Pleached Trees for Small Gardens: Planting Tips and Best Tree Varieties

Pleaching is a method of planting trees in rows and training the side branches to meet in horizontal, parallel lines. Other growth is cut back or interwoven to form a vertical screen. 

Beech, lime, hornbeam, and plane trees are some of the best trees for pleaching. This technique is particularly effective in a formal setting and is often used to line paths or avenues in larger gardens. 

Pleached trees for small gardens make an elegant division between two adjoining areas without making them feel boxed in. 

A pleached avenue automatically leads the eye to what lies at the end, so it is important to make sure there is something worth looking at, such as a sculpture or a decorative seat.  

In this article, we’ll look at how to plant pleached trees, as well as how to care for them.

pleached trees for small gardens

What Are the Best Trees for Pleaching?

Popular tree species for pleaching include Hornbeam, Lime (Linden), Beech, and Plane. These trees tolerate pruning and have dense foliage, so they’re suitable for pleaching.

Hornbeam (Carpinus betulus)

Pleached hornbeam trees are a popular choice for creating elegant and formal hedges or living screens in gardens. The dense, bright green foliage of Hornbeam provides excellent coverage and privacy, making it an ideal choice for creating boundaries or defining outdoor spaces. 

These trees feature strong but flexible branches, which makes them a natural candidate for pleaching. 

Lime or Linden (Tilia)

Pleached Tilia, or pleached lime trees (often called “Lindens” in the United States) are a stunning choice for creating striking living screens in the garden. With their graceful, heart-shaped leaves and attractive, scented flowers, Lime trees add beauty and charm to any outdoor space. 

The blooms and fruit are highly attractive to wildlife. American Lindens are host plants for 150 different butterfly and moth species. Squirrels, birds, mice, and rabbits feed on the tree’s nutlets. 

SEE ALSO:   Wild Plum Tree (Prunus Americana)

Beech (Fagus)

Pleached Beech trees are an excellent choice for creating artistic living screens in landscapes. Known for their elegant, wavy-edged leaves that transition from vibrant green in spring and summer to coppery tones in autumn, Beech trees offer year-round visual interest. 

Beech trees don’t grow fast, which makes them low maintenance when pleached. They also provide important food for wildlife. Beechnuts are edible, and your neighborhood squirrels will thank you. 

London Plane (Platanus x acerifolia)

Pleached London Plane trees feature large, palmate leaves and distinctive mottled bark. London Plane trees bring a unique aesthetic appeal to any outdoor space. 

London Plane Trees are a centuries-old hybrid of the American sycamore and the Old World Sycamore. They offer dense foliage and peeling outer bark that reveals a creamy-yellow inner bark. The name derives from the way the tree tolerated the pollution and soot of industrial-age London. 

Crabapple (Malus)

Pleached Crabapple trees offer a lot in the way of ornamental beauty. With their sweet blossoms in various shades of pink, white, or red, Crabapple trees bring a burst of color and fragrance to outdoor spaces. 

Crabapple trees typically reach heights of only 10 to 20 feet, making them one of the best pleached trees for small gardens in cities. 

Their foliage turns into attractive shades of yellow, orange, or red in the fall, adding year-round interest. Pleached Crabapple trees are not only visually appealing but also attract pollinators and provide winter food for birds. If you purchase the right variety, you can also make your own crabapple jelly.

pleached hornbeam pleached hedge of hornbeams

Pleached hedge of hornbeams

Frequently Asked Questions About Pleached Trees

If you’re ready to add these beautifully trained tree specimens to your garden, you probably have a few questions. 

How much space do pleached trees need?

Pleached trees require sufficient space to accommodate their mature size and spread. The specific space requirements depend on the tree species and the desired pleaching design. As a general guideline, allow at least 5 to 6 feet between each pleached tree when planted in a row.

What size, height and spread will pleached trees have?

The size, height, and spread of pleached trees vary depending on the chosen tree species and the desired design. Some commonly used trees for pleaching reach heights of up to 60 feet and have a spread of 40 feet when fully grown. Using these trees for pleaching will mean staying on top of annual pruning.

