What is tree pollarding?
Tree pollarding is a pruning technique that keeps trees smaller than they naturally grow.
Pollarding is the most significant form of pruning, in which you remove the upper branches leaving just the main framework. A routinely pollarded tree will have characteristic knobs/knuckles at the end of its remaining limbs.
Why pollard trees?
There are many reasons and situations where pollarding trees may be required, some of which we will outline below.
- To restrict a tree from outgrowing its environment.
- To reduce the shade cast by the tree.
- To stop the tree from damaging overhead wires.
- To prevent trees from obscuring street lights, signs or motorists’ and pedestrians’ field of vision.
- To allow the free passage of vehicles.
- To reduce root growth.
- To increase air circulation.
- To limit the amount of leaf and twig debris.
For more information on the pollarding of trees, please read below or contact Guildford Tree Surgeons for a free consultation with a qualified arborist.
When should you begin pollarding a tree?
The pollarding of a tree should begin once it reaches its desired height, and annual or routine pollarding will maintain the tree at that size.
Which trees are suitable for pollarding?
You can pollard many different tree species, and regular pollarding may even rejuvenate a tree and increase its longevity.
Some examples of tree species suitable for pollarding include:
- Fraxinus (Ash)
- Platanus × hispanica (London plane)
- Quercus (Oak)
- Ulmus (Elm)
- Tilia × europaea (Common lime)
- Sambucus (Elder)
- Eucalyptus (Gum)
- Morus (Mulberry)
- Liriodendron (Tulip tree)
- and some species of A. negundo (Acer)
Generally speaking, redbuds and most small broad-leaved deciduous trees can be pollarded. For a successful pollard, the species must produce ‘epicormic growth’ or more commonly known as ‘water shoots’.
That said, larger deciduous trees and evergreens such as conifers do not react well to being pollarded.
What time of year is best for pollarding trees?
In most cases, it’s best to pollard trees in late Winter or early spring. During the Winter, the trees will be more dormant with a lower sap level, meaning less stress and bleeding will likely occur. Limiting the amount of stress and bleeding will reduce the risk of infection and disease.
If you plan on pollarding a tree in spring, it’s essential to do it before the sap rises, as this will result in more significant bleeding (species such as Acer will be more prone to sap bleeding during spring).
For the above reasons, pollarding trees in the Summer is usually a bad practice. However, as always, there are a few exceptions to the rule. For example, some fruit trees will produce more fruit if pollarded during the Summer and Walnut trees also react better to Summer pollarding.
If you are still determining if your tree is suitable for being pollarded, we suggest contacting us for a free site visit, consultation and formal quotation.
Guildford Tree Surgeons’ qualified and knowledgeable arborists have extensive experience pollarding trees in Surrey, Hampshire, West Sussex and South East.
We’ll happily assess your tree and advise if they are suitable for pollarding.
If your tree is suitable and you wish to proceed, we’ll schedule the ideal time to complete the pollard, depending on the species and your individual requirements.
How to pollard a tree correctly
Below we will discuss the correct way to pollard trees in numerous circumstances, but before you pollard any tree, you must check to see if a TPO covers it or it’s in a conservation area. Fail to do so, and you may face significant fines and risk criminal prosecution. At Guildford Tree Surgeons, we’ll check this for you, and if permission is required, we can apply for approval on your behalf if you instruct us to do the work.
Pollarding a young tree
Once the stem or trunk of a young tree has reached your desired height, prune back the branches in late Winter or early Spring.
Choose 3-5 branches to keep as the fundamental framework and prune these right back to the stem. This hard pruning encourages the growth of numerous skinny shoots from each stump.
To help ensure the trees’ health, repeat the pollarding process annually or every second year, pruning back all branches to within 1-2cm of last year’s growth near the pollarded head of the tree.
Avoid damaging the bark on the stem or head, as open wounds can act as entry points for pests and pathogens.
The fresh branches will initially seem weak, growing from under the bark rather than from within the tree, but as the wood lays down annual growth rings, the union will strengthen, forming a thickened base.
Over years of routine pollarding, a head, knob, or knuckle will form where new shoots grow each year.
How to maintain a pollarded tree
The best way to maintain a pollarded tree is through annual pruning or, at a minimum, every 2-3 years.
Pollard maintenance tips:
- Prune branches just above the previous pollarding points.
- Where leaf cover is required, leave a few limbs intact or prune back to a side branch.
How to rejuvenate an overgrown pollarded tree
Due to the potentially unstable and large limbs of a previously pollarded tree, we suggest seeking advice from an experienced and professionally certified arborist. As mentioned earlier, the strengthening of new growth is encouraged by routine pruning. If left to regrow naturally, the unions at the base of the new stems may remain weakened.
