Ancient texts on the art of gardening include references to the multitude of shapes of pruned trees and hedges known as topiari. They originated during the reign of Julius Caesar but only became famous when the book Hypnerotomachia Poliphili by Francesco Colonna containing illustrations of a topiary collection was published in 1499. He introduced fantasy shapes and animal and human figures to a wider public.
Practical tree shapes
Until the introduction of barbed wire, topiary trees were frequently used by farmers as livestock fences, land boundaries or sun shades. These were pruned wood walls, hedges and trained lime trees that provided shade in summer but hardly obstructed the light in winter. Trained lime trees are still exceptionally popular.
Decorative trained fruit trees
The training of fruit trees began many years ago due to practical considerations. Close to a wall warmed by the sun, fruit ripens better. This means that by bending, training and shaping the branches against a wall the tree produces better fruit. It was first written about in 1561. The development of new cultivation techniques has given this type of pruning a primarily decorative function. Nevertheless, these trees still yield a maximum and top quality fruit harvest.
The central espalier lime tree
Espalier lime trees are a beautiful and historical application in which the lowest level is supported by a circle of poles. Markets were held, justice was pronounced and news was exchanged under these old trees. Dances were held both under and in the lime trees by fastening a dance floor with space for musicians and dancers to the lowest level of branches. The lime was a central feature of many villages.