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Pollarding trees is useful and pretty

Sunday, January 27, 2002

You either like the look of a tree that has been pollarded, or you do not. It's not a natural look. This time of year, a pollarded tree presents a trunk capped by a clubbed head, or a trunk with short limbs that are capped by clubbed heads.

In summer, a mass of vigorous shoots wildly bursts forth from that head or heads. Pollarding is useful for lending a formal appearance to a tree, and for controlling the size of an otherwise large-growing tree.

Pollarding, which originated centuries ago in Europe, is a specialized technique arrived out of need, as a means to harvest firewood without killing a tree or letting sprouts near ground level be munched by grazing animals.

Deciduous, fast-growing trees that do not mind being cut, repeatedly are ideal candidates for pollarding.

You can start creating a pollarded tree right now. Remove branches along the trunk of a young tree to give the tree a high head, with at least 5 or 6 feet of clear trunk. You determine how high a head you want for your tree -- it's all for looks.

For the pollarded tree destined to become a trunk with a clubbed head, cut back the trunk sometime in winter to the height you want for that head.

A pollarded tree needs to be pruned every winter, or at least every second or third winter. Pruning is easy: Just lop all young stems back to within a half-inch or so of where they began growing the previous season. Repeatedly lopping stems back to that point is what develops a knob atop the trunk or at the ends of the scaffold limbs. Prune early so you can enjoy the leafless look of the tree.

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