Special Pruning: Espalier, Topiary, Coppicing, Pollarding, Pleaching

Special forms of pruning such as, espalier, topiary, coppicing, pollarding and pleaching are required when the gardener wants to achieve a particular look from their plants.

Espalier Pruning

Espalier is a great pruning technique if you have a limited amount of growing space in your yard or garden. You can even take fruit trees and prune them in an artistic way to break up a drab wall or fence. This is two dimensional process that allows the fruit to receive the maximum amount of sun.



Apples and pears are the preferred espalier fruit trees, but plums and cherries are also used, as are ornamental plants such as, camellia, crape myrtle, flowering plum and quinces, magnolia, and pyracantha. The plant needs to have long, flexible shoots that can be trained at an early age. Complete instructions can be found on Espalier Fruit Trees.

Topiary Pruning

Topiaries are usually used in formal gardens, theme parks, or zoos. They are fun to work with if you want to try your hand at them. Shapes can range from a single elongated stem with a round top that looks like a animals, cartoon characters, baskets, or just about anything you want to try to produce by using pruning techniques.


Large Topiary Projects

A topiary is started by forming a wire frame that is bent into the general shape of the object that you are trying to produce. You place the wire form over the young shrub and allow the shrub to grow around and through the wire. When the shoots come out of the framework, they are pinched back or sheared off to stay within the form. This requires frequent pruning, but is a lot of fun to work with. Outdoor topiary plants that work well include: taxus, bay laurel, privet, buxus, and thuja.

Coppicing and Pollarding

Coppicing is a pruning practice where the tree is cut off a few inches above the ground. This will produce new shoots that come up from the stump which are vigorous and straight with few side branches. After several years of growth, you can use the pliable stems to make baskets or other woven wooden items.


Coppicing Completed

Pollarding is a similar practice of pruning that serves the same purpose as coppicing, but allows the main trunk of the tree to grow.

You will cut back the major branches so that the new shoots will develop from them. Pollarding is useful for the flexible branches that are produced as well as for artistic value.


Pollarding keeps Trunks in Tact


Pleaching is a pruning method that involves intertwining and grafting branches to form fences, archways, benches, and other objects. Pleaching can be used to form covered walkways.

An example would be to plant two fencerows of trees about 6 feet apart. To make them form a canopy top, long, flexible shoots are arched between the two fencerows.


Pleaching Unique Patterns

Pruning is necessary to keep the walkway from becoming overgrown or bushy.

Other uniquely formed designs can be achieved by forming unusual types of training to form some very interesting designs.

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