Pruning systems and treatment…different strokes for different folks

First there is a mountain

Far from being the Zen gardener am I. Just in the door from a spot of pruning during which time my head was full of blog posts.  It’s almost  6pm and there is a huge stretch in the evening light. Is constantly composing while gardening a good thing one wonders. The zen way is more like drawing water  and chopping wood whilst drawing water and chopping wood if you get my meaning.


Google images can be funny. Hard to find drawings of Zen gardeners, this lotus is beautiful however. 

Coppice and Pollard

These are two very useful, women friendly methods of forestry.  Coppicing is when you cut back a newly planted sapling to a couple of buds and it forms a stool from which more stems arise. These are cut/harvested on a cyclical basis. The number of years between cutting varies according to the variety and the use for which the timber is put to. For example Willow whips will be harvested each year for basket weaving while some stools will be left for 3 – 5 years for bio- fuel production. Because the branches are cut when narrow it makes the technique especially handy for female gardeners. I don’t use a chainsaw and I have found a good sharp bow saw very effective.




This is similar to coppicing but it is done at a height. This may be more familiar to you. It is mainly done in towns and cities to restrict growth. Pollarding often looks ugly there but not always.It can be still seen on farms,  where trees naturally pruned by livestock  or the farmer to just the correct height,  provide shelter for animals standing  out in the fields. I would love to see more of that. Too often sheep and cows are huddling close to the hedges in the winter months or cold wet summer days. Today I was removing or harvesting branches from a pollarded Ash out in the front garden. If there isn’t room to grow a large tree like an ash in your garden, pollarding may be the answer. I think pollards are  harvested every season unlike coppicing.  Here is a interesting post about veteran trees ie. old trees

coppicing trees


Timing is very important. Firstly there is the wildlife that need protecting. It’s no use taking out a hedge after February or before November. Birds will be planning their nests. There is another advantage of pruning at this time, often the later the better, for bugs and potential disease carrying insects live on the ends of fruit trees, apples in particular,  these are removed along with the branches. Cornus alba, or dogwood has magnificent stems visible in winter time. Prune them in April. The same goes for ornamental golden willows. See what they are doing here in Lisnaskea Co. Fermanagh

incidentally I have burnt the twigs effectively in the fire this evening confirming that ash wood need not be seasoned to burn. Too bad about the disease, here is the most up to date information regarding that in Ireland. Take heart however as there may be a cure on the way….see the guardian post here

PEAR logs and APPLE logs,
they will scent your room.
CHERRY logs across the dogs,
Smell like flowers in bloom
But ASH logs, all smooth and grey,
burn them green or old;
Buy up all that come your way,
They’re worth their weight in gold.

pollarded trees all growing together by the side of the road


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