Pollarding Trees: Everything You Need To Know and More...

Written by Joshua Mcdowell

Arborist Manager

Yarra Eco Pty Ltd

Arborist Manager at Yarra Eco Pty Ltd

Thanks in advance for sharing this article.

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Pollard pruning, commonly known as pollarding, is the process of removing all of the outer branches and foliage of a tree, and also any smaller internal branches, so that the tree is reduced back to only its structural components.

Pollarding is a practice that is used to reduce a mature tree that has gotten too big. Once a tree has been pollarded, provided it is maintained annually or biennially, the tree will remain pretty much the same size forever. During the ‘growth months’, a pollarded tree will produce a large mass of growth. This process is ideal for somebody who likes the shade that their tree provides, however does not like the size that it has become.

The practice of pollarding trees began in Europe, where they didn’t have space for large trees inside of walled cities. They could then use the long straight growth for things such as weaving, boat building, heating or cooking. Pollarding to harvest the wood is similar so the practice of coppicing, which is often done to hazel trees. The main difference is that coppices are cut at ground level, whereas pollards are not.

The new growth that a pollarded tree will put on during spring and summer, is called epicormic growth, or ‘sucker growth’. It’s fast-growing, long, straight, and doesn’t generally have a very strong attachment to the tree. A pollarded tree will produce epicormic growth in a shock response because it’s been harshly pruned. It does this to put out a large mass of leaves in a short amount of time so that it can get nutrients. The fact that epicormic growth is fairly weak at the attachments, makes it important to repeat the pollarding process annually or biennially, as the weight from a fast-growing branch that has been growing for multiple years often proves too much and creates broken branches or ‘snap outs’.

A pollarded tree in a back garden

When pollarding a tree, it is still important to cut back to growth points during the initial reduction. After this, the only thing left to do as maintenance is cut off any epicormic shoots, which is fairly self-explanatory. They should, however, still be cut to their ‘branch collar’ to compartmentalise properly. For a tree to be eligible and appropriate for pollard pruning, it must possess the ability to form vigorous epicormic growth. It must also compartmentalise effectively.

Pollarding is more commonly seen in European countries. This is because only certain trees deal well with being pruned harshly, and most of the trees that cope best with the pollard style of pruning, happen to be native to that part of the world. Some common examples would be Fraxinus excelsior (European ash) or Platanus x Acerifolia (London plane).

The process of pollarding is sometimes used to create a certain aesthetic, the trees are an extremely unique shape immediately after being pruned, and create the ‘perfect lollipop canopy’ a few months into regrowth, however, this style isn’t for everybody as they can initially appear quite bare to somebody who isn’t sure what to expect.

Thanks for taking the time to read this article. If you would like to discuss any of the information mentioned, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us at Yarra Eco Pty Ltd.

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