Tag Archive: pleaching

Trees, trees, trees…

WP_20150609_13_44_59_ProI had an interesting trip to a Tree Nursery on Tuesday.

Barcham Trees, near Ely, Cambridgeshire, grow trees on an ‘industrial’ scale. They also have in depth knowledge about development and after care. I was impressed with the scale of trees on offer, and which- because they are container grown- can be big enough to provide instant impact in landscape and garden design schemes.

Big trees require big carriers...

Big trees require big carriers…

I was attending a seminar on ‘Garden Design as Landscape Painting’ (I’ll do a further report on this shortly), and as part of the day we had an informative tour of the nursery with a lively guide, Ellen.

The day was cool, with a brisk north-easterly wind sweeping across this massive site, but we made good progress and were told lots of interesting stuff about the different varieties of tree on offer, saw some fascinating examples of pleaching and surveyed some 120,000 trees (we didn’t get to see a further 100,000 younger examples in the fields down the road).

The visit reminded me of my series of articles on Garden Trees, making use of Barcham’s very useful catalogue and online resources- I must get on with this ‘A-Z’ which has a way to go before It’s finished. So, expect ‘N is for…’ in a week or two…

Further information: Barcham Trees Website

Old School Gardener


The Lime Walk at Arley Hall, Cheshire, an example of pleaching
The Lime Walk at Arley Hall, Cheshire, an example of pleaching

It’s that time of year when the summer growth of hedges – at least those that need to be kept in trim- is being cut back. Joe Sloley from Hintlesham has an interesting opportunity with one of his hedges:

‘I have a row of overgrown lime trees which originally formed a screen and which I want to cut back and pleach. Are limes suitable for this kind of training and what are the details of the method?’

Pleaching or plashing (an early synonym) was common in gardens from late medieval times to the early eighteenth century. It means the interweaving of growing branches of trees and shrubs to form a hedge, living fence or arbour which provides a strong barrier, shaded paths or garden features.  The word ‘plexus’ derives from the same Latin root word ‘plecto’, meaning to weave or twist together. This craft had originally been developed by European farmers who used it to make their hedgerows more secure.

 "Walking in a thick pleached alley in mine orchard" - William Shakespeare, 'Much Ado About Nothing'

Pleached Trees and an underlying Yew hedge ay Dipley Mill, Hampshire, via  Angus Kirk

Pleached Trees and an underlying Yew hedge ay Dipley Mill, Hampshire, via
Angus Kirk

Today the term tends to be used to refer to what might be called the process of creating a ‘hedge on stilts’ where (usually smooth-barked) trees have their lower side growth removed and the higher growth is pruned and trained to form a continuous, elevated hedge.

Limes can certainly be pleached: they have pliable growth, and the shoots rapidly grow long enough to be woven in and out. Once the trees have been cut back to the height you require, the lower part of the trunks should be cleared of side growths. Then attach horizontal canes or wires to the trunks and across the gaps between the trees. Allow new shoots to grow out sideways; any which grow forwards or backwards should be pruned out completely. The side shoots are tied to the canes/ wires and when plentiful enough are interwoven with one another. As the shoots mature into branches, the canes or wires can be dispensed with and new growth trained amongst the old.

Pleaching in process

Pleaching in process

Tilia (lime) is the most commonly used tree for pleached walks; usually the red-twigged lime (Tilia platyphyllos ‘Rubra’).  Ash, beech, chestnut, hornbeam and plane can also be pleached, as can apples and pears. These can often be obtained ready trained.

Laburnum and Wisteria are favoured for pleached arbours and covered walks, especially tunnels, which show off the attractive flowers perfectly.  Use Wisteria grown from cuttings or raised by grafting, as it will flower more reliably and uniformly than seed-raised plants, and Laburnum x watereri ‘Vossii’ is a better choice than seed-raised L. anagyroides.

If you want to start a pleached hedge, select young, whippy plants that are more easily trained. Plant these out in winter and during the early years also prune in the winter when the plants are leafless and dormant. Train and tie new shoots in over the summer. Once pleached trees have reached their full extent, prune in the summer, pruning to shape the new growth and reduce the tree’s vigour.

Here’s a fascinating example of how pleaching could be used to ‘grow homes’!


