Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Hort Art: Pollarded Trees at Filoli

London plane trees (Platanus x hispanica) line the entrance to the Filoli visitor center.

Last spring I talked a little bit about pollarding where most of the pictures were taken from the gardens in Paris.  The pictures featured the gnarled and enlarged knobs of the dormant trees.  With my recent visit to the Filoli gardens, I took pictures of pollarded trees - now crowned with green foliage.  

I am really fascinated by the discipline that is involved in pollarding a tree.  A well trained tree is achieved only through the consistency and patience of a gardener.  And although I'd like to adopt pollarding as a pruning technique, it would be a real challenge since it requires special equipment and manpower to do the job.   

The process of pollarding starts with hard pruning.  The major limbs of a tree (not a seedling) is cut back to achieve a desired shape.  However the success of pollarding rests on the annual pruning of the new growths around the cut.  When this is done properly, the process results in the unusual bulging of the underlying stems which makes the trees look interesting.  If the pruning is missed for a year or so, the tree loses its intended shape.

Disciplined shape

Unusually-bulged stems.
Pollarding helps trees maintain the same height and canopy cover through the years.

Pollarding: discipline-instilled on tree and discipline-required from gardener.

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