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28/07/2013 at 16:40

About 12 years ago we planted several native trees and shrubs in our garden to attract wildlife. There are a rowan, hazels, wayfaring tree, field maple, and crab apple (I'm not sure if we actually planted this one or if it just arrived on its own.) There are also several hollies which have self-seeded. However, our lovely woodland edge habitat is now becoming a nuisance to our very friendly neighbour, who has politely asked us  to cut them back as they are shading his garden too much. Also the hazels are threatening to take over the entire garden! What can we do to keep our neighbour happy but not lose our trees by over-pruning?

I have noticed that he has bird boxes and feeders all along the fence under our trees. If we cut them back to just above fence height, say about 8ft, will the trees die, and might the birds object and desert his nest boxes?

28/07/2013 at 16:55

Hi Carole, as far as the hazels go, you can coppice those (ie cut right back to the ground) and they will quickly grow back without issue (and also provide you with a lot of useful wooden stakes, pea sticks etc.)  You would do that after leaf fall.  I'll leave others to advise you on the rest, but suspect you are best to wait for winter before doing any large scale pruning (except the Holly - early spring to early summer for that.)

28/07/2013 at 17:09

Thank you! A friend has already said 'Get rid of those hollies asap, they'll take over.' I reckon if the hazels go on as they are, we'll be able to supply any local charcoal burners...

28/07/2013 at 17:48

I prune holly hedges in early autumn although any time after potential birds have fledged and before winter is probably ok.

Deciduous trees are best pruned in winter.

28/07/2013 at 23:20

You may find that cutting them back to 8 ft will look very ugly.

It may be better to take some of the trees out completely.  But do not be bullied into doing anything you might regret.  If he has asked you to cut back the trees it is hardly your fault if the birds no longer use the nest boxes.

Some of the trees are berry-bearing and provide food for birds.  I would take out the excess hazels first.

29/07/2013 at 08:23

if you are pruning to restrict growth then you can do it now or before end autumn. Pruning in winter will when the plant is dormant is usually recommended as most pruning is intended to encourage growth. As you want to try and restrict and contain the growth it will be fine for you to do it during the summer

04/08/2013 at 15:54

Carole B,

How big is your garden? Are you being too ambitious in a small plot? Many of the problems I find are simply caused by people planting things without looking 20 or 30 years ahead. Forest trees in a small garden are simply not appropriate. The rowan and wayfaring tree can be selectively thinned and the leading shoot shortened any time now; the hazels, as has been said, can be cut to 6 inches; the field maple could make 60 feet high and 40 feet wide, so think on; and unless the crab is on a dwarfing rootstock it will also turn into a big untidy tree, as will the hollies.

So look around for wildlife friendly trees, shrubs and perennials of a suitable size, and if you want to look after woodland edge habitats perhaps you could go and help with National Trust, Woodland Trust or local Wildlife Trust schemes - they'll be glad to have you.

04/08/2013 at 16:52

field maple is potentially a large tree but is often seen in hedgerows so it can be cut back.

If they're in a line you could add a few hawthorns and keep it to hedge height. the wild life would be happy with that. birds like a hedge for nesting

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