Topping or pollarding, that is the question!
The pollarding process begins on young trees, and is typically repeated every year or every two years throughout the trees life. Do note, if you decide to pollard a tree on your property, it is crucial that this process is carried out on a consistent basis.
Once young trees have reached the desired height, winter pollarding can begin. It is typical to leave the trunk supporting three or five branches. These branches are then cut back to a desired length, and the ‘twiggy’ growth appears at these ends.
To begin with, the new twiggy branches are weak as they grow rapidly from underneath the bark, rather than from within the tree trunk. As the tree produces annual growth rings, the branches strengthen and form a thick base where the shoots meet the trunk. This is how the tree appears ‘swollen’, as the tree has been cut back and repeatedly pruned to the same point creating a ‘knuckle’ like effect.
Tree lopping is similar to tree pollarding, however, this method does benefit the tree. Homeowners that feel as if a tree has become too overgrown, may decide that the tree needs topping, but this is a bad practise that can severely weaken the tree.
After a tree has been topped, the tree encounters difficulties with regrowth. This is one of the reasons why winter pollarding is better for the trees overall health. Winter pollarding is a preferred method that encourages the growth of the tree, while allowing the size of the tree to be controlled.