Visit from Amanda Thomsen

I had posted recently that I had phoned in a question to the Good Enough Gardening podcast about what to do about dogs killing my lawn in one part of my yard.  Well, the other day, Amanda Thomsen took a trip out to St. Charles to pay me a visit.

She gave me lots of great ideas on what I can do within my property.  She immediately keyed in on the fact that I was trying to grow different kinds of fruit and vegetables on the south and west sides of my house.  This year I had started thinking about how I can turn the west side of my property into an “orchard”.  So far, I have 3 red delicious apple trees there.  On the inside of my fence near the west side is a peach tree and a granny smith apple tree.  On the south side are 6 blueberry bushes which I have temporarily housed in an old book case.  For this year things are placed sort of randomly.

But Amanda mentioned something that was new to me but had my interest.  There is an old technique for growing fruit in a small space by shaping the trees to grow along a wall.  It is called espalier.

Basically, you can train the tree with pruning and shaping to conform to the shape you want it.  Typically this is flat to make use of the space along the wall which would otherwise be unused.  Here are some examples of espalier.

One thing that I did not mention to Amanda which may explain why I have not been able to stop thinking about this is because I used to grow bonsai trees.  Some of them I started from seeds.  My favorite seeds to grow were California giant redwood and giant sequoia.  I loved the irony of having the worlds tallest trees in miniature.  But they all came crashing down one day, literally.  One of my dogs, Oscar, flipped out chasing a squirrel on the fence and knocked over the stands that held all the trees.  They went flying everywhere.  Pots, trees, and dirt were scattered all over.  I think the only one I was able to save for a little while was a natal plum tree.  I became so angry and discouraged I quit.

But as Amanda described espalier it piqued my interest.  Especially when she mentioned that it was a practice from the middle ages.  Why do I like that? Just because it’s old school (although I admit I immediately heard the Age of Empires music when she described how they grew them along castle walls).  So now I am thinking this over and deciding if I want to do this.  And if I do, how would I design it?  I think I need to draw this out on paper.

Anyway, special thanks to Amanda for making the trip.  It was a really nice visit.  I got the feeling that she loves to use her knowledge and skills to better the world where she can.  It was great to meet her.

One other note.  I got a prize out of the deal.  Amanda gave me a copy of Grocery Gardening.  My first impression is that visually, the book is very nicely put together.  Also, with both tips and recipes consolidated into one book, it looks like it’s right up our alley.  Look for a review from me forthcoming…

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