What Is Pollarding? Is Pollarding Bad for Trees?

Pollarding is a pruning technique arborists do for certain reasons. Tree pruning is a scientific, or we’d rather say, a logical way of trimming trees based on procedures and techniques. Without the techniques being correctly performed, trees may be harmed than taken care of.

Tree pruning may not be your typical topic of interest, but if you are fond of trees, your perspective on tree pruning may put you on the next level of knowing how trees are tended in your neighbourhood or community.

Why are trees pollarded?

Pollarding is a tree pruning process by trimming its crown. The crown is the part of the plant that represents the aboveground or topmost that includes the leaves, branches, or stems. A crown is more noticeable when it can serve as a canopy when it’s lush and thick, beneficial as a shade or covering against the sun or even light rain.

Traditionally, ancient Romans were known to apply the pollarding when they wanted trees to yield more dense foliage from their branches. This was dated back as early as the first-century BCE where Europeans extended the practice in the medieval times. Today, trees of significant crowns and are targets to maintain a certain height for various purposes are pollarded.

Benefits of pollarding

The benefits of pollarding go a long way, even if others presumed that it’s a bad habit. Let us enumerate the reasons why trees are pollarded:

  • According to arborists, pollarding improves the health of trees.
  • With significant heights wood trees can reach, they become hazards to the community and environment. Hence, to reduce the risk of falling huge branches and clouding the surface with rotten stems and leaves including fruits, preventive measures are applied to lessen these dangers, making the trees detrimental free.
  • Pollarded trees are sometimes needed for transplantation. As part of pruning, trees which have not been tended for trimming may hamper further growth of new branches and leaves. This also allows the trees to bear fruit when they have to.
  • While trees are universal sources of energy and food, they are pollarded to eliminate branches for harvesting wood products. As we know, wood products such as furniture mean a lot to people as they depend on it for their daily living. Logs are used for many good purposes that intend to sustain life, whether it is for commercial or not. For example, pollarded trees of eight-year intervals are sufficient materials for fencing and for building boats. These wood products have sturdy materials formidable enough to use for rough situations. Aside from fences, for example, hazel branches can be used for basket weaving or garden construction materials.
  • The leaves, flowers, and branches are the trees’ crown of glory. A substantially pollarded tree may yield abundant flowers, and eventually fruits.
  • In farm living, fallen leaves are collected as fodder to feed for livestock.
  • Wood from trees is also a great source of fuel.

Depending on the purpose, the pollarding period may vary. Some will be okay with one to three years if intended for collecting hay, and around five years if it is intended to collect timber.  And to avoid the death of the tree, some are cut depending on their seasonal bloom.

Pollarding for aesthetic purposes

In the real sense of pruning, pollarding is done to trees primarily for aesthetic purposes. It means cutting the trunk to be able for the tree to produce massive or dense branches. If you have seen lollipop trees, their purpose is to make a place attractive but sometimes odd. Lollipop trees usually don’t have many leaves when pollarded that’s why they look different. 

In Essex, England, beech trees and for other trees around Europe, trees are pollarded for practical and aesthetic reasons:

  • Parks need to look neat; local city officials ensure that trees are well lined or compact to prevent the excess branches and leaves from encroaching property and from avoiding leaves to intertwine with power lines.
  • Private landscapes have limited space but need to keep their lawn immaculate by having their trees cut or removed when they serve an eyesore.
  • Rather than cutting down trees and having access to its wood, pollarding helps in preserving the tree and keeping it together to grow over the years and benefit from it in cycles.

Suitable trees for pollarding

When resorting to pollarding, it is important to note that this method is not always applicable to all kinds of tree species. If you plan on involving yourself in pollarding, this process should start as early as the tree is young and do it every year or more.

Examples of trees suitable for pollarding:

  • Oak
  • Tulip
  • Sycamore
  • Ash
  • Yew
  • Maple

Is pollarding bad?

Pollarding lets you remove the tree’s central leader and its lateral branches. The height where you start pruning should be at least 6 feet from the ground to prevent grazing animals from reaching for new growth.

You never have to worry such that your tree may look like a stick after trimming because the crown will eventually regrow. Do the trimming while your young tree is dormant, early Spring or Winter. Why choose young trees? Young trees are less prone to disease and they regrow faster than the older ones.

As for many, pollarding is a bad practice. And to shun this notion, the bad practice for trimming trees refers to topping, not pollarding. Topping is the method where the top section of the tree or central trunk is cut, and it’s performed commonly to old trees. Thus, regrowth is hampered and discouraged.

For best measures, pollarding a tree should be consistent and periodic. The cycle will depend on the purpose of pollarding. For landscaping, every two years is enough. But if you intend to devote yourself to pollarding a tree for energy and sustainable resources, pollarding should take every five years.

If you started pollarding and stopped, the tree will eventually suffer from damage and diseases brought about by overgrowth of heavy branches and leaves, leaving it open to microbial attacks.

Talk to our surgeons

Serving all towns in Hampshire, West Sussex, and Surrey, our tree surgeons are ready to help. Our Alpine Tree Surgeons team is always here to lend a hand to deal immensely with any tree situation. We are one of those fantastic tree companies in the UK that are ARB approved, with 24-hours emergency service, and with a reliable team you can depend on to have the job done.

Call us now and check our services on our website. If you need us, Alpine Tree Surgeons will go straight right to you!