Further information:


RHS guide to pleaching

Pleaching- the art of taming nature by Jardin Design

See through boundaries

Healthy Hedges with Crisp Edges

Old School Gardener

carpinus betulus autumn colourThis is the third in my new series on garden trees. I’ve also done an article about trees and garden design.

Common name: Hornbeam

Native areas: The 30–40 species occur across much of the north temperate regions, including the U.K., with the greatest number of species in east Asia, particularly China. Only two species occur in Europe, and only one in eastern North America. 

Historical notes: Traditionally, the timber of hornbeams has been used to produce mallets, skittles and even the moving parts of pianos! The common English name of “hornbeam” derives from the hardness of the wood (likened to ‘horn’) and the Old English ‘beam’, a tree (similar to the German for tree, “Baum”).

Pleached trees- picture RHS
Pleached trees- picture RHS

Features: A large, deciduous tree (growing to 20 metres plus), with a grey-fluted trunk and spreading canopy. It has ovate, ribbed and serrated edge leaves that turn a beautiful clear yellow in autumn. The flowers are wind-pollinated pendulous catkins, produced in spring. The male and female flowers are on separate catkins, but on the same tree (i.e it is monoecious). The fruit is a small nut about 3–6 mm long, held in a leafy bract; the bract may be either trilobed or a simple oval, and is slightly asymmetrical.

Uses:  Wonderful in a parkland setting, grown in groups, it also ideal for pleaching (i.e. training into a ‘hedge on stilts’) and for use along the edges of smaller gardens – just like here at Old School Garden. Received the Award of Garden Merit from the RHS in 2002.  Some of the cultivars are suitable for smaller gardens as their growth habit is more columnar.

Some of the cultivars available include:

‘Fastigiata’– a tree of medium size (10-15 metres in height) and with a pyramidal habit, slender in its youth. Suitable for smaller areas despite developing ‘middle age spread’ (it can grow out to  1o metres wide). Very effective if left feathered at the base to encourage gold and orange autumn leaf colour. Stiffly ascending branches give it a columnar shape, resembling Lombardy Poplar.

‘Fastigiata Frans Fontaine’- selected from a street in the Netherlands in the 1980’s this retains its columnar habit better than the ordinary ‘Fastigiata’ variety (3 metres wide after 25 years) so is even better suited to restricted areas.

‘Purpurea’-  medium height (10-15 metres), introduced in the 1870’s , this is well suited to arboretums and plant collections. Young leaves flush with a purple tinge and then gradually turn deep green and them a similar yellow to the species hornbeam in  autumn. Slower growing and ultimately smaller than the species tree. Well suited to heavier soils.

”Japonica’-  (Japanese hornbeam), introduced from Japan in 1895, a small (5-10 metres tall), rounded tree, very effective if pleached. Darker than the species tree, with heavily corrugated leaves, darker than the species tree. Attractive, prolific hop-like fruit. AGM in 2002

Growing conditions: hornbeams grow well in most soils, including clay and chalk and is useful for planting where there are poor planting conditions.

 Further information:


RHS- Carpinus betulus

RHS- pleaching

Barcham trees directory

Old School Gardener


Last weekend, whilst staying in Chester, we took a little trip out to Wales, specifically to the elegant house and gardens at Erdigg, near Wrexham. It was well worth the effort as we found a beautiful formal garden stemming from the 18th  century and showing evidence of later period garden design fashions.

Erddig was owned by the Yorke family for 240 years. Each of them was called either Simon or Philip. The first Simon Yorke inherited the house in 1733 from his uncle, John Meller. Erddig’s garden was begun in 1685. Each of Erddig’s owners has altered and added to it, but each has respected their predessors work. Today you can still see evidence of the gardens of the past. Erddig’s walled garden is one of the most important surviving 18th century formal gardens in Britain.

The gardens contain rare fruit trees, a canal, a pond, a Victorian era  parterre and are home to the NCCPG  National Plant Collection of Hedera (ivy). The arrangement of alcoves in the yew hedges in the formal gardens may be a form of bee bole – a cavity or alcove in a wall or a separate free-standing structure set against a wall (the Scots word ‘bole’ means a recess in a wall). A skep is placed inside the bee bole. Before the development of modern bee hives, bee boles were a practical way of keeping bees in some parts of Britain, although most beekeepers kept their skeps in the open covered by, for example, old pots, or sacking. The bee bole helped to keep the wind and rain away from the skep and the bees living inside.

Further information:

National Trust Website


Old School Gardener


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