Sunday, March 01, 2015

Pollards and Copses

Weather: Snow Friday and Saturday. Last snow 2/28.

What’s still green: Juniper, piñon, and other evergreens, yuccas, rose stems; leaves on grape hyacinth, Japanese honeysuckle, alfilerillo.

What’s gray: Salt bushes, winterfat, snow-in-summer.

What’s reddened: Cholla, twigs on peach, apricot, apple, sandcherry and sandbar willow; purple aster leaves.

What’s yellowed: Young stems on globe and weeping willows; arborvitae have browned.

What’s blooming indoors: Zonal geraniums.

Animal sightings: Small birds, rabbit tracks.

Weekly update: There are only so many ways to trim a tree: cut it off above, cut it at the ground, trim the edges, or thin the middle. It doesn’t matter which technique is used. A tree or shrub will replace the amputated branches if they are important to its survival.

Oliver Rackham says Englishmen didn’t much care if they pollarded trees several feet off the ground or copsed them level. They were interested in harvesting firewood. Sometimes they wanted fence posts.

The pollarded tree responded with a bolling at the top. A stool formed at the base of a copse.

Pollarding took more effort, but was necessary if a tree was near browsing livestock. The cut was made so high animals couldn’t reach the succulent new growth.

Utility and road departments have been trimming trees here recently. They have cherry pickers which make either method easier. However, they have no use for the sawn off branches. They have to fed to a mulcher and hauled off. They cut the minimum required, then come back in a few years and cut more.

The difference between them is utility companies cut everything from the top down to some point below the wires, while road crews cut whatever threatens traffic and leave the rest.

Ditch cleaners are more likely to cut trees to the group and inadvertently create copses.

There was a time when Native American basket makers would harvest skunkbush limbs they had nurtured by burning them to the ground. Now, there are so few basket weavers they don’t have to worry about sandbar willow. They know they can always find some the right color, the right length, the right thickness this time of year.

No one, Englishman, cutting crew, or Native American does more work than necessary.

Notes: For more on harvesting skunkbush, see the post for 12 April 2009; index at right.

Rackham, Oliver. The History of the Countryside, 1986.

Photographs: All taken in the area 26 February 2015.

1. Pollarded tree under a utility line that’s come back several times. The cluster supporting the new growth is the bolling.

2. Pruned tree near the road that’s put out new growth around the cut end.

3. Trees near a utility pole that have been cut several times. The history is recorded in the thick, twisting trunk base.

4. Trees of heaven that have come back in clusters along a ditch.

5. Siberian elms that formed clumps when they were cut along the same ditch.

6. Tree by the road that has been cut more than once.

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