Renovating the Belgian fence

This week’s blog is by student gardener, Francesca Miles…

“Over the past few weeks the horticultural students have spent several days in the Kitchen Garden tying in the beautiful espalier apple and pear trees. These impressive structures were created more than 20 years ago by planting young trees about two feet apart and training two shoots to form y-shaped branches. Now mature, the trees form a lattice-work pattern known as a Belgian fence, which reaches the full height of the 5.5 metre stone wall that flanks the Upper Walled Garden.

“The apple tree espalier, located closest to the Pool Garden, is over 25 metres long and constructed from 40 trees representing 24 distinctive cultivars. These include relatively local varieties, Malus domestica ‘Brith Mawr’, a mixed-use apple originating from Newport and once very popular across south Wales and Malus domestica ‘Pig Aderyn’.

“We used flexi-tie and biodegradable twine to tie the espalier trees into the supporting galvanized wire frame. In the autumn this will be replaced with stainless steel tension that can support the weight of the mature trees. Working from ladders at the back of the herbaceous borders, we did our best to avoid trampling daffodils and the emerging lacy purple foliage of Anthriscus sylvestris ‘Ravenswing’. The task also presented an opportunity to remove the unwanted ivy and perennial weeds growing near the top of the stone wall.

Naturally, our presence has drawn visitors’ attention to the Belgian Fence, which can often go unnoticed until spring. They appreciated the opportunity to witness the full structure before the blossom emerges.

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