pollarding

Covering All Aspects of Landscaping and Tree Work

An expert guide to pollarding trees

What is pollarding, and why would I need it?

The history behind pollarding

Looking back over time, pollarding was one of the methods used to access branches, leaves, and fruits from trees, for practical manufacturing uses, as fuel, or as food for livestock. It encouraged new growth from the tree as further resources over the coming years.

Where coppicing—cutting down the entire tree just above ground level—delivered more of the natural resources they required, livestock would eat the new shoots and growth from the stumps. Pollarding was carried out at heights those animals couldn’t reach, usually above 6ft, delivering regular and sustainable supplies.

Pollarding today

Modern pollarding is far more practical. It’s become an acceptable method of restraining individual trees’ size and growth and creating striking shapes full of dense foliage that landscapers, designers, and architects desire.

Pollarding terms

Pollarding is the act of reducing the branches and growth of the tree, so the resulting stripped back tree is known as a pollard. Before pollarding, the tree would be called a maiden or maiden tree.

Lollipop shaped trees

When carried out to a classic delivery—with professional care and regular maintenance—pollards often assume a unique look in the shape of a lollipop. These trees are often seen on the continent, lining market squares, boulevards, stately homes and castles.

Their uber-dense canopies provide excellent shade, acting as giant parasols during the hottest months of the year.

before Pollarding image
image After Pollarding
1. The benefits of pollarding

Practical reasons:

  • Reducing the amount of shade delivered by a tree.
  • Preventing the growth and size of a tree to extend beyond its desired limits.
  • Protecting nearby buildings, structures, other trees and surrounding plant life.
  • Evading damage of overhead cables and telephone wires.
  • Resolving interference with traffic and the obstruction of road signs and streetlights.
  • Thinning the crown to improve air circulation through the tree.
  • Extending the life of a tree that would be removed if too large for its designated space.

Aesthetic reasons:

  • Delivering pleasing shaped canopies.
  • Cultivating compact trees, suitable for the restrictions of their location.
  • Designing a specific size and shape of the tree canopy, fit for purpose.
2. How to pollard a tree

Ideally, young trees respond the best to pollarding. The perfect size and shape can be encouraged from its earliest years, delivering the required growth and ideal result.

For older trees, the typical pollarding technique removes all but 4 or 5 of its main branches. Each of the remaining branches is cut back to a vastly shorter, preferred length. Vigorous twiggy growth develops at the ends of the stumps creating the dense foliage required by designers and arborists.

This new bulk of sprouting twigs is known botanically as epicormic growth and more commonly as water shoots. They can be considered undesirable where they grow spontaneously, but when instigated through pollarding, they are boosted into mass production with regular trimming. This method produces the dense foliage that is then pruned into the most desired shapes.

Where new shoots appear, the branches are often held weakly in place. This is due to rapid growth from under the bark instead of from within the tree. Over time, the wood develops further growth rings, strengthening the shoots’ joining sections and creating a thickened base. As more years pass by, this growth becomes the swollen looking pollard head where new shoots grow each year.

3. Pollarding schedules

To maintain a defined tree size and shape, a pollard needs regular attention every 2 or 3 years. 

If you’re hoping to create a renewable supply of firewood or to provide branches used for manufacturing, then every 5 years is a better bet.

Periodic maintenance and trimming take time and effort, leading to increased costs. Failing to administer what the tree needs to grow correctly will lead to congested branch systems and damage. Lack of action and maintenance also delivers a weak definition and an unsightly crown.

Which trees are suitable for pollarding?

  • Ash
  • Lime
  • Elm
  • Sycamore
  • Willow
  • Oak
  • Poplar
  • Elder
  • London Plane
  • Fruit trees
  • Eucalyptus
  • Sweet Chestnut
  • Tulip trees
  • Some Acer species
1. Can you rejuvenate an overgrown pollard?

An out of hand or overgrown pollard can take a lot of work to restore its best health and condition. This is a job for a professional tree surgeon, as the wrong efforts can severely damage the tree, its growth, and usefulness.

Surgery is often required to remove larger parts of the tree at height; work that only a professional should ever carry out.

It’s the arborist or tree surgeon’s job to decide which branches can be thinned or shortened, or whether to remove all of the branches from the pollard’s stumps for the best outcome.

2. When is the best time to pollard trees?

Most trees respond well to pollarding during the winter, or even early spring. When deciduous trees shed their leaves, it’s easier for the arborist or tree surgeon to observe the tree’s structure and where the best places to carry out their cuts are.

However, there isn’t one ideal time for all types of trees. It’s another reason why you should always consult a professional tree surgeon about the work you need. For example, July is a better time to prune walnut trees as long as you can avoid scorching. Summer is also a better time for Acer species as they’re prone to bleeding sap during the spring.

Wherever possible, avoid pollarding in autumn, as pruned cuts will be susceptible to decay fungi.

3. Is pollarding unhealthy or bad for trees?

If carried out without the correct experience or understanding, poorly administered pollarding can severely damage or even kill a healthy tree. When carried out correctly, it can enhance the tree’s health, extend its life, and save many neglected or overgrown trees from being removed or destroyed.

Professional pollarding carried out by the experts

Our qualified and experienced team understand all the nuances of pollarding, and how to create those beautiful lollipop shapes you’d love to see in your gardens, woodlands, or lining your property. We can also pollard your trees to protect your homes and buildings while providing shade and cover where it’s needed.

Our team is based in Newmarket and is central for all work in the Suffolk and East Anglia regions. Whatever your reason for restricting a tree’s size and growth, we’re ready, willing, and happy to help.

For all domestic and commercial tree surgery or landscape gardening projects carried out at the highest level, call us now:

 Tel: 01440 821 092 or Mob: 07787 915 423