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pruning native trees

About 12 years ago we planted several native trees and shrubs in our garden to attract wildlife. There are a rowan, hazels, wayfaring tree, field maple, and crab apple (I'm not sure if we actually planted this one or if it just arrived on its own.) There are also several hollies which have self-seeded. However, our lovely woodland edge habitat is now becoming a nuisance to our very friendly neighbour, who has politely asked us  to cut them back as they are shading his garden too much. Also the hazels are threatening to take over the entire garden! What can we do to keep our neighbour happy but not lose our trees by over-pruning?

I have noticed that he has bird boxes and feeders all along the fence under our trees. If we cut them back to just above fence height, say about 8ft, will the trees die, and might the birds object and desert his nest boxes?



  • BobTheGardenerBobTheGardener Leicestershire, UKPosts: 11,391

    Hi Carole, as far as the hazels go, you can coppice those (ie cut right back to the ground) and they will quickly grow back without issue (and also provide you with a lot of useful wooden stakes, pea sticks etc.)  You would do that after leaf fall.  I'll leave others to advise you on the rest, but suspect you are best to wait for winter before doing any large scale pruning (except the Holly - early spring to early summer for that.)

    A trowel in the hand is worth a thousand lost under a bush.
  • Carole 3Carole 3 Posts: 18

    Thank you! A friend has already said 'Get rid of those hollies asap, they'll take over.' I reckon if the hazels go on as they are, we'll be able to supply any local charcoal burners...

  • punkdocpunkdoc Sheffield, Derbyshire border.Posts: 13,019

    I prune holly hedges in early autumn although any time after potential birds have fledged and before winter is probably ok.

    Deciduous trees are best pruned in winter.

    There are ashtrays of emulsion,
    for the fag ends of the aristocracy.
  • WelshonionWelshonion Posts: 3,114

    You may find that cutting them back to 8 ft will look very ugly.

    It may be better to take some of the trees out completely.  But do not be bullied into doing anything you might regret.  If he has asked you to cut back the trees it is hardly your fault if the birds no longer use the nest boxes.

    Some of the trees are berry-bearing and provide food for birds.  I would take out the excess hazels first.

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  • Carole B,

    How big is your garden? Are you being too ambitious in a small plot? Many of the problems I find are simply caused by people planting things without looking 20 or 30 years ahead. Forest trees in a small garden are simply not appropriate. The rowan and wayfaring tree can be selectively thinned and the leading shoot shortened any time now; the hazels, as has been said, can be cut to 6 inches; the field maple could make 60 feet high and 40 feet wide, so think on; and unless the crab is on a dwarfing rootstock it will also turn into a big untidy tree, as will the hollies.

    So look around for wildlife friendly trees, shrubs and perennials of a suitable size, and if you want to look after woodland edge habitats perhaps you could go and help with National Trust, Woodland Trust or local Wildlife Trust schemes - they'll be glad to have you.

  • nutcutletnutcutlet PeterboroughPosts: 26,848

    field maple is potentially a large tree but is often seen in hedgerows so it can be cut back.

    If they're in a line you could add a few hawthorns and keep it to hedge height. the wild life would be happy with that. birds like a hedge for nesting

  • Carole 3Carole 3 Posts: 18

    Thank you everyone - for some reason I didn't see all these replies until June 2015!! but will definitely act on your suggestions when it is the right time again. The garden is 90 ft long by about 30 ft wide near the house, and gets wider at the far end. Definitely need some thinning and pruning!

  • OnopordumOnopordum Posts: 390

    To add to the previus replies, all those species are pretty vigorous and will regrow after pruning, however drastic.

  • Carole 3Carole 3 Posts: 18

    Thank you - we did chop back some field maples, which were very grateful and are busily growing back! They've been joined by a hawthorn that just 'arrived' so the hedge height suggestion looks like a good option.

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