Coppicing for better winter colour

Coppicing refers to pruning shrubs and some trees close to the base of the plant.  Late winter is the best time to coppice and pollard. It promotes colourful young stems, ornamental foliage and rejuvenates plants that tolerate hard pruning.

Coppicing is used to ensure that willows and dogwoods produce a fresh crop of bright coloured stems each winter. It is also a good way to rejuvenate an old shrub which is no longer performing well or has become messy in appearance. To coppice just take a deep breath and cut stems to within 5cm-7.5cm (2in-3in) of the ground, or to last year’s stubs. Do this before new leaves appear in March.

Shrubs and trees suitable for Coppicing

  • Acer pensylvanicum‘Erythrocladum’
  • Beech (Fagus sylvatica)
  • Dogwoods (Cornus), including Cornus sanguinea‘Midwinter Fire’,  and  alba ‘Elegantissima’
  • Elder (Sambucus)
  • Foxglove tree (Paulownia)
  • sericea ‘Flaviramea’ Sweet gum (Eucalyptus gunnii)
  • Hazel (Corylus)
  • Hornbeam (Carpinus)
  • Indian bean tree (Catalpa)
  • Judas tree (Cercis)
  • Lime (Tilia)
  • Ornamental bramble (Rubus cockburnianus)
  • Smoke bush (Cotinus)
  • Toona sinensis‘Flamingo’
  • Tree of heaven (Ailanthus altissima)
  • Willows (Salix), including Salix albavitellina ‘Britzensis’, S. viminalis and S. daphnoides
  • Yew (Taxus)

 

 

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Pleaching trees for a formal garden

 

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Pleaching is a more glamorous use of the skills needed for hedge laying for stock control. This technique is used to create a formal hedge on stilts. Suitable trees are standardised by removing their lower branches and the remaining branches are entwined with those of the tree beside it.

As with espaliers you can now buy trees which have been ready-pleached; the branches of these are trees have already started to be trained and are tied to a bamboo frame. In order to create a formal hedge on stilts you need to plant your trees in an evenly spaced row. Pleaching is not for the faint hearted as it is extremely labour intensive. You need to constantly tie in new stems to the tree’s neighbours, prune regularly and loosen ties which have become too tight.

When to pleach

Always select young, whippy plants that are more easily trained for any pleaching.

Plant in winter and during the early years also prune in the winter when the plants are leafless and dormant.

Train and tie new shoots in over the summer.

Once pleached trees have reached their full extent, prune in the summer, pruning to shape the tree growth and reduce its vigour.

How to pleach

Plant trees in single or parallel rows 1.2m (4ft) apart in the row and at the same spacing between parallel rows

Allow 2.4-3m (8-10ft) between rows to provide a pathway

During the spring and summer growing season, tie in new shoots to the supports. Horizontal stems should be plaited or tied in with those of neighbouring trees

Unnecessary or ungainly shoots should be pruned back to one or two buds from the base during early autumn or winter. Pinch out leading growths to encourage bushiness.

Trees suitable for pleaching

  • Generally trees used for pleaching are deciduous. The most suitable evergreen for pleaching is the evergreen oak (Quercus ilex).
  • Lime (Tilia platyphyllos ‘Rubra’ T. x europea ‘Pallida’
  • Hornbeam (Carpinus betulus)
  • London Plane (Platanus x acerifolia)