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Friday
Jan102014

Pleaching

Pleached hornbeam: Carpinus betulus

More ways to make a tree not look like itself.  Pleaching, more or less, is where a hedge is elevated on bare tree trunks, to provide shade or privacy while leaving the ground plane free.  How it differs from pollarding is that branches above a certain point are bent and interwoven, much like an espalier, so that the individual crown is lost, and all the crowns work together to form a solid whole.  

Invariably, the images for all these ways of using and reshaping trees come from Europe, and Britain in particular, from classic avenues to agricultural hedges.  Space is tight, people are close, edges must be maintained, land marked.  It is almost a form of manners, necessary to the functioning of civility.

But we don't do it that way here.  I live in an old inner city neighbourhood with a picket fence.  Twenty years ago, the entire street had picket fences, one by one they have been removed, and new infills don't do fences at all.  It seems a suburban kind of thing: no front fences, your front yard bleeding out onto the road, little delineation between private and public realms.  But nobody uses their front yards anyway, so perhaps it doesn't matter.  Prairie city hedges tend to be the ubiquitous caragana which can take a good four feet off each side of your lot, eight feet sorely missed.  I've never seen one such hedge pleached; however, my hedges are now on notice: pleaching ahead.  

We seem strangely reluctant to shape nature – is it a North American new city thing?  Simply planting something is enough, then we let it go.  Our relationship with trees and bushes is quite laissez-faire until the tree becomes annoying and it is chopped down altogether.  What a relationship.  I like you till you become too big then I'll kill you. 

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