Have you ever heard of pleaching? If you’ve seen the Shakespearean play “Much Ado About Nothing,” you might have heard the term! There’s a line about Count Claudio and the Prince “walking in a thick pleached alley in my orchard.” Believe it or not, the technique of pleaching is still in use today, usually by serious arborists; but it can have its place in your landscape too.
The Technique of Pleaching
Pleaching is sometimes used as an interchangeable term with plashing. It’s essentially the process of gradually weaving branches of trees together to create a specific effect or structure. Often, trees or bushes are planted side by side in rows or lines for this purpose.
As the trees or bushes grow, their living branches (and sometimes dead ones as well) are interlaid and woven to fill in gaps or weak areas. This gradually thickens the structure of the hedge or treeline. Sometimes, branches from the disparate trees may merge together. This can happen naturally when two or more branches are in constant contact.
While pleaching is sometimes done with larger branches, it also works well with thinner, more pliable branches or twigs. With these whippy, slim stems or branches, the overall effect tends to resemble that of a woven basket.
Why Is Pleaching Done?
The primary purpose of pleaching is aesthetic. Gardeners or arborists are going for a particular look along a walkway or throughout a certain section of a garden or orchard, and pleaching happens to be the most practical way to achieve that look. Pleaching is sometimes used to create the appearance of a “hedge on stilts.” But it can also be used to craft tree tunnels, arches, and frames for walks, terraces, and doorways.
Pleaching can be a useful way to support and train weaker trees and bushes. Its end result can serve as a helpful windbreak or shade certain areas from the hot sun. Long ago, plashing was used by Gallic tribes to create living barriers as a defense against invading cavalry. The practice has also been used to create living fences to hold in certain types of livestock, such as sheep. But today, the practice is primarily an art form, a kind of natural architecture often employed in formal garden settings.
What Trees Can Be Pleached?
Boxhead trees are popular with arborists who want to do some pleaching, but many other trees can be trained into this format as well. Crabapple trees look lovely when they are pleached. Whyte hornbeam, lime, beech, hazel, chestnut, and maple are very popular choices as well. If you want blossoms along your pleached row of trees, try Prunus or Amelanchier trees. For evergreens, your choices include Photinia, Magnolia, Quercus Ilex, and Elaeagnus, which will offer year-round beauty.
For clippers and other tools that you may need for your pleaching efforts, browse the Kurtz Bros., Inc. website and review our broad array of landscaping and gardening products. We also supply pavers and decorative stones for your garden walls and walkways. If you have questions, feel free to contact our lawn care and gardening experts anytime. You can also find a number of helpful videos about pleaching online through YouTube and other websites. With some care and patience, you can enjoy the gorgeous aesthetic of pleached trees.