Here at Alex Howden Trees we pride ourselves on our extensive knowledge of our trade and are happy to share our expertise with our customers. Below you will find a selection of Q&As that may answer your enquiry. Alternatively have a browse of our articles. If you have a specific enquiry then please get in touch and email us using the enquiry form.
Pollarding is a form of tree management which evokes considerable contention amongst members of the public. This is because it involves the complete removal of the tree canopy and newly cut trees may appear stark in appearance and mistreated to the untrained eye.
However, well managed pollards may in fact enjoy a longer life than those left to grow naturally large canopies.
The ancient practice of pollarding was once necessary for the regular harvest of useful timber whilst allowing the subsequent re-growth freedom from grazing animals.
Many tree species including willow, oak, lime, ash, horse chestnut and London plane respond well to pollarding. It is important however to maintain a regular cutting rotation of 3-5 years as pollarded trees that are later neglected and allowed to grow out may become particularly hazardous due to the weak union of new branches at the tree trunk (bole).
Pollarding is an excellent form of management for street trees where space, safety, root spread and water uptake are all factors for consideration.
Old pollards and veteran trees (lapsed pollards) may not be suitable for complete re-pollarding. Certainly not in one sudden operation and a phased approach to reducing the canopy is necessary to avoid traumatising the tree beyond repair. Often this may take several well considered reductions over a number of years in order to safeguard the future of these historic trees.
Ivy & Trees
Lots of clients ask me if ivy is killing their tree. It is of course a myth that ivy strangles trees to death. However, Ivy may bring about the eventual loss of a tree by other means than strangulation.
Ivy may begin to cause harm once it has climbed the tree trunk and advanced into the crown of the tree. Up in the tree canopy the extra weight and wind resistance caused by the ivy may encourage breakout and branch loss.
The dense cover of ivy provides habitat for insects, birds and potentially roosting bats. Ivy therefore is good for wildlife but not so good for the host tree. This dense cover of ivy may smother new buds, reducing the amount of foliage which the tree needs to produce energy reserves via photosynthesis.
Within the dense cover of ivy a warmer micro-climate enables fungi to thrive and attack the tree.
Ivy is also the bane of all tree climbers and it can make our lives hell when working in ivy ridden trees. This of course is my humble opinion and should have no bearing on any ivy related management decisions!
Ivy also obscures faults, defects, cracks, splits, fungal brackets, deadwood and other hazards from view of the tree surveyor.
Management decisions should be made taking the importance and location of the tree into account. For example, a woodland tree covered in ivy far away from footpaths and property is of little consequence to the safety of persons and property and logically is best left to provide valuable habitat for birds and bats etc.
A valuable specimen tree or one located by property, highways or other public spaces would demand more serious consideration.
Management options include severance at the base (taking care not to damage the tree cambium!), complete removal or alternatively trimming away from the tree canopy whilst retaining some ivy on the trunk for wildlife habitat.
We have large black fungal brackets growing on our ash tree. Does this mean our tree is dying and will removing them help the tree to recover?
Sadly this sounds like your ash tree is being attacked by the fungal pathogen Inonotus hispidus. (I would need to inspect or view a photograph to confirm). Like any fungus that attacks trees by the time you see the fruiting body or bracket it's too late. The fungus will be putting its energy into fruiting and sending out spores as it is running out of food (lignin and cellulose) rendering the tree unsafe. However, don't confuse this with fungal brackets on already dead branches as these may be living off existing deadwood and not specifically attacking the living tree itself!
Our conifer hedge was trimmed last February and now has lots of brown patches. Are the conifers diseased and what can we do to help them recover?
It is possible your conifer hedge is being attacked by fungi or insects but I think the answer is in the question! Conifers should be trimmed when there is no danger of frost damaging the subsequent tender re-growth. Trimming in February is the cause of your unsightly brown patches. There is no way to repair your conifers now the damage has been done. You might consider removing those trees worst affected and planting in the gaps or re-planting the hedge entirely.
When is the best time of year to prune a cherry tree?
Cherry trees and all other members of the Prunus family including Plum, Apricot and Damson are all best pruned around mid-summer. The reason is that they are extremely susceptible to Silver-Leaf fungus, the spores of which are prolific at other times of year. Pruning a cherry in the autumn is almost certainly condemning the tree to death. It is sensible to allow the cherry to blossom first and ensure potential nesting birds have flown the nest. Pruning at this time of year will of course reduce the fruit yield in the coming fall.