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Amazing pollarded trees  RSS feed

 
Posts: 233
Location: Vermont, annual average precipitation is 39.87 Inches
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I went for a walk while visiting relatives in Belgium and ran across these pollarded trees.I though they might interest folks here.

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Willow pollards
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Unknown pollard
 
pollinator
Posts: 290
Location: Quebec, Canada
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forest garden hugelkultur trees urban
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Pollarding is a great technique to control the height of large trees or scrubs.

It is very common in Europe for various reasons such as pollarding the tops off for fodder, for height control in a hedgerow or individual trees, to have a continuous sustainable growth of new straight branches for firewood or just for the look.  The park around the Eiffle tower in Paris all have their tops pollard, I think just to keep a consistant look.


In North America since it is not too common, when we do see it, we think of it as unnatural looking and we think negatively about it.  But it can have many purposes. 

We once pollard a tree when we built a house because it was too tall & close to the house and we did not want to cut it down since it take too many years to get a mature tree on a residental lot. So pollarding it, we got to keep the mature tree at the height we chose (we still kept it fairly tall) but took down the dangerous branches.

A couple of the negatives of this technique is that one may say that it is un natural looking and the new branches may be more fragile to break at the point of where it was pollard. 

Like every technique, there is a place when it is appropriate.
 
Ghislaine de Lessines
Posts: 233
Location: Vermont, annual average precipitation is 39.87 Inches
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All very true!  Walking towards the willows it took me a while to figure out that they were tree trunks and not some weird rock formation.  Having lived in Europe I've seen many pollarded trees over the years. I have just never noticed ones with trunks quite this thick before.  The trunks look like the boulders that I have seen left behind by the glaciers in New England.
 
Posts: 61
Location: Fryslân, Netherlands
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It used to have real economic use, the cut wood was used for all kinds of mondane purposes. Nowadays the pollarding of trees is almost purely done to preserve the landscape, because those trees are seen as a part of cultural history. You'll see a lot of them in The Netherlands for sure. Belgium and the north of France I'm less familiar with, but culturally that's very related and I would expect to see them there as well.
In Britain I haven't seen it. Brits are far more likely to let a tree grow naturally, while the Dutch are real manipulators of nature in every sense. In Germany I haven't seen lines of pollarded trees either. You'll probably come across them in Europe here and there if you look for them, but I don't think you'll see them all over the place like in The Netherlands.

I like the trunk size in the pictures. Personally I live in the north of The Netherlands, and I don't really like the way we deal with trees here. We're too obsessed with neat and clean, and as soon as a tree begins to show signs of age we're cutting them down. Local governments cut down many healthy trees to replace them with young trees. Often they say there had been complaints, there had been the risk of falling branches, the trees had become too big for their place, some had shown signs of illness, etc... Then they replace them with other fast growing trees that will gather the same complaints within a few decades.
I know very few mature trees in my region. I far more like the British approach where a tree gets the chance to grow, live, gets to spread its branches, become majestic  and then eventually dies. That doesn't happen here.

But the pollarded willows - it are mainly willows here - are a nice touch in the landscape. 'Knotwilgen' they're called in Dutch, literally translated 'pollardwillows', like they were a separate botanical species.   
 
pollinator
Posts: 1985
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio,Price Hill 45205
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I love pollarding!
Having read about it here on permies,I've used it on a vollenteer mulberry .
It grows along side the driveway wall.
My wife and neighbors (in-laws) are afraid the roots will topple the wall,so every now and then I cut all the branches back to nub,at about head height.
This seems to satisfy them and I get mulberry leaves and long springy branches,for kindling, building and marshmellow roasts!
The bunnies and chooks don't seem to love the leaves, but they are spoiled.

I need to get some willow going the same way,for artist charcoal, building materials, willow water, hopefully fodder, and more willow trees!
 
gardener
Posts: 1474
Location: Ladakh, Indian Himalayas at 10,500 feet, zone 5
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Michelle Bisson wrote:A couple of the negatives of this technique is that one may say that it is un natural looking and the new branches may be more fragile to break at the point of where it was pollard. 


Here in the Himalayas, willows are one of the few types of tree grown, and they are always pollarded. At our school, I insisted that we keep one line of willows tall and natural, with space underneath, because I thought it looked nicer. Every older man who happened into our campus would say "Is there some reason you're not taking care of those trees?" or "Those trees need to be taken care of. You'll see, they'll do much better if you pollard them." For the first few years we liked them, as they created open space with shade. But after about 10 years, I started to see the point those guys had always been making.
:
-- The unpollarded willows drop twigs all summer long. I guess it's it's a propagation strategy. Pollarded trees drop no debris.
-- Unpollarded willows get scraggly and the shade becomes dappled. The pollarded trees make a compact canopy with deep shade.
-- The branches are weak on some varieties and if you try to hang something on them or climb, they break. Pollarded trees produce tough strong straight sticks.
-- The trunks of pollarded trees grew thicker than unpollarded ones. The amount of biomass, wood and leaves produced annually is much more on the pollarded trees.

When we finally pollarded them when they were like 15 years old and 40 feet tall, they produced a good big bunch of sprouts that grew into straight sticks (though I've read that you shouldn't pollard a big natural formed tree)..
 
Ghislaine de Lessines
Posts: 233
Location: Vermont, annual average precipitation is 39.87 Inches
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Here's another curious pollarded tree.  I spotted it in a town on the North Sea. 
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Pollard in a Pot
 
Posts: 212
Location: NE Slovenia, zone 6a
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There is a point to keeping willows un-pollarded, and that's because they flower on old wood.

At our property we've planted lots of willows for the bees only to find out that they are not pussy willows but rather the ones used for making baskets. Everybody pollarded them every year so we did too, at first - while lamenting the fact that they are no use to bees. Eventually we stopped pollarding just to see how they develop and.... Voila flowers and lots of happy bees
 
J Grouwstra
Posts: 61
Location: Fryslân, Netherlands
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Common wisdom has it that once you start pollarding, you should continue doing it. Otherwise the main stem may split due to the weight of the branches.
But you can definitely wait a bunch of years - 5 to 6 or so - for the next cut. Also depending on the look you want, the amount of shade, view, etc...

The point you're making about the flowering is a very good one. Willows are in bloom very early in the year, when there isn't much else. I'm guessing many bees will still be asleep, but for the ones already active those willow flowers could be vital.
 
Crt Jakhel
Posts: 212
Location: NE Slovenia, zone 6a
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It is the pussy willow (Salix caprea) that flowers first -- the "common" willows come about 2 weeks later. But they are still very much welcome.

At our location (Zone 6/7, continental climate), the pussy willow shows furry buds at the beginning of March and starts flowering in the second half of the month. Seasonal timing differences can be up to 2 weeks. The capreas get some traffic and the common ones get a stampede :)



 
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