How are Mature Pleached Trees made?

Mature Pleached trees or screen trees start life as a seedling or cutting, much like any other tree, being repotted or replanted a number of times in their formative years. They grow happily on the nursery with hundreds or even thousands of other trees. When the time is right, highly skilled nurserymen and woman go out into the field with tags in hand and pick the very best trees for pleaching. Criteria for choosing the best trees for training includes selecting those with the straightest stems, healthy root stock and appropriately spreading and uninform crowns. Once tagged and lifted the trees are loaded onto trailers and sent to potting sheds for training.

freshly pleached tree on a bamboo frame
A freshly pleached tree – note premade bamboo frames ready for the next tree

Training is usually performed best with a team of two or three skilled nurserymen. The first job is to clear the stems of all foliage to a predetermined height – Popular ‘clean stem’ heights include 120cm, 150cm 160cm, 180cm, 200cm and 210cm – determined by the average height of walls and fences.

Pleached trees are available with stems heights outside these sizes (from full screens with 30cm stems to tall screens starting at 230cm or more), but in the main the above ‘clean stem’ sizes are the most popular. Once the stems are cleared, a premade bamboo frame is placed face down on the training table. A tree is laid over the frame with the stem positioned over the midpoint of the frame. The bottom of the frame is positioned in line with the lowest branches. Now the stem is attached securely to the center of the frame. Next the branches are carefully manipulated one by one and tied to the frame using a soft expandable tying material, creating a lattice work of branches covering the screen. When training is complete, the trees are checked for quality before being returned to the field, where they develop for between 1 and 5 years on average. Each new season fresh growth is tied to the frame or trimmed away, creating a screen which will measure approximately 30-40cm in depth after 3 years of training (slower growing varieties such as Taxus can take longer to develop). Once the crown is full and it has taken on a definitive square shape, tying in all but stops, with a light trim once or twice a year being the only maintenance required to keep the trees looking in tip top condition. A tree trained for 1 season (1 year) will have a relatively full screen but it will have little density. A tree trained for 5 seasons (5 years) will cover the frame entirely and measure roughly 30-40cm in depth or more. A 5 year pleached tree will command a higher price than a pleached tree trained for 1 year.

Hedgeworx pleached trees are available for sale with training from 1 year to 5 years and in some instances much longer. We have sold trees in the past which have been trained for over 12 years. Please enquire about these older specimens.

low pleached trees freshly planted
Low pleached screens ready to provide instant privacy

Frame width and height is usually determined by the size of the tree being pleached i.e. what size frame is the tree capable of supporting. Typically frame widths vary from between 120cm wide (young trees) to 220cm wide (older trees). The height of frames varies considerably more. In some species frames start at just 30cm above ground level while in others they may only start at 200 or 210cm above ground level for example.

Perhaps one of the main reasons canopies on older trees do not exceed 220cm wide is due to the size of delivery vehicles. More specifically the internal width of a lorry. The internal width of a curtain sided articulated lorry trailer is 2490mm. Trees any wider than this need vehicles with wide load capabilities.

Frame Material

Bamboo is by far the most widely used material for pleached frame work. The advantage bamboo has over all other material is it has a high compressive and tensile strength, it is light weight, easily available and therefore cost effective. Being a natural product, it is also better for the environment.

Bamboo quickly turns a silvery/grey colour after a few weeks of being outdoors, blending in with the foliage and branches it supports. Finished frames can be easily alerted if necessary and damaged sections replaced with a new piece of cane by a novice gardener. Bamboo does deteriorate over time, but this takes many years and it always outlasts its usefulness. In our experience a disintegrating frame is a sure sign it has finished its job and the time has come to remove it all together. Our frames vary in size from 120x120cm all the way up to 220x600cm. It is important to note that while frame sizes dictate the size of the screen, the branches and foliage can often

training mature holly illex tree
Training a mature 20/25 Ilex JC van Tol – (Holly)

fall outside this area making the screen wider and taller than the frame itself. It is always worth asking what size the screen is (the screen being the actual box size made by the branches) as well as the frame size, as the two can vary quite significantly. With mature pleached trees the important measurement is the screen size, not the frame size.

Pleaching for deciduous trees

This tends to take place in the winter months as rootballed trees are used in most cases. Deciduous rootball stock is only available between the months of November and April when the sap flow is low, and the trees can be lifted out of the ground. The benefit of training deciduous trees in the winter months is they are free of leaves making the pleaching process of tying the branches onto the bamboo frame easier and the overall result is neater too. The reduced sap flow allows the tree to recover more easily and the trees are less stressed as a result. The ancient art of hedge laying is undertaken in the winter months for this very reason. The best deciduous pleached trees – Mature or Fresh, are made in the winter months from November to April – insist on the best!

A much larger proportion of evergreen trees are pleached using plants reared in pots. This is really the only noticeable difference between deciduous and evergreen pleaching. The training techniques are much the same. Evergreen pleached trees are more readily available for year-round sale as a result.

