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Pleached Trees Information

Pleached Trees Information

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Pleached Trees - An Introduction
Pleached Trees - An Introduction

Pleached Trees - An Introduction

The term 'pleached' refers to trees that are trained to form a screen of branches and foliage on a single straight stem. The single stem of our pleached trees are between 1.8m and 2.2m tall. Planted in rows at set distances, they will form an elevated 'green wall' that can be ideal as an alternative to high fencing. Pleached trees are often used to screen unsightly buildings and can be grown above an existing wall or fence. Used in this way pleached trees can extend the height of a privacy screen to 3 metres or more.

The technique originated in Medieval times when it was used to create a shaded walkway, called pleached allées, traditionally using Lime trees or Hornbeam. Sometimes called 'hedges on stilts' or 'stilt hedging' or even 'hedging in the sky' as well as pleached hedging, this technique for training trees reached its peak of popularity in the 17th and 18th centuries, mostly in France and Italy, and has in recent years been resurrected by a clutch of RHS Chelsea Flower Show garden designers.

Pleached Espalier Trees

Similarly to pleached trees, pleached espaliers are produced on a clear stem or 'leg' of around 2 metres above ground level. The significant difference between the two is the way in which espaliers are trained into tiers or levels, producing a more uniform aesthetic.

Prices and Ordering

You can order your trees online via our website or by calling and speaking to one of our pleached tree experts. We're lucky to have a number of staff from our team who are particularly experienced in advising and quoting for pleached trees, so if you're looking for expert advice or the very best price, please speak to Katy Hill, Nick Elson or Jamie Shipley on 01257 263 876 or request a call back using the email address: requestacallback@hedgesdirect.co.uk - simply make your phone number the subject line and ask us to call you back, you'll hear from us within 15 minutes (during opening hours).

Prices of pleached trees will vary. The price-tag associated with a ready trained tree is dictated by the many years of skill and care that goes in to creating such exclusive specimens. Our prices can be seen against each product, but we’d recommend giving us a call to discuss should you need a number of plants as we may be able to offer a discount on large scale orders.

Our Pleached Trees page shows a variety of specifications but other sizes are available - please call us to enquire about alternative species, sizes and availability on 01257 263 876.

Delivery of Pleached Trees and Espaliers

Any quantity of pleached can be ordered, however for orders of 4 trees or below, a delivery charge will apply. For larger orders we can often subsidise the delivery cost or discount the cost of the plants. Delivery of these special plants is always a challenge but we are very experienced having supplied pleached trees for many years to hundreds of gorgeous gardens (large and small, stately and suburban) across the UK.

Please note that if ordering online, most pleached trees as a single unit will exceed the standard threshold for free delivery via lorry/pallet, however pleached trees due to their size, shape and weight do require specialist delivery via an articulated lorry as opposed to a standard large truck. As such, in all cases, we will need to speak with you to arrange delivery and to ensure that there is adequate access to your property to facilitate the delivery. We can deliver on a smaller vehicle if there are access issues but that involves double handling from us so we would then need to quote you for a delivery supplement which will vary by postcode and quantity of plants - in these circumstances, please call us for a quote.

Whatever the delivery challenges, please speak to us and we'll overcome them! All our pleached trees are grown as root balls so the season is normally October to May.

Handling and installation of Pleached Trees and Espaliers

Please note that the majority of these trees are exceptionally tall and heavy and will require specialist machinery to both remove from the delivery lorry and to move into place for planting. For all deliveries, there must be an appropriate amount of 'help' available at your end to assist the driver take these plants off the lorry - 2 able bodied helpers for the younger, lighter plants and at least 4 people or appropriate machinery (forklift ideally) for the more mature pleached trees or the box head trees. As we cannot guarantee what time in the day your trees will arrive, we recommend that you book any lifting and moving equipment (forklift etc) for a full day not just part day to avoid issues if they arrive earlier or later than planned.

How to Train Pleached Trees and Espaliers

Pleached trees - It is possible to pleach your own trees by selecting straight tall bare root trees at either 8-10cm girth or ideally 10-12cm girth (or root balls but we favour bare roots).

Pleached trees are trained by creating a framework of bamboo in the ‘head’ of the tree, that is the branches above the trimmed, straight trunk which can be any height but most often is approximately 2 metres above ground level.

