Pollarding, as a form of tree trimming, is often seen in the streets of West London (Chiswick High Road, or Hampton for example) where tall beautiful Plane trees have had their most recent growth taken back down to the ‘knuckles’.
Avenues lined with Plane trees look sculptural, artistic, magnificent and certainly give a sense of how insignificant we are next to them! Because of their peeling bark, these trees are often placed next to busy roads as they absorb city fumes.
So what is pollarding and why this method of tree trimming?
Pollarding is a form of tree trimming that’s been around since medieval times.
It’s commonly used as a way of controlling growth in areas that can’t accommodate the tree’s full size, mainly in busy towns and cities or in gardens with close neighbours. It is best suited to young trees that react well to wounding, reducing the risk of decay. It also keeps the tree young and allows for a longer life.
The best time to pollard is in late Winter or early Spring before the leaves have grown. You should cut back the central leader (top upright of the main trunk) to the level of the lateral branches. Remove branches that crisscross and any lower shoots from the trunk of the tree.
You can pollard every one or two years and new stems should be cut back close to the main trunk without cutting into it. This encourages new growth.
Once pollarding has been done it should be continued. This may seem expensive but lapsed pollarding can lead to much more surgery further down the line if larger growth higher up the tree needs to be removed.
Most trees do not respond well to this method of tree trimming. Horse chestnuts are sensitive to this procedure but it can be done…carefully. Limes, Ash and Sycamores respond well but again, this needs to be started when the tree is not ridiculously huge. You’ll kill it or certainly do irreparable damage.