Q. What is “pollarding”?
Pollarding is a process of severely cutting back the branches of a tree or shrub. It was originally practiced to provide animal fodder or fire wood without killing the tree. There are a number of reasons that you may want to pollard a tree or shrub: (1) to prevent it from outgrowing its allotted space in the garden, (2) so that the tree produces less shade, and (3) to keep it away from obstructions such as electric wires. Also, pollarded trees can have attractive shapes, although they are not to everyone’s taste. Finally, they live longer than un-pollarded trees.
To pollard a tree it is best to start when the tree is young. Cut down all the major branches to within a few inches of the main trunk. Numerous sprouts will grow from the stub. Every year the new growth needs to be cut back close to the original cut. After a number of years a swollen head will develop and a bushy leafy globe will form. Trees can be pollarded in the spring or in winter when the tree is dormant.
A number of trees respond well to pollarding: London plane tree (particularly suitable), mulberry, oak, tulip tree, catalpa and ash.
Note that “pollarding” is different from “topping” Topping is the process of shortening the branches on the top of a mature tree and is not advised.
For tips on a variety of gardening topics, see our Plant Information Guides.
- Courtesy of NYBG Plant Information Service