K's Garden

Building a large garden on a budget

Pleached Lime Hedge Friday 12 December 2008


  • Page 1 Site is prepared and planted in Autumn 2008 (this page)
  • Poplars removed 2009
  • Pleached hedge extended – Aug 2014 (link)
  • Henchman Hi-Step Platform for Training and Pruning of Tall Plants (link)
  • Before/After Photo Gallery

Either side of the short drive to our house are half a dozen Lombardy Poplars. They have been there 45 years or so, and are 60′ tall – maybe more. They aren’t in keeping with a rural property, but the land around here is pretty flat, and I’m sure when the house was first built they did a good job of getting the wind to go up-and-over, rather than straight-through!

They represent a risk, being close to the house, and we’ve decided to replace them. On the side nearest the garden we are going to plant a pleached hedge of limes.

Poplars from the Roof

Poplars from the Roof

I’ve read what I can find to learn how to make a Pleached hedge, and come up rather blank.

Its clear that I should train the branches horizontally between the trees, and where they meet they will fuse.  But I can’t find anything about how to train and grow the “width” of the hedge; I don’t just want a 2-dimensional hedge!

In February 2009 I had a few minutes to kill in London and wandering through Hyde Park I had a look at a Pleached Hedge there.  With no leaves on it looked dreadful, so definitely a method to avoid. It looked like the trees used were established standards – i.e. the branches had an open style, and were not trained horizontally from the trunk. This meant that they had to be trained into a wall-face a couple of feet out from the stem, and the net effect was of a bundle of a dozen, or so, branches all tied together along each training cane.  Hard to describe, but I took some pictures which hopefully tell the story better.

Pleached Trees in Hyde Park

Pleached Trees in Hyde Park

Note the large number of branches tied in to each horizontal cane (running along the length of the hedge, not across the width)

Pleached Trees in Hyde Park

Pleached Trees in Hyde Park

From a distance the bulk of these branches looked very off putting – nothing subtle about it AT ALL!

Tree on Pleaching Frame

Tree on Pleaching Frame

This is what I have found on my travels – trained in two dimensions from the trunk.  I assume once it has pleached to its neighbours then it can be allowed to grow outwards and form a face.

The Site

Site of Pleached Hedge

Site of Pleached Hedge

Row of Lombardy Poplars to left of fence, and new Pleached Hedge will be to the right of the fence – so that it has enough room to grow towards the drive, and also we can mow a decent width of grass strip along the edge of the drive.

In early November 2008 I hired a JCB to clear out, and replant, a Leylandii hedge at the front of the house and took the opportunity to dig some planting holes for the Limes – 11 in all.

Planting Holes

Planting Holes

I suppose there are three ways to start a pleached hedge

  • Small plants, grow them to standards, then start training
  • Flat-head standards
  • Trained plants

Trained plants get you a flying start, but cost about £200 each. Small plants are going to take too long. So that leaves Flat Head standards.  These are normal 6/8 Std from which any side shoots coming out of the trunk at the wrong angle have been cut – so the head is basically in 2-dimensions, i.e. “flat”.

I bought plants from Ashridge Trees at a cost of about £30 each.

12 December 2008

Planted the Limes; we put some well rotted grass clippings in the bottom, with some bone meal, and about 3′ of 2″ perforated draining pipe (bent into a right-angle at one end to come to the surface) which will help with irrigation for the next few Summers; a 3′ length of 2″ pipe will hold about 2 litres, and of course some will seep out during filling, so I reckon that will be enough, applied twice a week.

Pleached Limes Planting

Pleached Limes Planting

As is the way of things, the tree surgeons arrived in mid January 2009 to remove the Poplars.  That makes their job a bit harder avoiding the Limes which are already planted. It was a beautiful frosty morning and the poplars were looking their best, which was all rather sad.

We felled the Lombardy Poplars on one side of the drive.  They are tall, and don’t appear to have long to live, and in any case are an eyesore and are not indigenous.  Although the Limes we have planted in their place are indigenous, I can’t really claim that Pleaching them is going to be!!

The Poplars look rather nice with the frost

The Poplars look rather nice with the frost

Typical! On the day they die they look better than they have ever done.

50 feet up a poplar with a running chainsaw tied to your belt ...

50 feet up a poplar with a running chainsaw tied to your belt …

The top roped and ready to pull

The top roped and ready to pull

Poplar Felling - Rather him than me!

Trust in the rope and pullers – Rather him than me!