The frame is securely fastened to the trunk and to the central stem (leader) of the head and then the side branches, or laterals, are carefully bent downwards and tied into the horizontal bamboo framework. This can only be done with very young branches as thicker and more mature wood will resist the bending process and may break under pressure. There is no set distance between the laterals, they are tied in where they fit best, as long as they are not crossing each other, and smaller shoots or sub-laterals can be tied in at any angle or position as long as the overall planar shape of the tree is maintained.

Traditionally the height of the frame is between 1.5 and 2 metres, which can give an overall tree height of up to 4 metres. The width of a frame on a young tree in the nursery will also be in the region of 2 metres, but as the tree grows this can be increased with training to give an overall width of 3 to 5 metres. This mature size should be taken into consideration when deciding on the planting distances between the pleached trees.

Pleached espaliers - Espalier training is normally carried out on apple, pear and other fruit trees that produce flowering/fruiting buds on short spurs on mature wood. What distinguishes it from pleaching is the formalised, regular spacing between the horizontal branches, called tiers. The spacing between tiers is around 20cm; traditionally this allows for maturing fruit to get air and sunlight, reducing the potential for disease and improving the sweetness of the fruit. Espaliers can have any number of tiers, each one above the other, with a new tier trained in each growing season until the required height is reached.

Espaliers are subjected to a more severe pruning regime than pleached trees and therefore do not make a totally impenetrable green screen, but have the advantage of bearing very attractive flowers and fruit.

Pruning and Maintenance of Pleached Trees and Espaliers

To prune and maintain pleached trees it helps to think of it as a two stage process. Firstly, the pruning required to train and tie in the newly forming tree, called ‘formative’ pruning. Secondly the pruning required to maintain the shape and form of the more mature pleached tree, known as pruning for ‘shape’.

In formative pruning, (which is only relevant to establishing a new pleached tree if starting from scratch) as young laterals are bent downward and tied in to the bamboo framework any excess laterals and stronger sub-laterals that are not growing in the plane of the tree should be pruned back to within a few centimetres of the stem. At the same time branches that are growing above the required overall height should be cut back to below the top of the frame.

Any branches that are crossing each other should be removed at an early stage. Crossed branches can rub on each other, and as they subsequently don’t heal, cause wounds that can lead to disease entering the tree. Tie in with soft twine or plastic tubular ties to avoid cutting into the tree. Older ties should be checked regularly and replaced if they are too tight, as they can cut into the tree as the branches thicken.

Tying in and formative pruning should be done several times during the growing season, with a final prune in October. When pruning to maintain the shape of a pleached tree it is important to first remove any diseased or damaged wood and also any broken branches. It is then a relatively simple matter of pruning the tree to maintain the shape. This should be done once or twice a year, late winter being a good time to assess winter damage and trim the tree before the spring growth obscures the framework of branches.

Once you have an established and mature tree it should be possible to cut away the old bamboo framework, to show your pleached trees at their best. Many of our mature pleached trees are at this stage in their development.

Espaliers require a more formal approach to pruning, the tiers are trained at regular spacings and each winter all upward growing laterals are cut back to around 5cm, to a bud, to form ‘spurs’ that will bear blossom and fruit the following year. Each tier can be extended until the desired final width of the tree is reached.

Which Trees are Best for Pleaching and Espaliering?

Traditionally, Lime, Beech and Hornbeam trees have been used for pleaching, and they are still the most commonly used.

Horticulturalists are always trying out new possibilities, and you will find Maple, Plane and Parrotia trees on our website, trained in this way as well.

Those tree species that lend themselves to this method of training must have a relatively short distance between the buds, to give the density of branches required. They must also have good disease resistance, as they are pruned regularly, leaving wounds which have the potential for infection until healed. For this reason Horse Chestnut, Birch and Cherry trees would be very unsuitable candidates.

The most suitable species for growing pleached espaliers are members of the apple and pear families. You’ll find Crab Apple and Ornamental Pear tree espaliers for sale on our website.

Planting Pleached Trees

The planting distance of pleached trees will depend on various factors, including species and the final desired effect. The trees can be planted so that each screen is just touching for immediate effect, although it would be advisable to leave at least a few feet to allow for growth. This distance of planting will give a deep bushy screen. Depending on patience (and budget) the trees can be planted with up to 10-12 feet between the widest parts of the screens. Over time these branches will grow out to meet one-another creating a slightly more narrow screening effect.

Distance From a Building

Again this is a variety specific query. Crab apple will for example have a lesser root spread than Platanus. Unfortunately we’re unable to give specific advice regarding planting distances from buildings but we do advise that you speak to your insurance provider, who will be able to advise further, if you are concerned.

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