I am in love with this mini-version of the traditional French garden technique of espalier. In espalier, you train the branches of a tree to grow flat against a structure. Using modern espalier in a small garden adds interest to a contemporary design if you don’t want your garden overrun with plants. A heavily-planted garden looks cozy but also visually and spatially reduces space.
I assumed espalier would require lots of room but is pretty impractical if you have a little urban garden. How wrong I was!
I love this diamond effect trellising against dark grey horizontal batting. Personally, I hate the ivy and find it a terrible invasive plant. I would pick climbing hydrangea or climbing jasmine I think though they may be a bit harder to control. Read more and how to achieve the look at One Kings Lane.
I found this house in Highgate which has done the espalier trellising against a contemporary front garden wall. As you can see, this effect is pretty but requires maintenance. As far as I can tell, nothing the French do is low-maintenance (even if it appears so).
Here are some other examples of modern espalier applied to contemporary gardens. The first example shows a very casual example of espalier.
The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) in Britain has a good primer if you are thinking of trying modern espalier in a small garden yourself. You can buy trees that have from one to three tiers already formed or you can purchase a tree from scratch and train it yourself. If you have the patience, training a tree to espalier must be a rewarding experience.
The RHS recommends espalier for fruit trees because it is an easy way to grow fruit in a small space. Not only is the fruit easier to pick but they grow larger and sweeter because they have more access to sunlight. The best fruit trees to grow in an espalier are apples and pears.