How to Design and Install a Star Jasmine Trellis or “Espalier”

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Growing up I remember my parents spending at least a couple hours on the weekend at our local nursery. Gardening was a sweet hobby they shared and we were along for the ride. California’s moderate climate and fertile soil left them with unlimited planting options and I was always amazed at their ability to identify so many different types of plants. Now think of all the apps for that! Anyway, here in Texas we are more limited with extreme heat, shorter growing seasons and long periods of drought.

We have this giant stark wall on the exterior of our home that I have always had grand plans of growing some type of flowering vine in a diamond pattern. I’m sure you’ve see this look before, it is a very chic, European country look. I had no idea what these things were called so I started to scour the internet. I was able to dig up a few inspiration photos on google and Pinterest, mostly without credit to a source and that was about it. I did discover that this “European-country look” does in fact take roots in Europe. This diamond pattern look I was after is a form of “espalier”, or the art of training trees, shrubs, or vines to grow in a flat design pattern, typically against brick wall, but really any flat surface. Espaliers have been used in Roman Gardens, French Chateau, and British estates for centuries to produce fruit inside the walls of castles and also to simply add decorative character to solid walls or fence lines.

I loved this inspiration photo I found on Pinterest, source unknown so please tag me in the comments if you know who I can credit.

Designer here is Sylvia Martin. As you can see, espalier can also be used to to highlight or divide one area of the garden from another.

Considering this technique has been used for centuries, you would think there would be a number of resources online, tips and tricks to grow these beauties. While Nick and I rarely shy away from a DIY, neither of us have particularly green thumbs so we knew we needed low maintenance on the vines themselves. I have always loved the look and smell of jasmine, so when I learned that while star jasmine is of course not native, it is well adapted to Central Texas climate, I was elated. The lovely folks at our local nursery (highly recommend Barton Springs nursery if you’re an Austin local) even said the vines could grow as much as 6 feet in one year.

After all this research, I had to share the idea with my dad who has always had an eye for landscaping. Of course…. he was familiar with the method and history of espalier. And, surprise! He actually volunteered to take on the project so he’s the DIYer in this story. From here on out, we collaborated on the design, but he was the brains (and muscle) of the operation. Love you, Dad!

Planning the Space

Planning and Design: Before diving into the installation process, take some time to plan your trellis. Consider the available space, sunlight exposure, and the desired height and width of your trellis. We had the perfect large wall on the exterior of our house but as I was browsing for inspiration photos, I saw that many people opt to install these on fence lines.

Star jasmine thrives in full sun to partial shade, so choose a location that provides these light conditions. Ensure the trellis has enough space for the jasmine to climb and spread its fragrant blossoms. Our blank wall is South facing so it gets just the right amount of sun all day. This vine is best in a zone 8-10 climate and will not cause damage to the foundation like some other types of vines.

Once you choose the right location, you can jump to the fun part of planning the design. We have a whole lot of geometric shapes going on in our backyard with the edition of our new hardscaping with concrete pavers. It was important to us to make sure the scale looked right with the pavers–ideally smaller or larger in scale.

Start with these materials
  • Trellis system kit which includes: stainless steel cable, 24 pieces of stainless steel wall hubs, 24 pieces of screws, 24 pieces of wall anchors, 48 pieces of plastic wire caps, 1 hexagon wrench (these can all be purchased separately but this kit worked perfectly for us)
  • Ladder
  • Nails
  • Hammer
  • Drill (and bit set)
  • Measuring tape
  • Chalk line reel
  • Laser level (highly recommend investing in one of these!)
  • Florist wire
Step by step:
  1. Decide on the total width and height of the lattice you want to build.  If you want squares set on point, the length and width measurements need to be divisible evenly by the same number (i.e. a 12′ x 10′ space would support either 1′ or 2′ diagonal measure squares)
  2. Lay out your project with pencil, paper, or some computer drawing program…. whatever works for you to make sure that you like what you see
  3. To set up the space for building the lattice, put a nail at each corner of the space. Use a bubble or laser level to align your outline with some strong architectural line in the space. If the material of your space does not permit nails, simply mark each spot
  4. Place one end of the chalk string reel on one of the corner nails or marks, then extend the chalk string to the nail or mark on the diagonal corner of the space and “snap” the chalk line to leave a clear chalk line from corner to corner
  5. Repeat this process on the other diagonal and you should have a clear “x” across the project space
  6. Place nails or marks at the evenly spaced intervals on both the horizontal and vertical boundaries of the project
  7. “Snap” chalk lines between each of the horizontal/vertical diagonal pair of nails or marks
  8. When finished, you should have lines marking the outlines of all the squares and half-squares on end in your project space, just like your drawing
  9. Install a metal stand at each nail or mark on the periphery of your space and at each place where two chalk lines intersect. String the stainless steel wire through these metal stands
  10. Don’t even think about measuring to place the stands instead of using the chalk lines, it’s very time consuming and you are unlikely to get the stands in the right places!
  11. After you have the stands and wire in place, use a water hose with a nozzle sprayer to get rid of the chalk lines,
  12. Attach your vines to the stainless steel wires

Here was the finished product. Would you believe it took less than two months for the jasmine vines to take off this high on the wall?

You can see I need work on “training” a few pieces by wrapping them around the wire in some places in a couple of these more current photos. Just wrap the the wispy vines around the wire. Otherwise use the floral wire to wrap multiple vines and consolidate thicker sections of growth.

Spring can’t come soon enough when some blooms start to pop!

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