred only to the actual trellis or frame on which such a plant was trained to grow, but over time it has come to be used to describe both the practice and the plants themselves.

Espalier as a technique seems to have started with the ancient Romans. In the Middle Ages the Europeans refined it into an art. The practice was popularly used in Europe to produce fruit inside the walls of a typical castle courtyard without interfering with the open space and to decorate solid walls by planting flattened trees near them. Vineyards have used the technique in the training of grapes for hundreds or perhaps even thousands of years”

-Brown, Sydney Park; Yeager, Thomas H.; Black, Robert J. (September 2007) [May 1985]


For my specific reasons, I had a very unruly back planting strip behind my house. I let it get out of control and many of the plants there were leftovers from the previous owners. Just look at this hot mess… Continue reading “Branching Out: A Humble Attempt at Growing an Espaliered Grapefruit Tree”

My Big Ass Lady: Update on the Coastal Coral Tree

I know what you’re thinking, “how many times can this fool write about the coastal coral tree?” or “Does he make out with that tree?” well the answers are; infinitely and just a little. Not necessarily in that order. I can’t help it. When I first pilfered a branch cutting from an undisclosed location (definitely NOT in Robb Field in OB), I intended it to be a bonsai tree. I was living in a small but lovely beach apartment at the time, so it was all bonsai for me due to space constraints.

Now that I have a wee bit of land, I can spread some roots. My erythrina caffra (coastal coral) couldn’t be happier that I did either considering the insane growth that this tree has undergone in the last few years. To force this beast into a tiny bonsai pot would seem cruel.

[urlpreviewbox url=”https://mindyourdirt.com/2015/01/04/my-magical-coastal-coral-tree-on-steroids/”/]

And this year is no exception. She is just now beginning to wake up from her short winter slumber. All winter long she has been busy sending out miles of hungry roots and storing vast amounts of sugars for what is promising to be a vigorous growing season. Now she is putting out a lovely display of flowers right before she comes into full leaf.

Erythrina caffra will typically bloom before leafing to attract pollinators.

She starts off after winter with her flowers before the leaves really set in. This allows all the pollinators to see the blooms without any bland and flavorless leaves getting in the way. Hummingbirds adore these beautiful blooms. Here’s another tree that is rocking a very impressive bloom with some rando walking a cute dog. Continue reading “My Big Ass Lady: Update on the Coastal Coral Tree”

Help!! My Plant is Healthy!

That’s not a phrase I usually cry in despair and self-loathing, but it was today. I’ve been side-eyeballing my potted ficus on the front lawn in a very un-trusting manner for that last few months. Shiny leaves with a lush and deep green happy vigor and an ever expanding crown reaching towards the heavens are usually a really good sign. But this tree is in a pot that’s way too small for such growth.

help-my-plant-is-healthy-2_something-isnt-right

There is a very good reason for such a limiting pot. It’s not because I hate this tree or wish to see it stunted or sad. It’s because the location I chose for this ficus is directly over my sewer lines going out into the street. As illustrated in this high-tech 3D rendering of the “brown line express” (oh, how crass!).

sewer-lines-2
The poop evacuation route. Well, the second evacuation route actually.

As a homeowner, you can imagine how costly it would be to have some root invasion for this essential poop escape highway! Like several grand to replace these pipes. And the last thing I want is any backing up or flooding in the house to let me know that I have made a grave error! Gross and costly are not my favorite combinations! Gross and cheap is okay in a pinch. Continue reading “Help!! My Plant is Healthy!”