How My New “Living Fence” Has Connected Me to My Neighbors

My front yard “Living Fence” idea was inspired when I planted my backyard pears last year as a replacement for the bamboo I extracted.   I wanted a way to create the impression of a “fence” in the front yard without actually putting up a fence.  My front yard has been a pretty dismal place – overgrown and thorny foundation plants, weedy grass and no real habitat to support local birds, bees and animals.  I live on a highly visible corner lot with a significant amount of foot traffic, so the idea of an open type of fence would not only protect my yard from “short cutters” but also define the space and better tie the landscaping in with the other cosmetic improvements I’ve made recently.

Over the last month I’ve been whittling away at my “Living Fence” project and I’m almost finished (just need to stain the supports).  The results are better than I could have predicted.  Not only does it look fantastic, but folks that would normally stroll right by are stopping, taking pictures, reading the tags, chatting with me – I even had a cars stop!

Since I’ve been on working on this project in the evenings, when most people are out for their after dinner strolls, I’ve met at least a dozen of my neighbors in more than a just “friendly wave” kind of way.  They are compelled to stop and talk (in some cases invite me to their homes), and many have told me how excited they are to watch the new trees grow.  One evening last week I talked to 6 different people – and mind you I wear headphones when I’m working so it takes an effort to get my attention!

Interestingly, some have expressed concern that I’ll “lose fruit” to people stopping by and picking it.  My response has been “great”!  With the addition of these pear trees I now have strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and huckleberries all in easily accessible places that anyone at anytime can pick and enjoy.  I have no desire to “protect” or “guard” the fruit that is produced – which is a very freeing feeling!

Ironically, my “fence” project (Do good fences really make good neighbors?) has connected me more to my neighborhood – what a curiously wonderful gift these trees have been both to me and my neighborhood!

My Orchard

As I mentioned in my Riddle:  How Do You Fit 12 Types of Fruit Trees on 1 Average City Lot? I have managed to plant 12 different types of fruit trees on my average city lot – see the list of currently planted fruit trees and pictures below:

Bryce Street Orchard

Front Yard Pears 1 April 2013

Backyard Pears 1 April 2013

Backyard Pears 2 April 2013

Backyard Applies April 2013

Stay tuned for an update on the rest of the front yard transformation!

Riddle: How Do You Fit 12 Types of Fruit Trees on 1 Average City Lot?

Answer: You plant grafted, dwarf, espalier (es-pal-YAY) trees!  Well, at least that’s my answer.  So far so good, between last fall and this spring I’ve planted 12 different types of fruit trees in locations of my yard that were either neglected or just hard to plant.   Last fall I planted 3 trees in the backyard, and in the past few weeks I’ve planted 3 trees across my front yard to make a “living fence” (consider this post a teaser – I will go into detail on these projects in a future post). I purchased my trees already grafted and espaliered from my local nursery, each was $50, a bargain considering all the expertise and labor that went into developing these special trees.

Grafted and Dwarf:  Grafting is basically attaching one or more plants together – in this case fruit trees.  The scion is the upper portion of the grafted plant that will produce the plant’s shoots, leaves, stems, flowers.  The stock (or rootsock) is the lower portion of the grafted plant that produces the roots. (see image below for this is just one type of grafting) When you graft more mature trees this can create a “dwarfing” effect on the final tree.  Some advantages:

  • Faster time to first fruit since the grafted trees started out older.  This can reduce the first fruiting time from 9 years to 2 or 3.
  • Built-in cross-pollination since grafted tree can pollinate itself instead of requiring a minimum two separate trees. Cross-pollination is essential to fruiting.
  • Same size fruit as a “normal” tree but from a much smaller tree.
  • Allow for more variety of trees to be grown in the same amount of space as a single tree

Stem Cutting Grafting

Espalier:  The word espalier is French but it comes from the Italian spalliera, meaning “something to rest the shoulder against”.  It used to refer to the trellis or frame on which such a plant was trained to grow, but over time it came to be used to describe both the practice and the plants themselves.  It’s been around forever.  In Europe in the middle ages it was used to produce fruit inside the walls of a typical castle courtyard without interfering with the open space. Today you can see it most commonly in vineyards.  Some advantages:

  • More energy of tree goes into fruit production instead of trunk and branch growth
  • Space saving since it can be grown on a 2-dimensional plane, also allowing for planting in spaces that might otherwise go unused (i.e. hot sunny walls)
  • Visual interest.  There is almost no limit to the types of designs you can create.
  • Alternative to traditions fencing that also supports wildlife.  My new mason bees are going to be thrilled!

Trellis Espalier

My Current Orchard: So far I’ve planted 8 types of pears (5 grafted trees), and 4 types of apples (1 grated tree).  Stay tuned for future posts where I will go into details on my trees, the process of the planting them, and how the trees I planted last fall are progressing!

Bryce Stree Orchard