Pollarding is a method of pruning trees and shrubs to keep them at a smaller height than they would normally grow.
In Medieval times, pollarding was practised as a means of producing kindling or fodder for livestock.
Today, annual pollarding of street trees is common to manage their size and to reduce the shadow cast by them.
The best time to pollard is late winter/early spring before growth starts.
Once the young tree reaches its required height, pollarding begins by dramatically cutting off all of the limbs. In time a knobbly stump forms, from which long straight sprouts emerge each spring. These sprouts should be removed every one or two years, cutting back to the knobbly stump.
It is a technique often used to create formality in a garden.
I’m in two minds about it – it allows a large tree to be kept in check and fits in well with a formal layout, which I do admire.
It’s very much the fashion in well-tended Flemish gardens.
Yet I sometimes long to see the tree breaking loose and growing with abandon… as Nature intended.