Poplars felled

A handy pile of fire wood, but Poplar starts out soaking wet, and when it dries it turns to dust, so I will need to catch it, and burn it, on the day when it changes from Wet to Dust …

I have ties some canes between each tree to train the horizontal branches to.  Actually, my canes are 2M long, and the trees are 2M apart, so I have put a 2M cane between each tree, and a 1M cane centred on each tree to join the 2M canes together.  This makes the 2M canes more rigid (before the tips were being dragged up by the strength of the tree branches they were tied to, so they looked like a Rope draped between the trees; now I find that I can pull the shorter canes down (tying them to a longer branch on the tree, and the effect seems good.  Plenty more to do yet though!

Pleached Lime - training started

Pleached Lime – training started

I need to get the stems absolutely vertical though, otherwise they will look terrible in years to come.

17 March 2009

Aerial view - Polars removed, Training of Limes started

Aerial view – Polars removed, Training of Limes started

Old Poplar Stumps Removed

2011 Oct – Pleached Limes – Stumps Removed

Pleach Hedge Extended – August 2014

In July 2013 we made a track to the barn, and removed one of the Pleach plants to make room (and “potted” it), and then had some building work done on the end of the house. In February 2014 I bought some more bareroot pleached hedge plants, in readiness for planting mid-Summer (they are only available in the bare root season), and we planted them out in August 2014. Here are the Before & After photos:

Pleach - Jul 2013

Pleach – Jul 2013

Pleach Extended - Aug 2014

Pleach Extended – Aug 2014

The tree nearest to the camera was the one removed from the gap in the original pleach hedge, where we have made a “track” to the barn

The details of managing the bare root plants, and planting them out with the risk of the rootball not being properly formed etc., are detailed in this article

Henchman Hi-Step Platform

I also splashed out on a Henchman Hi-Step Platform this year (well … “splashed out” was actually getting lucky on an eBay auction that finished at a price I could afford). Great bit of kit, and with the wheels attached easy to lower the frame, push along a bit, and stand upright again to attend to the next section to be trained or pruned.

Henchman Hi-Step Platform - no extension

Henchman Hi-Step Platform – no extension

An extension section can be added for more height, and the legs are telescopic for further height and/or adjustment, and then the pad-feet unscrew so that the platform can be set up level on uneven ground. It is remarkably stable and gives a feeling of great confidence when working high up, even if leaning right out on the safety bar.

Henchman Hi-Step Platform - with extension

Henchman Hi-Step Platform – with extension

The side stays can be undone for it to fold up like a step ladder, to store against a wall for example, or disassembled and stored “flat pack”

Henchman Flat Pack for Storage

Henchman Flat Pack for Storage

June 2016

Added both the Wheeled Henchman 55 (Platform 5′ long, max 5′ high) and also the Wheeled Henchman 76 with extender (Platform 7′ long, max 6′ high / 10′ with height extender); photo below is the 7′ platform with the height extender fitter. Unbelievable how much time I saved this year cutting hedges, Henchman’s Blurb says that you can cut 20′ of hedge (that’s the 7′ platform plus “reaching out” 6’6″ on each end, before then moving the platform along); not sure my arms, nor hedge trimmer, are quite that long! but its not far short of that. A 50 yard hedge only requires moving the platform 8 times or so, and I clipped both front sides of the Long Walk, and the top, in half a day.

Pleached Limes - Henchman Platform

Pleached Limes – Henchman Platform

Before/After Photo Gallery

2008 Sep – Before Felling and Planting

2009 Jun – Pleached Limes

2010 Oct – Pleached Limes

2011 Apr – Pleached Limes

2009 Jul – Pleached Limes

2010 May – Pleached Limes

2011 Jun – Pleached Limes

Jun 2012

Pleach - Jun 2013

Pleach – Jun 2013

Pleach - Jul 2013

Pleach – Jul 2013

Pleach Extended - Aug 2014

Pleach Extended – Aug 2014


Jun 2015


Grass replaced with additional parking – Sep 2015

Pleached Limes - Jun 2016

Pleached Limes – Jun 2016

Pleached Limes - Jun 2016

Pleached Limes – Jun 2016

Next: Chickens


14 Responses to “Pleached Lime Hedge”

  1. Hi, I found this post by tag surfer in WordPress, My husband and I had lived in London for a few years, and I loved the pleached limes all through the parks. When we moved back to Canada, I decided that I want one of my own. They are not common here, nobody seems to have heard of them, so I am trying to get all my info through the web. This spring I planted 12 linden trees and will be tying the branches to canes next year. What height did you start your lowest tier at, and how far apart did you plant your trees. It was hard to find a definate opinion. Great Pictures!

    • kgarden Says:

      >> What height did you start your lowest tier at

      Its just below head height. I figured if it turns out to be too low it won’t be difficult to cut that branch off, so better to start a bit lower than I think I will need.

