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Pollarding a Catalpa - would you do this next year or wait a bit?

PlantmindedPlantminded Posts: 3,447
I have a 10 year old Catalpa which has now grown to about 3m high and 2m wide.  It's got a good shape which provides some welcome screening but I'm wondering whether it may be time to pollard it for the first time next year.  I've read that the tree will become invigorated and produce larger leaves but I'm undecided and would appreciate the thoughts of other members who have done this to their tree.

I've also read that the best time to pollard a Catalpa is February and to cut all the branches back to the main trunk, each to a height of 10cm.  Does this seem right?  The photos below show the tree as it is and my potential cuts.  I'm worried that I might regret doing this and should give it another year or so!  I'd appreciate your thoughts.  Many thanks.

Wirral. Sandy, free draining soil.


  • punkdocpunkdoc Posts: 14,941
    It would certainly tolerate it, and you would get larger leaves. However, in my own mind, I can't quite work out what shape it would be, and whether it would be pleasing.
    How can you lie there and think of England
    When you don't even know who's in the team

    S.Yorkshire/Derbyshire border
  • nutcutletnutcutlet Posts: 27,415
    I think I would try and get a bit more height but it's lost its leading shoot which makes that tricky. I would consider removing the left hand of the two secondary branches and keeping the more upright one

    In the sticks near Peterborough
  • bédébédé Posts: 3,070
    edited December 2022
    One thing about Catalpas is that after pruning the new shoots grow straight up.  When it has reached the right size (it has) do it.

    I.m sure they have some Catalpas at Ness Gardens.  If not, have a look at pollarded willows.
     location: Surrey Hills, England, ex-woodland acidic sand.
    "Have nothing in your garden that you don't know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful."
  • If in doubt, don't! would be my advise. They do grow fast so try and imagine a foot or two on every branch tip, to see if you can wait another year.

    I think whenever you do it you are going to have to determine which new shoots are going to provide the shape you want and remove the rest.

  • LoxleyLoxley Posts: 5,683
    Pollarded Catalpa will be more of a dense, broadly ovoid shape with bigger leaves. It's more of a formal look but looks good IMO. I don't think it's a particularly judicious job, to start with you just lop off the trunk or branches at the desired height, and subsequently you cut back the resulting growth to 10cm of the original cut. 

    "What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbour". 
  • PlantmindedPlantminded Posts: 3,447
    Thank you all very much for your helpful thoughts.  I think I'll leave it another year as it's currently blocking out my neighbour's view of my garden from below which is why I strategically placed it there! I'll see if it struggles again next year if we get more heat and another drought and review the situation again.  You've helped me reach this decision, thank you!  
    Wirral. Sandy, free draining soil.

  • PlantmindedPlantminded Posts: 3,447
    Another year has gone and it's definitely time to pollard this tree next year! Before I get the pruning saw out in February, I just wanted to check whether any other Catalpa owners have done this and were happy with the result or regretted it. I've rethought the positions of the cuts to produce a better shaped result, I hope, as below. The tripod effect should give a better head of leaves rather than a straight cut across the main trunk.  Any thoughts very welcome please.  Thank you.

    Wirral. Sandy, free draining soil.

  • PlantmindedPlantminded Posts: 3,447
    Thank you @timothypckl66, that’s very helpful and reassuring!
    Wirral. Sandy, free draining soil.

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