Pleaching – the art of taming nature no1

The art of taming nature – the training, pruning, shaping of shrubs and trees has been a feature in grand estates for hundreds of years, but now features strongly as a design statement in modern gardens.

Pleached avenue

Pleached avenue

Pleaching usually refers to the interweaving of the branches of trees to form a sort of stilt hedge and was a feature of 17th and 18th century formal gardens creating grand allées  when planted in double rows, directing the visitor around the garden.

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French gardens 2013 161

It was much used by Le Nôtre , above at Versailles and below in the Tuileries garden.

Pleached horsechestnut allee, Tuileries gardens, Paris.

Pleached horsechestnut allee, Tuileries gardens, Paris.

It is very effective for

  • dividing large spaces into “rooms”,
  • giving a sense of enclosure,
  • providing a green screen at the height of your neighbours’ windows
  • creating avenues and emphasising a view or focal point
  • blocking out an ugly view beyond the boundary of a garden
  • providing structure whilst using little space

Suitable trees are those with smoothbarked trunks, such as limes and hornbeams, but evergreen ones, such as Photinia or Laurel,can be used too. The French particularly are masters of the art, and it’s quite commonplace in the gardens of Flemish Belgium.

Mature pleached trees getting a trim in a French town

Mature pleached trees getting a trim in a French town

Pleaching gives height and elegance to a garden, whilst taking up minimal space at ground level.

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Pleached trees knit together to form a hedge on “stilts”

Mature pleached trees retain their sculptural quality even in winter

dec 13 001 You can buy ready pruned specimens or you can build a structure and train the trees yourself on bamboo poles trained between stakes.

Autumn 2013 618

You want a strong leader.Tie in young stems using soft string, cutting off those stems growing the wrong way; the adjacent limbs will blend together over time. Regular pruning is required every winter to keep in shape; you want to keep the trunk free of all growth.

Trees pleached into a shade umbrella.

Trees pleached into an “umbrella” for shade and privacy

This historic art of taming nature adds elegance, structure and privacy to your garden – from a stately home to an overlooked city patio.

4 thoughts on “Pleaching – the art of taming nature no1

    • Yes, like topiary and all the other “taming nature” skills, a little goes a long way for ordinary folk (ie, no team of gardeners) – really useful in small doses in city gardens, otherwise something for the showcase gardens.

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  1. Pingback: GQT: Pleached hedges | Old School Garden

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