SEE ALSO:   Conifers For Every Size Garden

When to plant a pleached tree?

The ideal time to plant pleached trees is during the dormant season, which is typically in late autumn or early spring. Planting during these periods allows the trees to establish their root systems before the onset of hot or cold weather conditions.

Purchasing dormant trees also gives you more bang for your buck. Dormant, bare-root trees are often a fraction of the price of potted specimens. 

How much does a pleached tree cost?

The cost of pleached trees varies depending on factors such as tree species, size, and the complexity of the pleaching design. Prices for pre-pleached and trained trees range from a few hundred to several thousand dollars per tree.

Pleaching a tree for planting takes a lot of time and patience, so purchasing pre-pleached trees on frames isn’t cheap.

However, consulting local nurseries or tree specialists provides more accurate cost estimates.

Pollarded willow trees

Pollarded willow trees

How to Plant a Pleached Tree

Planting a pre-pleached tree on a frame from a plant nursery is very similar to planting any tree specimen. First, choose healthy, well-rooted young trees from a reputable nursery.

  1. Dig a square planting hole that is twice as wide and just as deep as the root ball.
  2. Place the tree in the hole, ensuring it is straight and at the desired height.
  3. Backfill the hole with soil, gently firming it around the roots.
  4. Stake the tree if necessary to provide support during establishment.
  5. Water thoroughly after planting and apply a layer of mulch around the base to conserve moisture and suppress weeds.

This tutorial video provides more detail on planting pleached trees, along with a few pro tips.

 

How to Train Pleached Trees

Pleaching trees creates a stunning effect in your landscape design. Train them in situ with bamboo frames that will hold the branches in place while they mature.

Follow these simple steps to pleach a tree:

Choose the right tree

Select a tree species suitable for pleaching.

Prepare the site

Pick a location with enough space for the pleached tree to grow. Ensure the soil is well-drained and suitable for the chosen tree species.

Plant the tree 

Dig a square hole that is wide and deep enough to accommodate the tree’s root ball. 

Create a framework

Install a sturdy support system, such as a trellis or frame, to guide the tree’s branches into the desired shape. 

Attach wires or ties to the support structure at regular intervals to provide a framework for the branches to grow along.

SEE ALSO:   Camellias

Train the branches

Begin training the tree’s branches by gently tying them to the support wires or frame. Aim for a horizontal or diagonal growth pattern, spacing the branches evenly along the framework. 

Prune any excess or unwanted branches to maintain a neat and uniform appearance.

coppicing

Coppiced shrub with young shoots

How to Care for Pleached Trees

Once you’ve planted your pleached trees, you’ll want to ensure they survive and thrive. 

Maintenance of pleached trees

To ensure your pleached trees grow to their design as expected, you’ll want to know how to maintain their shape and keep them pruned.

  • Regularly monitor the growth and shape of pleached trees to maintain their desired form.
  • Retie or adjust the support system if necessary to ensure proper growth and stability.
  • Remove any unwanted shoots or branches that deviate from the pleaching design.
  • Mulch and fertilize annually to promote healthy growth.

Finally, consider consulting with an experienced arborist for complex training or maintenance tasks.

How to prune pleached trees

Prune pleached trees during the dormant season to maintain their desired shape and structure.

Remove any dead, damaged, or diseased branches. Then, Trim side shoots and branches to maintain a neat, uniform appearance.

Pests and diseases

Common pests that affect pleached trees include aphids, scale insects, and caterpillars. 

Regular monitoring and appropriate pest management practices, such as insecticidal soaps or horticultural oils, helps control infestations. 

Regarding diseases, proper care, including good air circulation and avoiding overwatering, helps prevent issues such as powdery mildew or leaf spot diseases.

Conclusion

Pleached trees provide a unique combination of vertical structure and greenery to the garden. These carefully trained trees create an attractive living screen, offering both privacy and beauty. 

Pleached trees are an elegant way to enhance outdoor spaces. With proper planning, planting, and maintenance, these living screens create a stunning visual impact. 

Whether you choose Hornbeam, Lime, Beech, or another suitable species, pleached trees can transform your garden into a true botanical paradise.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in November 2016 and has been completely updated.

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