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16 October 2014
Gardener's Corner

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Autumn 2001
John Cushnie On...

Coppicing and pollarding

The main difference between the terms is where the pruning is carried out. Trees and shrubs are coppiced at ground while pollarded plants are standard trees, cut close to their head on top of a clear stem.

The practice has been carried out for thousands of years.There are 600 year old coppiced plants still in production in France.The hard pruning results in a mass of vigorous, thin, whippy, year old shoots. These were, and are, used for basketwork, trellis fencing and hurdles. Coppiced hazel rods make excellent climbing bean poles.

Trees with coloured bark such as willow are suited to hard pruning. Salix alba Vitellina with its golden yellow stems and the orange-scarlet Salix alba Britzensis may be cut hard every second spring to encourage new growths with brighter colouring than the older bark.If they are large enough to pollard the resulting winter display is incredible.

Coppicing Paulownia (Foxglove tree) and Ailanthus (Tree of Heaven) results in 8-10 ft high plants with enormous leaves.They can be grown in the smallest of gardens looking dramatic and providing a tropical jungle feeling.

The young foliage of Eucalyptus gunnii is a better blue with the penny shaped leaves surrounding the stem.This is the foliage loved by flower arrangers.

Eventually the tree will build up a mass of new shoots and some thinning will be nesessary. Cornus alba with its red stems and Cornus stolonifera flaviramea,the yellow stemmed dogwood should be pruned to ground level every spring.Missing one year won’t matter but by the third season the brilliance of the coloured bark has been lost.

An application of general fertilizer and a 2 inch deep mulch after pruning will
get the plants back into growth.

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