Pleaching is the name given to the technique of training the branches of a tree onto canes, forming a flat framework above a very clear stem. The branches can then be shaped and pruned to create architectural impact within a garden.
Pleached hedging is in no way a new concept in the gardening world. Used throughout history, the practice of pleaching trees has even been recorded as far back as the time of Julius Caesar, thought to have been used as a defensive barrier against cavalry.
Later, in medieval times, pleaching or plashing became a common practice in gardens, with popularity lasting right up to the eighteenth century when pleached hedging became a fashionable way to create a shaded area or walkway, and ‘living fences’ were a new trend.
The use of pleached trees and hedging experienced a slight dip towards the end of the eighteenth century, but by the middle of the nineteenth century this technique became widespread once more, making a mark on garden architecture across Europe, particularly in France and Italy, but not quite making an impression in America. The European elite used pleached trees for avenue planting and grand allées, and many of these can still be found in the grounds of stately homes across Europe today.
After an appearance in The Chelsea Flower Show, the last few years have witnessed ‘hedges on stilts’ making a comeback, with a rise in pleached hedging being utilised across the country for screening, to create tree tunnels and ‘ceilings’, to divide different areas of a garden and, as in the past, for aesthetic purposes.
Consider planting a ready-pleached tree, or try your hand at creating your very own ‘hedge in the sky’ to give your garden the regal charm of a grand stately home that your neighbours are sure to be jealous of.
If you have any questions about this topic, or anything else relating to your garden, please tweet me @best4hedging and I’ll be happy to help.