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Reverse Pollarding

Good afternoon,

We recently moved to a new house. We have two Tilia (Linden) trees in the garden.

Normally, we find the Tilia tree lovely and beautiful, but these two trees have been subject to a type of pruning called pollarding. As a result they have long horizontal branches with funny looking balls in the ends from where many tinny branches grow during the spring. Something similar to this:

In our opinion, the pollarded trees look very sad and artificial. We would love to let these trees grow more naturally and also have a natural look.

We tried to just let the branches grow without any punning, but all the new branches are concentrated around these balls in the end of each long horizontal branch and on the top of the tree.

We thought about cutting the balls in each ends entirely, but we are worried that this might be to stressful for the tree. What would you recommend?

We would love to hear your expert advice!

Many thanks in advance for your kind help!
Best regards,




  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 28,335

    Hi Francisco, I'd be inclined to take all the branches right back to the main trunk. That's the usual process for pollarding. For mature trees this shouldn't be a problem. It's common where people have large trees in a small garden and want to keep the tree, or in an awkward site - for instance, where the tree may cause a lot of shade.

    Others may have a different opinion image

    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

  • pansyfacepansyface PEAK DISTRICT DerbyshirePosts: 16,236

    No expert advice to offer but I've been thinking about this quite a bit.

    I don't think that there is a reverse option once a tree has been pollarded. Here's my two pennorth. A normal tree has twigs and the twigs look like miniature branches. The branches look like miniature trees. Think of a fractel-like system of growth.

    A pollarded tree has one big trunk and a lot of juvenile shoots which stick out of it. The thing has no strength. If the shoots grow twigs they grow them at their ends. All the weight is at the ends of the shoots and the joints at the trunk must take the weight and the strain.

    What I mean is that the tree has lost its integrity, its shape and its strength. I don't think they can be regained.

    But keep pollarding them. They are fantastic trees.

    Apophthegm -  a big word for a small thought.
  • Many of the oldest trees in the country are pollards.

  • pansyfacepansyface PEAK DISTRICT DerbyshirePosts: 16,236

    I thought the desire was to grow out the pollard and have a normal tree shape?

    Back to sleep pansy.image

    Apophthegm -  a big word for a small thought.
  • pansyfacepansyface PEAK DISTRICT DerbyshirePosts: 16,236


    I'm sure you have. I think it's just me....image

    Apophthegm -  a big word for a small thought.
  • nutcutletnutcutlet PeterboroughPosts: 26,091

    No Joimage

    I quite like a pollard shape.

    I don't think you could ever reverse that, the only possibility I can see is to cut it to the ground and allow one shoot to grow. Given the nature of limes this would be an on-going cutting job

  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 28,335

    I probably didn't read the OP's query properly either. I made an assumption he just wanted to make the tree look better. I should also have been clearer - I meant cut back to the trunk and then just leave the trees to do their thing after that. 

    I like a pollarded tree too nut. If they're done properly,it can look really good. imageCertainly far better than the half hearted slash and hack job many people do instead  image 

    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

  • nutcutletnutcutlet PeterboroughPosts: 26,091

    We might pollard a lime. Some idiot planted it under the electric wires 60 years ago.

    Or maybe there was no electricity here 60 years ago. We don't have gas or drains now. Or much of a broadband connectionimage

  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Central Norfolk UKPosts: 58,815

    I love a well-pollarded tree if it's regularly maintained - it's when  they're allowed to over-grow that they look awful.  However, a good arboriculturist should be able to restore and rejuvenate an overgrown pollard.

    “I am not lost, for I know where I am. But however, where I am may be lost.” Winnie the Pooh

  • Dear Fairygirl, pansyface, Joe_the_Gardner, jo47, nutcutlet and Dovefromabove,

    Many thanks for your answers. I understand from pansyface's post that it will probably be difficult to give back a natural (non-pollarded) look to the tree.

    Fairygirl, when you suggest that I cut the branches all the way back to the trunk, and let the tree do its thing, do you think that this will make the tree eventually look like a natural non-pollarded tree? Or will it simply look better "in a pollarded way"?

    Thanks again for your answers! Best wishes!

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