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Pollarded? We were damn near coppiced!


We had a couple of trees pollarded this week. That one on the left? The thing that looks like a stump? That’s one. The tree on the right was pollarded some years ago.

Pollarding is a form of arboriculture practiced around these parts since the far off misty mists of time. You take a tree and lop it straight off about ten feet up from the ground. After which the cutoff bit explodes in new growth: long, straight new branchlets. After five or seven or fourteen years, you lop these off for firewood, or nice straight structural members, or weaving baskets.

Only some kinds of tree will put up with this abuse (ours are willows, I think) but, believe it or not, pollarded trees are healthier and live far longer than maiden (unpollarded) trees. They aren’t top-heavy, they don’t have gnarly branches to split off and they are apparently metabolically in a state of perpetual adolescence. It’s good for the ecowotsit of the forest, too: it lets light in for richer undergrowth and little animules. Hippies love it, though, so…grain of salt.

Coppicing is similar, but they slice off the trees only a couple of feet from the ground. This won’t do if you have livestock or wild deer that would nibble at any new growth.

Once trees have been pollarded, you can let them go wild again. This ultimately results in extraordinarily top-heavy trees and very, very little light penetration. Dark, creepy woods, in other words. Epping Forest is apparently like this. Some of the twisty, spooky trees you see in churchyards — where the upper branches writhe out of gnarly fists — were formerly pollarded.

We only have a small cluster of pollarded trees at the end of the drive, and we contemplated letting them go. But the lads talked us into having them done.

The lads. Yes. We has gardeners!


Comment from S. Weasel
Time: April 8, 2009, 8:07 pm

Oh, and a freshly pollarded tree looks really stupid.

But you wouldn’t believe how much lumber we got off just a couple! I mean, if you were burning that for fuel, you’d need a big patch of woods to support yourself, but still…

Comment from Uncle Badger
Time: April 8, 2009, 8:15 pm

Yes, we has (part-time) gardeners…but I was still out there in the greenhouse at nearly midnight, pricking-out seedlings (stop that sniggering at the back!) and still sowing seeds.

It’s a bloody disease, this gardening. I am just the latest member of the badger clan to have been infected. Curiously, it appears to be a sex-linked gene, too. I got it from the maternal badger, who got it from her father, who got it from his mother. Before that…? Badgers aren’t very strong on family trees.

Sometimes it rages like a fever. Impossible to explain unless you have contracted it.

And if you have – why aren’t you out there digging!?

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: April 8, 2009, 8:19 pm

Old, formerly pollarded trees always make me think of this image from Arthur Rackham. Which, now that I look at it, doesn’t look much like a formerly pollarded tree at all. I guess they’re both…spooky, is all.

Oddly, the great British expert on arboriculture is named Oliver Rackham, but I haven’t been able to discover if they’re related.

Comment from Phineas
Time: April 8, 2009, 10:01 pm

Snicker snicker snicker….gardeners phewy…that’s why there’s saturdays and beer.

Comment from Mrs. Peel
Time: April 8, 2009, 11:10 pm

Yeah, my crepe myrtles got the crap chopped out of them a month or so ago. They’re starting to sprout now.

Comment from bijou
Time: April 9, 2009, 11:13 am

“Sometimes it rages like a fever. Impossible to explain unless you have contracted it.”

Word. Today I am looking forward to a 4 day gardening extravaganza, come rain or shine.

Comment from Gnus
Time: April 9, 2009, 11:34 am

If gardening is that addictive, I’m stayin’ away from it. It appears that there is no 12 step program.

Smoking is all the addiction I need.

Comment from lauraw
Time: April 9, 2009, 11:37 am

Sometimes it rages like a fever. Impossible to explain unless you have contracted it.

I’ve managed to contain it pretty well the last couple years.

However I bought so many varieties of seed a couple weeks ago (mostly lettuces and greens)! There’s no way in Hell I even have the land to grow all this stuff.

BTW Weasel, that top graphic in the left sidebar has been cracking me up/ making me smile for weeks, every time I see it.

Such a serious, grim, resolute little weasel. I love him/her.

Comment from The occassional Lokki
Time: April 9, 2009, 2:04 pm

Sorry Gardeners… as a native son of Pennsylvania where the woods are mightier than the pen, I subscribe to the Naturam expellas furca, tamen usque recurret school of gardening.
Growing up in the land of warm days, cool nights, plenty of rain, and acres of land to maintain, I tend to believe that unless Mother Nature is repeatedly whacked, and often too, she will conquer. In fact, this afternoon, I’m contemplating whether I want to climb up into an oak tree in front of my house, and saw off a few limbs that are about to touch my roof, or pay someone to do it for me instead.

I like flowers, of course, but even with them, I expect the Carolina Jasmine to over-run the place if I don’t watch it.

This, naturally leads to disagreement with Mrs. Lokki who never met a new sprout she didn’t love… and who feels actual pain when I pinch one off.

Thank you Weasel, for teaching me a new defense – I’m no longer cutting back the butterfly bushes, rose, and crepe myrtles until they look dead (and then a touch more), I’m “pollarding” them. You can look it up! 🙂

Comment from Christopher Taylor
Time: April 9, 2009, 2:15 pm

Go out to the pollarded tree and fetch me a switch!

Comment from Nicholas the Slide
Time: April 9, 2009, 3:49 pm

Don’t think it works on saguaro. Want me to check?

(The idea of a pollarded cactus is insanely amusing to me, for some reason… 😆 )

Comment from GrannyJ
Time: April 9, 2009, 6:55 pm

Thank you for the new word (pollard, pollards, pollarding, etc.) We always called trees that were cut like that lollipopped. I wonder how the birds feel about it.

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