Pollarding has been in practice for centuries, and it is an effective way to prune trees into a limited and defined shape and growth pattern every year.
Pollarding is the complete pruning of all growth back to the main branch, and the removal of the entire canopy of a tree at one time. Knowing the correct timeframe to complete the maintenance is necessary to protect the tree from vulnerability to pests, disease, and even sunburn!
When to Pollard:
Pollarding should be completed in the fall months, when the tree is shutting down for the winter and moving into dormancy. Fall pruning does several things, it eliminates the fall photosynthesis process effectively shutting the tree down for the season, and prepares the tree for quick shoot growth in the spring. The cooler weather, and shorter days of fall also protect the newly exposed trunk and branches from sunscald, which would cause several kinds of damage in the long term, and a shedding of its bark in the short term. The fall weather is also when insects are dying off, migrating, or beginning to hibernate, so the exposed branches and fresh wounds on the tree don’t open the tree up to damage from disease and pests that the same wounds would cause in the spring and summer.
Why to Pollard Your Tree:
Trees must be Pollarded forever if they have been pruned in that fashion even once before. A pollarded tree no longer has a growth pattern to support the weight of all of its branches for the long term. Shoot growth, and water spouts that spring out from the tree’s surgical cuts in the spring of the year are thin and rapidly growing, but vastly different from branching growth, and they will grow to choke the tree eventually, or simply begin braking off en mass if they are left un-treated.
Pollarding is an old European method of pruning that has a long history, and while it can be a strain on the tree, it does have its uses, and can be beneficial for the tree over it’s natural life span. Pollarding is a costly expense, and should be carried out by a certified Tree Surgeon or Arborist each year, so it is not a program to begin unless you are confindent of your ability to provide the right maintenance for the tree over the length of time that you live in your house.
How Do I Know If A Tree Has Been Pollarded?
If you’ve purchased a new house but are unsure if you now own a Pollarded tree, check out my checklist list on how to determine if your tree has been Pollarded or not!