Tuesday, February 21, 2012
Street trees in London look perfectly normal in the summer. But when the leaves fall, look out! They suddenly become strange, stumpy aliens!
Many of the trees on London streets are regularly pruned by "pollarding," or drastically cutting back the upper growth. Pollarding controls the size of trees that would otherwise grow too large for a streetscape, such as these London plane trees on Bassett Road, not far from our neighborhood. It also supposedly helps prevent falling branches and other debris, particularly in storms -- or so I've read.
The trees at the side of our apartment complex were re-pruned just a month or two ago, and all the thin, twiggy growth at the top of the pollard knobs was removed. The trees were left looking like bony, skeletal hands. I can't imagine how strange they're going to look when the leaves come out again in the spring.
The nature-lover in me wishes the trees could be left alone to grow into their natural state. But I can see how that might be a problem in a relatively cramped urban environment. Pollarding is popular all over Europe, and I used to see it in Morocco, too. Some people actually like the look.
I have a few more photos of London's pollarded trees here and here.