There are usually three reasons clients opt to plant pleached trees – privacy, privacy and privacy.
Screen pleaching creates a wonderfully dense but attractive visual barrier.
There are two ways to go about planting pleached trees. You can either plant mature trees that are traditionally trained for 2 – 5 years (in some cases much longer – 10 or even 20 years plus), or choose freshly pleached ones which are made to order. Fresh pleaching allows exact tree specifications in terms of frame size, stem height and stem girth to be dictated by the customer. This freshly pleached method offers great flexibility and choice and is the most economical approach for those with constrained budgets.
Carpinus betulus (Betulaceae)
The most popular deciduous pleached species sold in the United Kingdom by far, due to its many outstanding qualities.
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.
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.
Our freshly pleached trees start with trunk circumference size of 12-14cm to more mature trees with trunk circumference of 18-20cm and in some species 20-25cm. Having them freshly pleached to order offers great flexibility and choice. The most suitable trees for fresh pleaching are Carpinus betulus (Hornbeam) and Fagus sylvatica (Beech) but others include Fagus sylvatica Atropunicea, (Purple Beech), Carpinus betulus ‘Lucas’, Liquidambar styraciflua ‘Worplesdon’(Sweet Gum), Acer campestra (Field Maple), Parrotia persica (Persian Ironwood), Malus Evereste (Crab Apple), Pyrus (Pear).
The difference between traditional or freshly pleached
Traditionally pleached trees are trained from a young age for several years. The screening tends to be established and dense and in most cases, they offer immediate cover and the results are very impressive.
A freshly pleached one on the other hand, normally takes 2-3 seasons to fill out to create dense screening. We are happy to discuss your requirements, which species would be suitable in your garden and which would best suit your budget. Only the very best young trees with a nice clear stem are selected, whether the traditional or fresh methods are used.
What are Espalier?
There is a third method used to create screens, known as Espalier, which involves training the branches to divide the frame into equally spaced horizontal lines – typically 5 to 7 floors at 30-40cm intervals. This is done primarily for architectural effect so that the bare lateral branches and summer leaf habit can be appreciated. The previous seasons growth is pruned back hard in winter to the main laterals. Some species lend themselves especially well towards being managed this way. Our range of espalier trees starts with young trees in trunk size 12-14cm, to mature specimen trees in sizes 35-40cm and above.
The popular species used for training Espalier trees include, Tillia cordata ‘Greenspire’ (Lime), Malus d. ‘Bramley’s Seedling’ (Apple), Malus d. ‘Elstar’ (Apple), Malus d. ‘Rode Boskoop’ (Apple), Malus d. ‘Gravensteiner’ (Apple), Pyrus c. ‘Conference’ (Pear), Pyrus calleryana ‘Chanticleer’ (Pear), Malus d ‘Sterappel’ (Apple), Malus ‘Evereste’ (Crab Apple), Platanus hispanica ‘Malburg’ (Plane Tree), Platanus orientalis ‘Minaret’ (Plane), Quercus palustris (Pin Oak or Swamp Oak), Tilia europaea ‘Euchlora’ (Lime), Tilia europaea ‘Pallida’ (Lime), Tilia platyphylios (Lime)
Trees for privacy
Unlike walls and fences that may need planning permission to extend beyond their standard height, there is no legislation in place at present to govern the planting of screening trees. Because of this we often find that pleached and espalier trees are planted in front of walls and fences to create added privacy without the fuss of having to approach the relevant authorities for permission to extend walls and fences.
While a high garden wall or fence can be rather unsightly and unneighbourly, particularly for small gardens. we often find that planners actively promote the planting of trees instead. In 99% of cases, screening trees planted in front of a wall or fence have a huge positive impact. They create added architectural interest and can bring a monotonous boring wall or fence to life. We often hear customers say they have completely transformed their gardens. In our experience neighbours enjoy the addition too. This is probably why they are becoming increasingly popular around the world.
How do I plant Pleached or Espalier Trees?
An important consideration when planting pleached or espalier trees is the slope of the ground. Ideally the stem/frame of each tree should line up when planting is finished to create the desired effect. These type of trees work best when they are planted on flat or gently sloping ground. Doing so will line up the frames and stems and creating the effect of one continuous line when viewed at all angles. Even on a gradual slope this effect can be achieved. However with a slope of more than 10-12 degrees it will be necessary to step the trees/frames when planting. The frames can be manipulated to account for perhaps 15 degree slopes, but anything above this, will require stepping.
To create a good visual effect it is important to line up the stems and frames of each tree. To make sure this is achieved the planting holes should measure double the width of the rootball or pot where possible. This will give each rootball the space to be moved and fine tuned so that the stems and frames line up to create a straight line. See our full planting guide here.
Care and maintenance
With regards to maintenance, you simply need to be trimming using shears or a hedge cutter once or twice a year, much like any hedge. It really is as simple as that. Pruning regularly will encourage the screens to fill out and thicken up to create a tight compact network of branches – exactly what you need to create a solid screen in the spring, summer and autumn months. We recommend the Stihl range of hedge cutters and extendable hedge cutters for this job. A sturdy work platform may be needed to access the tallest trees.
Espalier trees are maintained by hand. At the end of each season, new growth is removed, leaving only the main lateral branches to remain. For this job we recommend using secatuers, loppers and pruning saws and a sturdy platform to work from, this is all that is required. At Hedgeworx we recommend the professional Silky range of handsaws as well as secateurs and loppers offered by Felco. Please remember to wear hand and eye protection when using handtools such as these.
Try to avoid trimming hedges during hot periods unless the ground has plenty of moisture in it – this especially applies to evergreen screens.
How are the Screens made?
Mature Pleached 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. The 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.
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 found throughout the United Kingdom… continue reading