Easy Espalier Trellis

Budget friendly and easy tutorial to add interest to a privacy fence.

While remodeling the interior of our house, the exterior was severely neglected. The backyard was in especially bad shape as it had been the dumping spot during demolition. Warm weather, completing inside projects, and my son’s longer naps encouraged me to get cracking on the backyard! Our first summer in the house was all about clearing debris and overgrown plants, with some time dedicated to planting along one side of our fence. The second summer we focused on creating flower beds, a walking path, and more planting. As the bed and path shaped up, the fence was looking pretty shabby in comparison. I decided to stain the fence, but was worried it wouldn’t turn out good. As a back up I figured a vine and trellis on the fence would be a good way to disguise any of my mistakes! There are quite a few homes in my neighborhood that have espalierd fruit trees. This wasn’t a common sight in Southern California gardens, or maybe I was just in a different life stage and didn’t notice them ha ha. I started to research this trellis technique and saw the Belgian lattice, which is the grid type pattern I decided to do. Luckily the stain looked fine, but I was still wanted to try it out. It is so easy and pretty budget friendly. Keep reading for my espalier wire trellis lessons learned.

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Before…

The “Before” The fence to the left is the area I worked on. I stained the fence and created the flower bed prior to making the trellis.

I started with this section of the yard because it was the easiest. The back section of fencing is on a slope and at the top of an eroding rockery. The other section of fence is chainlink and is next to a very overgrown open lot. Okay, on to the juicy bit- how to build the espalier trellis.

Step 1: Gather your materials.

My sister-in-law liked my trellis so much she wanted to try too! We used just three materials on her fence.

  • Hooks
  • Wire
  • Wire cutting pliers

As for plant types, I planted English Ivy and there is a jasmine variety that was already in the yard when we moved in. Honeysuckle, clematis or climbing hydrangea would all be lovely. In warmer climates bougainvillea would look so beautiful. A grape vine trellis would provide fall color interest. Research the vines that would be best for your climate and the light conditions in your space.

The in-process shots are from her yard because I forgot to capture my own. Her fence wood was soft enough that we didn’t need to drill holes for the hooks. However, when I installed my espalier I had to drill holes. I would suggest testing the hooks in your fence to see if a drill is needed. Twist the hook as you would a push pin on a cork board.

Step 2: Insert hook and thread wire through the hook.

Once you determine your method, decide on your pattern. I did the diamond grid pattern because I was worried I would need to camouflage my poor staining ha ha. My sister went for a more simple zig-zag. This took less hooks and doesn’t cover as much of the fence. After a hook is in place, thread the wire through the hole. Connecting to the next hook can be done a couple ways. I tried two different ways, maybe there are more!

Step 3: Cut wire segment.

At first I cut the wire to fit from one hook to the next. I did this because the wire was kind of unruly and I found it was more manageable in shorter lengths. My husband watched me do a few sections and asked why I didn’t string longer sections of wire through multiple hooks. I demonstrated how the wire “fought me” when I unravelled large sections. As the bundle of wire got smaller, his method was more doable and saved wire. Another thing my husband noticed is I was using the wrong wire cutters. Sigh, I had used wire crimpers. They definitely were not as sharp and it took me way longer to cut wire compared to the proper tool!

Step 4: Wrap wire around itself.

Whether your wire is strung through two or more hooks, once cut you will bend it into a loop and wrap it back around itself. Wire cutters or wire crimper can tighten the loop if desired.

Step 5: Continue threading, cutting and wrapping until your pattern is complete.

Zig zag “v” pattern.

The silver wire definitely blends in to weather worn wood more, which is nice considering the time it will take for vines to start climbing. Silver wire pops against my dark fence, which I don’t mind. But I cant wait until the vines take off and fill in!

Now let’s do before and after!

Before..

After!

The “after”. The angle is different than the “before” photo above, mainly because that corner isn’t quite done,

Have you used this technique before? How did it work you? Drop me a line in comments or pop over on Instagram to say hi! Thanks for reading! If you like this post and would like to save it for later, please pin the image below 🙂

My espalier after almost one year.

Resources for this project:

Klein Tools Side Cutting Pliers

Hillman Screw Eye Hooks

Hillman Galvanized Steel Wire

Frequently Asked Questions

Do climbing vines damage fences? If you have a wood fence it is best to stick with annual vines and also avoid woody vines like wisteria. Vinyl fences will not rot, but moisture may still promote things like algae to grow. I found this article on Fence Authority that is super helpful (no affiliation, just thought it was informative). It’s also a good idea to check with employees at a trusted garden center to get their opinion on vines that perform well in your area and won’t weigh down a fence. I also look around my neighborhood to see what others are growing on their fences or walls. Checking with a fence builder in your area is handy too.

Can I mount espalier trellis to stucco wall? Yes, stone, brick or stucco, will work with the correct drill bit.

What vines do well in hot dry climates? My favorite is bougainvillea! We had this at our last house and I miss the vibrant color. Wisteria and trumpet vines also do well.

17 thoughts on “Easy Espalier Trellis”

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  8. This is very beautiful…it gets my creativeness going. I just have to figure out where I can do this in my yard. Thank you

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