Illustrated Etymology: Espalier

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Here we go with the second post in my Illustrated Etymology series.  In the last post I discussed the origins of the word "Enfilade".  Today's word is "Espalier".
Espalier refers to the gardening and agricultural practice of training a tree or bush to grow in a flat plane by pruning and tying branches to a frame.  I remembered the first time I encountered the term, not in a gardening book or dictionary but actually when I moved to Boston and came to know about the award winning restaurant L'Espalier.  I figured it was a culinary term, and while it's more of a gardening word, the moniker befits the restaurant since espalier is a practice that is used to make fruit easily accessible.  Espaliering is often used in formal gardens and done in formal patterns, such as diamond, square or chandelier type arrangements.  Usually it is done against a structure such as a wall, fence, or trellis and is very useful when a narrow bed restricts the depth of planting.  Interestingly, in researching the term further for this post, I found out that there are a few more benefits to espalier than just the spatial and the aesthetic.  If planted next to a wall, the wall can serve to reflect more sunlight and retain heat overnight or if trained to be parallel to the equator the tree or shrub can receive maximum sunlight exposure. These two facts allow the growing and maturing period of the fruit to be extended.  Here is an example of a formal espaliered fruit tree against a whitewashed wall (courtesy of Wikipedia):




I'm eager to try this in our New Jersey garden, although it seems like it could be a lengthy and arduous process.  Any requests for the next term for Illustrated Etymology?

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