by Lydia Spiers
Overgrown trees can be an unsightly nuisance, blocking light and space, and creating damp, dark conditions where very few plants will grow. Often it seems that the only solution is to remove the tree completely.
Before removing a tree, however, I’d encourage you to consider all that it has to offer, and explore alternative solutions. Trees are an important feature in the garden, providing shape, depth, height, structure and form. I have recently been developing a relatively new garden that was heavily planted with perennials and annuals when it was first established, but lacks the depth and height that only trees can offer. It has been quite a challenge to get in there among the well-established perennials and add shrubs and trees, but in the long term this add an invaluable extra dimension to the design. Trees are also an invaluable wildlife habitat. A single oak may support as many as 284 different insect species, 30 different species of lichen, 65 different mosses and lichen, between 300 and 400 birds of more than 30 species, as well as squirrels and mice. (Living Tree Educational Foundation)
Trees, of course, may also bring some challenges. In particular, where the size of the garden was not considered when choosing a tree. When an overgrown, over-sized tree is removed from a small-medium garden it may suddenly be flooded with light, which is a wonderful transformation to see (even though I normally try hard to avoid removing trees).
The cost of trees can also be prohibitive and this is always an issue for the garden designer – how to balance out the cost with the tree’s appearance in the design. It’s another compelling reason to retain existing trees if possible.
There a range of pruning approaches that can be used to transform overgrown trees, opening up the garden and allowing light to flood in, whilst still retaining the height, substance and wild habitats provided by the tree. We’ve put together a leaflet summarising the main approaches, which you can download free below. Please note that pruning large trees is a job for a professional tree surgeon.