Pleaching Trees

(Question)

I am interested in pleaching a row of trees for decorative and privacy purposes along 30 feet that runs north/south along the west side of my rear yard. Hopefully, I can train/prune the trees to provide privacy from about 5 to 10 feet above ground level.

What are some tree varieties that you would recommend? What should be the spacing of the trees and the distance planted from the fence? Approximately, how much time would be needed for the crown to merge to create a continuous crown.

Is it possible to have plant the trees in a raised bed of about 1.5 feet? Would the roots push out the walls, or would the root growth be mainly in the area below the raised bed? Thanks

(Answer)

 

Pleaching comes from the French word plessier, meaning to intertwine or plait. That’s exactly what it is – trees are trained and pruned to weave together creating a hedge on stilts so to speak. Marjorie Harris suggests choosing trees with a “vigorous lateral growth” such as European Beech (Fagus sylvestris) or Little-leaf Linden (Tilia cordata). Little-leaf linden is very commonly used as it has flexible stems that make them easier to train. When purchasing your trees make sure they have a strong and very straight central leader (the central branch). Some nurseries sell trees that are already pruned into pleaching form and staked.

You’ll want to plant your trees 5-8 ft apart and leave enough room between the fence and the tree to prune. To help guide your plants place strong stakes (such as bamboo) between your trees with jute or another twine (not plastic or wire that could damage the trees) running parallel (Marjorie Harris has a good image in her blog which is linked below). Once your trees get to the height you want, prune them at the top. Continually prune off suckers (those little shoots that appear at the bottom and along the trunk) to keep your trees tidy. Prune your trees so that the branches are running together rather than out to get the desired hedge effect.

In terms of how long it will take – it depends on what height you would like and what your microclimate is like. European Beech and Little-leaf Linden are slower growing so it may take time to reach the desired effect but I’m sure it will be worth it once your get there!

In terms of the planter boxes little-leaf linden would fair better than beech. Beech had large surface roots that would likely start to push out of the box. When you purchase your trees double check with the grower that your planting site is suitable.

The links below provide more information on Little-leaf Lindens, European Beech and techniques for pleaching:

http://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/PlantFinder/PlantFinderDetails.aspx?kempercode=a918

http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2002/nov/03/gardens

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/gardening/plants/trees/8916079/Pleaching-The-art-of-training-trees.html

https://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/profile?pid=155

http://hort.ifas.ufl.edu/database/documents/pdf/tree_fact_sheets/tilcora.pdf

http://www.arborday.org/trees/treeguide/TreeDetail.cfm?ItemID=790