Pleached Hornbeam
Carpinus betulus (Betulaceae)
The most popular deciduous pleached species sold in the United Kingdom by far, due to its many outstanding qualities.
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Pleached Hornbeam ‘Lucas’
Carpinus betulus ‘Lucas’ (Betulaceae)
The Hornbeam ‘Lucas’ is a relative newcomer (2003) It produces long slender branches, recovers well after pruning and generates new growth reasonably quickly.
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Pleached Common Beech
Fagus sylvatica (Fagaceae)
The Common Beech is one of the most majestic native trees in the British Isles. It positively enjoys being managed in a formal compact fashion.
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Pleached Copper Beech
Fagus sylvatica ‘Atropunicea’, Fagus sylvatica Purpurea (Fagaceae)
Like the Fagus sylvatica the Fagus sylvatica ‘Atropunicea’, is an imposing tree. Careful consideration needs to be given to the positioning of this trees due to its striking purple colour in spring.
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Pleached Lime
Tilia cordata ‘Rancho’ (Tiliaceae)
The cultivar Tilia cordata ‘Rancho’ is ideal for planting along paths, driveways and avenues. The year-round interest created by this small compact tree ensures it is fast becoming a firm favourite.
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Pleached Yew Hicksii
Taxus x media ‘Hicksii’ (Taxaceae)
One of the smallest yews in the family. Dark green needles, a profusion of red berries in late summer and autumn. A slow growing species which requires little maintenance apart from a light clip every so often.
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Pleached Yew
Taxus Baccata (Taxaceae)
Taxus baccata is native to the British Isles and considered by many to be the most elegant and stylish evergreen specie available. The small tightly knit needle like leaves and compact habit create a very tidy formal appearance.
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Pleached Portuguese Laurel
Prunus lusitanica ‘Angustifolia’ (Rosacae)
With its close-knit tidy habit, small narrow glossy dark green leaves and red stems the Portuguese Laurel makes for an ideal candidate for training in a formal habit.
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Pleached Cherry Laurel
Prunus laurocerasus ‘Novita’ (Rosaceae)
Novita is a quick growing evergreen with tree like qualities. A relatively new cultivar it is a hardy plant with mid green leaves which provides solid screening.
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Pleached Cherry Laurel ‘Caucasica’
Prunus laurocerasus ‘Caucasica’ (Rosaceae)
Another hardy cultivar of the popular Cherry Laurel, the ‘Caucasica’ has a vigorous upright growth habit and well suited to being managed in a formal fashion.
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Pleached Photinia Red Robin
Photinia × fraseri ‘Red Robin’ (Rosaceae)
The pleached Photinia × fraseri ‘Red Robin’, is the most widely sold evergreen screen on the market. Fast growing, it is the most competitive too.
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Pleached Holly
Ilex Aquifolium ‘Nellie Stevens’
A small to medium sized evergreen tree ideal for screening purposes due to its compact habit. This cultivar produces a mass of red berries which linger long into the winter.
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Pleached Elaeagnus
Elaeagnus ebbingei (Elaeagnaceae)
An outstanding evergreen which really enjoys being managed. Elaeagnus is highly regarded for its sweet fragrance and tiny bell-shaped white flowers
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Pleached Field Maple
Acer campestre ‘Huibers Elegant’ (Aceraceae)
The Field Maple ‘Huibers Elegant’ share many of the same qualities as the Acer campestre ‘Elsrijk’. It is characterised by its beautiful small leaves.
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Pleached Field Maple
Acer campestre ‘Elsrijk’ (Aceraceae)
The popular Field Maple ‘Elsrijk’ is characterised by its small delicate green leaves and neat uniform oval crown.
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Pleached Holm Oak
Quercus ilex
The Quercus ilex is a beautiful large evergreen Oak tree, with small dark green leaves, capable of living for thousands of years. One of the very best upmarket evergreen species available.
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Pleached Persian Ironwood
Parrotia persica (Hamamelidaceae)
Deciduous trees don’t come much better than the Persian Ironwood. It's leaves start off dark green and change to dark red/purple as the season progresses.
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Pleached Crab Apple
Malus Toringo ‘Scarlett’
Widely regarded as the most popular red leaved Crab Apple on the market. Young deep red leaves contrast superbly with the long-lasting dark pink blossom in spring.
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Pleached Crab Apple ‘Evereste’
Malus ‘Evereste’, Malus perpetu ‘Evereste’ (Rosaceae)
The Crab Apple Malus ‘Evereste’ is a beautiful disease resistant, compact ornamental tree, providing white blossom in spring and colourful orange red fruit in autumn.
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Pleached Magnolia
Magnolia grandiflora ‘Galissoniere’ (Magnoliaceae)
Southern Magnolia is a classic evergreen cultivar grown for planting against walls and creating natural formal divides and garden structures.
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Pleached Sweet Gum
Liquidambar styraciflua ‘Worplesdon’ (Hamamelidaceae)
The Sweet Gum has a wonderful habit and beautiful Maple like leaves. They emerge in spring bright green and from September onwards they put on a show which is almost unrivalled by any other tree.
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Pleached Leylandii
Cupressocyparis leylandii (Cupressaceae)
This very large evergreen hybrid is used widely for large and small screening due to its fast growth habit and dense conical crown.
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Pleached Hawthorn ‘Paul Scarlet’
Crataegus laevigata ‘Coccinea Plena’, Crataegus oxycantha ‘Paul Scarlet’, (Rosaceae)
The tree produces a beautiful floral display of stunning bright red fragrant blossom which can last from the end of May to July.
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Pleached Cornelian Cherry
Cornus mas (Cornaceae)
The Cornus mas produces a beautiful early blossom in February/March which completely covers the tree in small yellow flowers.
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