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Thursday
Jan092014

Pollarding

Pollarded willows

More ways to torture trees. Coppicing was for woodlands where new shoots are easily harvested, springing as they do from ground level. Pollarding is similar except that the original tree trunk is cut off at 8-10 feet high.  This was used where the land was used for grazing and new shoots at ground level would be grazed off.  
Stobbing is when you cut a tree off at head height and so do not have to use a ladder.  Ancient practices these, all meant to control the height of a tree to lessen the shade cast by a large canopy, to structurally strengthen the tree by reducing the proportion of canopy to trunk girth, or to provide easily accessible building materials.

Both coppicing and pollarding are finding new life in permaculture management of biomass, but pollarding's longer history is, like coppicing, that of harvesting even, small-diameter trunks off an existing and vigorous root system. This is incredibly ugly looking in the winter – massacred stumps, and when in leaf, extremely formal, pollarding being one of the methods used to control avenues of trees in nineteenth century gardens.  When you think of it, it is rather like turning tree trunks into pilotis: the open ground plane, buildings floating above. 

1913: pollarded elms, ten each side, on the avenue to Christchurch Priory, Dorset. They succumbed to Dutch Elm Disease and were felled in 1975. The local history article from which this photograph has been taken seems to think it a good thing, the avenue masked the architecture of the priory, which now sits baldly on its bare lawn. No one cared to replant the avenue. Local history societies have a lot to answer for.

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