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”

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!”

Deflowering the Beast

Sometimes mans dominion over nature sounds absolutely terrifying and short-sighted to me. The great hubris that has caused so much destruction is not a sentiment I often tout. This is until we begin discussing the deadly Sago Palm (or cycad, more accurately). Then my inner lumberjack kicks in and I sharpen machetes and gas up chainsaws.

You may recall last year when I posted about the serious level of pruning I do to my beautiful, yet deadly, Sago. If you don’t, take a gander at this surgical operation…

The Sago Palm: Ancient, Beautiful and Actively Trying to Kill Your Family.

Well, it’s beginning to be that time once again. As you can see in the featured image above (from this morning), she is pushing out another giant flower which will be jam packed with massive seeds. They look so much like the king palm nuts that my dog loves to chew on that I am forced to dispatch with these seeds as soon as this flower opens up.

But, at least I’m not alone in this forced dominion, the Chicago Botanic Garden has recently had to force a pollination on their Titan Arum, or corpse flower. You know, that massive flower that smells like a stinking rotten corpse mixed with old baby diapers? Yeah, that one.

All of the botany folks on the Interwebs and countless visitors of the garden have been waiting with anticipation for this flower to open up. Unfortunately, it was not meant to be as the titan has refused to open and the botanists had to step in and help it along with a surgical procedure so that they could self-pollinate. Check out the process!

This has helped to bolster my resolve to once again don my hazmat suit and katana in preparation for the painful deflowering of the beast. Wish me luck!