Contact Guildford Tree Surgeons’ highly skilled and qualified arborists for expert advice and a free, no-obligation quotation.
Tips to rejuvenate an overgrown pollarded tree:
- Prune back any skinny and weakly-attached branches.
- Consider thinning out the branches and reducing their length to create a basic tree-shaped framework (effectively restoring the pollard to a tree).
- You must cut Horse chestnut trees to a higher point than the original pollards to avoid exposing large amounts of old wood, creating a second set of pollard heads.
- Removing all the branches that have grown from the stumps of the old pollards may be possible. London plane trees respond well to this treatment.
- Retaining branches is beneficial in some cases, such as with hornbeam and ash. Likewise, some oaks do best when you keep substantial portions of their main limbs.
After significant work, you should closely monitor the tree, which will often require future maintenance.
So as you can see, you must consider pollarding trees carefully, and if you’re in any doubt, don’t hesitate to contact a trained professional.
Problems with pollarding trees
Trees with softer wood inclined to produce multiple shoots, such as Populus (poplar) and Salix (willow), may become hazardous. Weakly connected branches can fail at the unions, snap out and fall to the ground. A branch failure can happen without warning and cause significant property damage, harm the public or even threaten their life.
A comparable issue can happen with trees such as Fagus sylvatica (beech), Quercus robur (oak) and Castanea sativa (sweet chestnut). Branches become weighty when regular pollarding lapses, making them more susceptible to breaking away in windy unsettled weather.
At Guildford Tree Surgeons, we suggest sticking to a regular pruning schedule and having a qualified arborist complete routine safety checks.
What is the difference between Pollarding and Topping
Many use “pollarding” and “topping” interchangeably, but the processes and outcomes differ greatly. The significant difference between the two pruning methods is we pollard trees with design and future practicality in mind. In contrast, trees are often topped as a harsh corrective measure to achieve a specific height requirement. In arboriculture, a carefully planned pollard is an art form, whereas topping is generally considered a bad practice.
Topping usually involves cutting mature trees back almost to the top of the stem. Homeowners frequently resort to topping because they’ve underestimated their trees’ size in maturity and because it’s a cheaper alternative to complete tree removal.
Topping trees is an inconsiderate and short-sighted approach, which may lead to future problems, some of which include:
- Topping creates large open wounds, which are unsightly and increase the likeliness of insect infestation, disease, decay and death.
- Topping stimulates rapid vertical growth of shoots, defeating the initial purpose of the topping.
- Topping an older tree can put it into shock, leading to dieback or, in some cases, may kill it entirely.
What can you do if you’ve had a tree topped?
Once you’ve had a tree topped, rectifying the damage will be prolonged and difficult. Your best option is a crown restoration completed by a skilled and experienced arborist. Crown restorations involve removing poorly attached shoots and cultivating better attachments to form healthier branches. This process will take numerous prunings over several years but should someday rejuvenate and reform the tree’s crown.
Contact Guildford Tree Surgeons today for a free site visit, consultation and crown restoration quotation.
What is the difference between Coppicing and Pollarding?
Coppicing is an ancient pruning method used to produce long straight branches, taking advantage of some trees’ ability to regenerate long shoots from the cut base or stool.
The long harvested poles have many uses, being practical for firewood, fencing and sometimes for constructing baskets and other wood products.
Repeated coppicing prevents trees from maturing, lengthening their lifespan, allowing some to live and produce commercially important wood for thousands of years.
Pollarding is a similar technique, yet the cuts are traditionally made higher up the stem so that animals such as cattle and deer couldn’t strip the young growth.
At Guildford Tree Surgeons, we have an in-depth knowledge of coppicing and pollarding trees. Contact our friendly, helpful team today for a free site visit and no-obligation quotation.
After completion of a site visit, we will recommend the techniques which we feel are most suitable to your tree whilst also advising on an aftercare and future maintenance plan.
We most commonly provide tree pollarding in Guildford and its surrounding towns and villages, including Woking, Godalming, Milford, Bramley, Shamley Green, Chilworth, Albury, Shere, West Clandon, Send, Sutton Green, Mayford, Jacobs Wells, Worplesdon, Fairlands, Normandy, Wanborough, Seale, Farnham, and Compton to name just a few.
But we’re also able and willing to provide our tree pollarding services throughout Surrey, Hampshire, Berkshire, West Sussex, London or in any location across the southeast.
For more information on the areas we cover and the services we provide or to arrange for a free, no-obligation consultation, get in touch with a member of the team today by calling 01483 910361 or by clicking the link below.