Coppicing and pollarding are two related pruning techniques that can be used on various trees to create attractive effects, from colourful young stems to large, bold foliage. These pruning techniques are simple to master and can make a real difference to your garden.
Coppicing is a traditional woodland craft used to produce strong young stems for fencing, fuel or building. It involves cutting multiple stems down to the ground. This encourages the plant to send up vigorous new shoots.
Pollarding is similar to coppicing but plants are cut back to a stump, rather than down to the ground. Use a saw to remove all the branches from the tree at the trunk height you’ve chosen. New stems will sprout from this point, and can be cut back again the following year or in a few years’ time.
Here are some plants to try these techniques on.
Coppicing can produce a show of coloured stems on willow or dogwood. It can also keep certain large trees, such as paulownia, catalpa and Ailanthus altissima, more like shrubs, but with giant leaves that give a bold, jungly effect. Using a saw, cut down all branches to ground level.
Try it on: hazel, Cornus alba and Cornus sanguinea, paulownia, catalpa, Ailanthus altissima, Judas tree (Cercis canadensis ‘Forest Pansy’), hornbeam, cotinus, beech and Eucalyptus gunnii
Coppicing hazel (photo credit: Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew)
Pollarding can be used to keep trees such as willow to a moderate size, or to stimulate them to produce brightly coloured new shoots, in a similar way. Use a saw to remove all the branches from a tree at the trunk height you’ve chosen. New stems will sprout from this point and can be cut back again the following year or in a few years’ time.
Try it on: willow, London plane, lime, ash, elder, eucalyptus, mulberry
Cut stems of a pollarded shrub
When to coppice and pollard
The best time to coppice and pollard is late winter or early spring.