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 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 (pleached Hornbeam) and Fagus sylvatica (Beech) but others include Fagus sylvatica Atropunicea, (Purple Beech), Carpinus betulus ‘Lucas’ (Hornbeam), 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 tree 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 for pleaching, 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 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. Once the holes are dug to the correct depth and width, it is best practice to plant the two end trees first. By doing so you fix the reference points to create the perfect straight line are in place. Once these first two trees are positioned and planted the rest of the trees can be planted one by one in line. For peace of mind why not take advantage of our planting service? From initial site visit to clearing the site, preparing the soil, offloading the trees, digging the holes and planting, we manage the lot leaving you to simply enjoy your investment. 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. Good professional tools such as Silky Saws and Felco secateurs and loppers, are extremely sharp and can result in nasty cuts if used incorrectly. While generally not life threatening as you will be surprised how many accidents could have been avoided by simply wearing a pair of cut resistant gloves and eye protection. Try to avoid trimming hedges during hot periods unless the ground has plenty of moisture in it – this especially applies to evergreen screens.
Form tree misconceptions
As trees grow upwards lower branches will do the same.
This is not true. If the bottom branches of a tree are trained at 200cm, the branches will remain at that height throughout the trees life.
Remove the wire cage from the rootball when planting.
if you have a rootball plant NEVER REMOVE THE WIRE CAGE. Rootballs are held together using inferior quality mild steel cages and hessian (a natural product) for a reason – they degrade quickly once planted. If the wire cage is removed the intergrity of the rootball will be effected and undue stress will be placed on the tree. NEVER REMOVE THE WIRE CAGE.
I need to add lots of compost when planting.
This is not true and may have a negative effect if too much is added. We recommend a 10% improving compost mix to 90% soil. Bone meal or another natural root stimulant can also be added. This will suffice in almost all situations. Of course, there are always exceptions, please ask!
I need to use rootball anchors when planting pleached or espalier trees.
In 99% of cases rootball anchors are completely unnecessary when planting pleached or espalier trees. In the last 8 years we have not used rootball anchors when planting in lines and to prove this we have never been asked by customers to return to straighten pleached/espalier trees we have planted in this time. There are always exceptions, but in our experience, they are not necessary if the trees are planted correctly. A site visit by one of the Hedgeworx team will determine if tree anchors are necessary.
I must have evergreen trees for privacy.
Evergreen trees are not necessarily the answer – points to consider:
An evergreen screen in winter months can be a dominant and overpowering structure in any garden, especially when the surrounding trees and plants have lost their leaves.
Being evergreen they stop light and air from entering the garden in winter months which is frequently a problem where gardens already suffer from lack of light and dampness.
Less airflow and natural light may mean more potential algae growth on paths patios decks etc.
Traditionally evergreen species have not been used in gardens because they do not lend themselves to being managed the same way as the deciduous varieties do – with a few exceptions of course.
Most evergreen varieties can become woody and unsightly and may need replacing after 5 -10 years in the autumn.
Evergreens lose their leaves throughout the year unlike deciduous varieties so you may find yourself collecting small piles of leaves throughout the summer.
Most evergreen trees do not attract natural wildlife like deciduous varieties do.
There are two evergreen varieties we do recommend – Quercus Ilex (Evergreen Oak or Holm Oak) and Taxus baccata (Yew). On the other hand, deciduous species allow light in and air to circulate through their bare branches in the winter months. While not offering a solid screen in these months, the branches on deciduous trees do offer a barrier and therefore a natural garden divide. They constantly change with the seasons, unlike a solid wall of green.
The architectural interest created by the branches of a deciduous tree are another welcomed change. In spring new buds burst and the trees come to life and a fresh new screen is created giving privacy right though to autumn when the garden tends to be in use and privacy is needed . In autumn as natural light reduces and temperatures drop a brilliant show of autumn leaf colour is produced. Deciduous form trees are often the most prominent feature in a garden and therefore a season barometer for the homeowner. When choosing between deciduous and evergreen form trees, our preference is to go for deciduous varieties in most cases. In our opinion the preferred, informed choice.
How are Pleached Trees 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