What is Tree Pollarding?

Pollarding a tree

What is Pollarding a Tree?

Tree pollarding is a pruning technique that involves the removal of all the branches of a tree, leaving only the trunk and a few large branches.

This technique is used to control the size and shape of a tree and to promote the growth of new branches.

Pollarding is typically done on trees that are too large for their location, or that have outgrown their intended purpose. It is a common practice in urban areas, where trees are often planted in small spaces and need to be kept under control.

The process of pollarding involves cutting back the branches of a tree to a specific point, known as the “pollard head”. This is usually done in the winter, when the tree is dormant, to minimize the stress on the tree. The pollard head is then allowed to grow new shoots, which will form the new branches of the tree.

While pollarding can be an effective way to manage the growth of trees, it is important to note that it can also be harmful if done incorrectly. 

Over-pollarding can weaken the tree and make it more susceptible to disease and other problems. Therefore, it is important to consult with a professional arborist before attempting to pollard a tree.


At Evolution Tree Surgery, we’re experienced in domestic and commercial tree pollarding and offer competitive prices for our services in Newbury, Berkshire, Reading and the surrounding areas. 

If you’d like a free quote, get in touch with our team. 

In this guide, we discuss the history of pollarding, why trees are pollarded, best practices, and common mistakes to avoid, and we answer all of your FAQs. 

So, let’s jump in.

What is the History of Pollarding?

Tree pollarding is an ancient practice that dates back to the Roman era. The word “pollarding” comes from the Middle English word “pol,” which means “head.” 

Pollarding involves cutting off the upper branches of a tree, leaving only the main trunk and lower branches intact.

Ancient Practices

In ancient times, pollarding was used to produce wood for fuel, furniture, and other household items. Pollarded trees were also used to provide shade and shelter for livestock. 

The practice was widespread in Europe and was commonly used in urban areas to control the growth of trees.

Development in Urban Landscaping

In the 18th and 19th centuries, pollarding became popular in urban landscaping. It was used to create a uniform appearance in streets and parks and to prevent trees from obstructing buildings and views. 

Pollarding was also used to prevent trees from damaging property and to reduce the risk of falling branches.

Today, pollarding is still used in urban areas, but it is less common than it once was. Many people prefer to let trees grow naturally, and there is a growing movement to preserve old-growth forests and natural habitats. 

However, in some cases, pollarding is still used as a management tool to control the size and shape of trees and to promote healthy growth.

Why Are Trees Pollarded?

Tree Health

Pollarding can be beneficial for the overall health of a tree. By removing the upper branches, pollarding encourages the growth of new shoots from the trunk, which can result in a denser and stronger canopy. 

Pollarding can also help prevent the spread of diseases and pests by removing infected or infested branches before they can affect the rest of the tree.

Aesthetic Purposes

Pollarding can also be used for aesthetic purposes, as it can create a unique and attractive shape for a tree. This technique is often used in formal gardens and parks to create a uniform appearance among trees. 

Pollarding can also be used to control the size of a tree, making it a useful technique for urban environments where space is limited.

Safety Considerations

Pollarding can also be beneficial for safety reasons. By removing the upper branches, pollarding can help prevent branches from falling and causing damage or injury. This is especially important in urban areas where trees are close to buildings, roads, or power lines. 

Pollarding can also help prevent the growth of weak branches that could be susceptible to breaking in high winds or storms.

Pollarding a tree by professional tree surgeons

Common Tree Species for Pollarding

Deciduous Trees

Deciduous trees are those that lose their leaves in the autumn. Here are some common deciduous tree species that are suitable for pollarding:

  • Willow (Salix spp.): Willows are fast-growing trees that respond well to pollarding. They are often used for basketry, as their flexible branches can be woven into intricate shapes.
  • Oak (Quercus spp.): Oak trees can be pollarded to produce a dense, bushy growth. This can be useful for creating a windbreak or a screen.
  • Hornbeam (Carpinus betulus): Hornbeam is a popular tree for pollarding, as it produces a dense, leafy crown. It is often used for hedging.

Evergreen Trees

Evergreen trees are those that retain their leaves throughout the year. Here are some common evergreen tree species that are suitable for pollarding:

  • Holly (Ilex spp.): Holly trees can be pollarded to produce a dense, bushy growth. This can be useful for creating a privacy screen.
  • Yew (Taxus spp.): Yew trees can be pollarded to produce a dense, bushy growth. They are often used for topiary, as their foliage can be shaped into intricate forms.
  • Bay Laurel (Laurus nobilis): Bay laurel is a popular tree for pollarding, as it produces a dense, leafy crown. It is often used for hedging.

Best Practices and Tips

Pollarding is a pruning technique that requires skill and knowledge to ensure the health and longevity of trees. 

