Sunday, 28 March 2021

How to crown lift: not just for trees!

This is a really simple, "quick fix", which can make a lot of difference to a small garden, or a narrow border.

Firstly, what do I mean by "crown lift": well,  it's nothing to do with hairdressing, it's where you prune off all the lower limbs of a tree or large shrub, in order to give it a clear stem at the bottom.

You can clear the bottom few inches, or you can clear several feet: it all depends on how big the tree is, and the reason for crown lifting it: for access, for beauty, to create light/space underneath it: there are all sorts of reasons, each dictating a different level of clearance required.

Generally speaking, if there is grass around it, then I like to clear the lower branches, up to the point where whoever is mowing, can do so without being poked in the eye or bopped on the head - I have a bit of a "thing" about making life easy for the mower!

Crown lifting almost always results in a shapelier tree: and the uncluttered trunk allows more light to reach the grass at the base of the tree, which in turn helps the grass to grow better.

There are only three real "tricks of the trade" which you need to consider:

1) Always start at the very bottom, and work your way up: stopping frequently to check on progress.

2) Some trees have branches which loop downwards: so in order to get the area clear to head height, you may need to cut off branches which originate a lot higher than head-height!

3) Cut them off as close to the trunk as you can - don't leave sticky-out bits, as they are often very sharp, and will be a hazard to anyone walking or working close to the newly-cleared trunk.

Right, that's trees taken care of - what about shrubs?

This technique is excellent when you are a bit short of border space, and it's full of holly...

Here's a great example: this lady's border was completely filled with Holly.

She liked the Holly, but found it was making a nuisance of itself when she was trying to cut the grass, because it had grown out so far that it would scratch her, as she mowed past it.

She had tried to cut it back, but had made that mistake of only nipping off the very ends, instead of doing a proper job: and every time she nipped a bit off, it re-grew twice as fast, with twice as many branches. 

You can see in the  photo, how it is bulging out at the lower level, exactly where she does NOT want it, and exactly where she had been nipping bits off.

So I was sent in to try and reduce it.

The original idea behind planting the Holly just there, was for privacy: as you can see, the wall is quite low, and the owner wanted to screen off a rather ugly view at that exact point.

Which means that we don't really need any of the branches at below-wall-height, now do we?

So, out with the secateurs, and in I went, Brave Explorer Number One, on hands and knees, being stabbed from all sides.

Jolly prickly stuff, holly!

I took off all the lower branches, right back to the original trunk: then removed some of the slightly higher branches. Not many, just one or two, and only ones which were pointing forwards, ie towards and over the lawn.

Twenty minutes later, there we go: mission accomplished.

We have retained all the upper growth, so the privacy aspect has been respected: but now the person mowing is safe: the holly is no longer making a bid for freedom across the grass: we have saved the straight line of the edge of the grass: and the owner will no longer have to keep nipping bits off, every time she passes it.

And, best of all, we have revealed and created a whole new area for planting!

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