Here are some best practices to follow when pollarding trees:

Timing

Pollarding should be done during the dormant season, which is usually in the winter. This is because the tree is less likely to experience stress during this time, and it allows the tree to recover before the growing season begins.

Frequency

Pollarding should be done on a regular basis, typically every one to three years. This helps to maintain the desired size and shape of the tree while minimizing the stress on the tree.

Cutting Technique

When pollarding, it is important to make clean cuts using sharp tools. The cut should be made just above the previous cut to avoid leaving a stub, which can lead to disease and decay.

Safety

Pollarding can be dangerous work, so it is important to take safety precautions. This includes wearing appropriate personal protective equipment, such as gloves and eye protection, and using a secure ladder or harness when working at heights.

Aftercare

After pollarding, it is important to monitor the tree for any signs of stress or disease. Watering and fertilizing may be necessary to help the tree recover and promote new growth.

Common Pollarding Mistakes to Avoid

Tree pollarding is a delicate process that requires careful attention to detail, and many people make mistakes that can damage the tree and even cause it to die. 

Here are some common mistakes to avoid when pollarding a tree:

1. Over-Pollarding

One of the most common mistakes is over-pollarding. This occurs when too much of the tree is removed, leaving it vulnerable to pests and disease. It’s important to remember that pollarding should only be done on younger trees and should not be done on mature trees.

2. Pollarding at the Wrong Time

Pollarding should only be done during the dormant season, which is usually in the winter. If pollarding is done during the growing season, it can cause the tree to go into shock and even die.

3. Incorrect Pollarding Cuts

Another common mistake is making incorrect pollarding cuts. Pollarding cuts should be made at the collar of the branch, which is the area where the branch meets the trunk. If the cut is made too close to the trunk, it can damage the tree and cause it to die.

4. Not Maintaining the Pollarded Tree

After pollarding, it’s important to maintain the tree properly. This includes regularly removing any new growth that appears and ensuring that the tree is properly pruned. Neglecting to maintain the tree can result in it becoming overgrown and unhealthy.

Hiring a Professional Tree Surgeon for Pollarding

Pollarding is a pruning technique aimed at maintaining trees and shrubs at a smaller size than their natural growth. Typically initiated when the plant reaches a specific height, annual pollarding helps limit the plant’s growth to that height.

It’s important to note that pollarding is not suitable for all tree species. Some trees may not respond well to this technique or may be more prone to disease or decay if pollarded.

Therefore, it is recommended to consult with a professional arborist or tree surgeon who can assess the tree’s suitability for pollarding and carry out the pruning process correctly.

Team at Evolution Tree Surgery - Tree Services in Newbury, Berkshire

If you’re looking for professional and qualified tree pollarding experts in Newbury, Berkshire, Reading and the surrounding areas, get in touch with us today. 

For a free tree pollarding quote, call Evolution Tree Surgery in Newbury at 07917 195806 .

FAQs about Pollarding Trees

Can pollarding kill a tree?

Pollarding, when performed correctly, typically does not kill a tree. When done improperly, such as cutting too much of the tree, it can lead to stress and potential decline, but when executed with care, it can benefit certain tree species by promoting new growth and extending their lifespan.

Is pollarding bad for trees?

Pollarding can be both beneficial and harmful to trees. When done correctly, it can help control the size and shape of a tree, promote new growth, and extend its lifespan. However, improper pollarding, such as cutting too much of the tree, can lead to stress, increased vulnerability to disease and decay, and potential decline.

Is pollarding good for trees?

When done correctly, pollarding can be good for trees. It can help control the size and shape of a tree, promote new growth, and extend its lifespan. However, improper pollarding can lead to stress, increased vulnerability to disease and decay, and potential decline.

What are the disadvantages of pollarding?

Disadvantages of pollarding include the potential for stress, increased vulnerability to disease and decay, and potential decline if not done correctly. Improper pollarding, such as cutting too much of the tree, can lead to these issues and harm the tree’s overall health.

How often should trees be pollarded?

Trees are typically pollarded every 1-3 years, depending on the species and desired outcome. This frequency allows for the promotion of new growth while maintaining the tree’s overall size and shape. However, the specific timing and frequency may vary based on the tree species and individual tree health.

What is the difference between coppicing and pollarding?

Coppicing involves cutting a tree or shrub at ground level to stimulate the growth of multiple new shoots. Pollarding, however, entails pruning at a higher point on the trunk to encourage the growth of new branches while maintaining the tree’s overall size and shape.

What’s the difference between topping and pollarding?

Topping involves indiscriminate cutting of branches, often leading to damage and decay. Pollarding, on the other hand, is a controlled pruning method where branches are removed at specific points, promoting new growth and maintaining the tree’s size and shape.

Related Guides & Advice:

Guide to Pollarding Trees in the UK

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