      >> and how far apart did you plant your trees

      They are about 2M apart. I do wonder if a double-row would look better though …

      >> It was hard to find a definate opinion

      Yes, I agree. I have not been able to find anything about how to train them outwards, only how to train them along / between the trees. I plan to visit some gardens this Winter to take photographs when the leaves are off so I can see the branch structure.

  2. Thank you for the information, I appreciate any input you can give me. Can you tie canes in both directions to make a rectangular box, and then prune the branches to this dimension? I cannot put in a double row as I do not have the space, and have already planted an evergreen hedge to back the lindens. I look forward to more pictures on this subject.
    A true labour of love.

    • kgarden Says:

      I am sure you can tie the branches perpendicular to the row. However, tying them along the row is easy as they are supported by the tree itself, whereas across the row has no peripheral support, so not quite so easy.

      That’s the key information that has been missing from everything I have read, so far.

      The branch of one tree will meet the branch of its neighbour, and fuse – which I believe is what the word “Pleach” means in French.

      So I think the central branches, between adjacent trees, should meet and fuse, but concurrently branchnes should be trained outwards, and then along the row in parallel with the central branches, and then they too should fuse.

      But that then feels like it makes the central branches redundant, so I wonder if, instead, the central branches are trained along the row, and fuse, and then the outwards-growing shoots they produce are just trimmed back to the “width” that the pleach should take?

      That’s the thing I would like an answer to!

      I’ll update this article as I find out more

  3. Tania Says:

    mmm- Hi fellow pleach buddies! So good to find others.

    I’m just starting on a pleached lime project. I’m having to use young trees and train them as I don’t really have the £1,800-odd quoted for established pleached tress (!)

    I want them to have ‘box’ heads at a 2m-ish height and to form a semi circle. I’m thinking of doing it by making a 3D ‘frame’ for them by adding carefully spaced and measured lateral branches to supporting stakes and attaching stainless steel cable to these, so making (hopefully) a not too-ugly frame while they grow. I’ll then clip to the frame edges and hope for straight trees and that they’ll one day cover the cable and I’d be able to take the support structure away …

    DO YOU THINK IT’LL WORK???? Any tips? I’m a novice gardener with grand ideas – but who could possibly not like the idea of beautifully pleached trees!!!

    So today I start to measure and dig the ground and I’ll chat to our local tree people this week …

    Wish me luck and very nice to meet you!

  4. Beany Says:

    Hi K, I found your site after searching to find any help on box pleaching. I have 10 hornbeams coming this Feb (6/8 standards as your trees) for pleaching. After much deliberation have decided I would like them to be more of a box shape and not flat, but finding it hard to get firm guidelines as to how to do this. Do I put a frame in first with wires to tie canes onto – one row for the central line then outer wires to guide to the required width (would only want at about a width of 40cm or 50cm. That may not be necessary as outward shoots could be left and trimmed to required length? Your notes were very helpful in how I could go about it. Wonder if you have any more information to share. I would like to plant mine in a square so that adds another issue of corners and angles! Any help or advice greatly appreciated.

    • kgarden Says:

      Sounds lovely! I see quite a lot of pleach planted in two rows, with some plants at the “ends”, so as to form an open rectangle or square and I think they look lovely. As I have just answered to another post (both of which are ages old, I’m sorry, I don’t know how I have managed to miss notification of them) I think its a question of: train them along the row, then let them sprout outwards by themselves and then cut the face at the desired “hedge thickness”. There is a picture on my page about our visit to Hidcote which may give you some inspiration!

  5. techknitter Says:

    Any update on that pleached hedge? Have you yet determined how to “thicken” the hedge?

    • kgarden Says:

      Well … no … no really, sorry! Although as luck would have it yesterday whilst dropping off one of my daughter’s chums I noticed they had newly planted, and also mature, pleaches and in conversation the owner said he trained them in two dimensions – i.e. along the row – and once that was done just let them do their own thing and then trimmed them, like a hedge, when they got to the appropriate thickness.

      Every time I see a pleach I examine within it for signs of training and never seem to see any – perhaps the conclusion is that none actually takes place? I’ve so struggled to believe that that maybe I’ve completely overlooked the obvious!!

  6. fenwick jackson Says:

    Hi, googled ‘pleached lime’ and came to you. I have a row of young limes 3 to 4 m apart about 10 m high overshadowing the garden and the street. Plan with my tree surgeon to cut back to 8 m and pleach with the help of some standards planted inbetween and a wire support frame. I see Monty Don suggests pruning should be ruthless as new growth is so rapid. Appreciate you sharing your experience and would welcome any comments.
    Cheers, Fenwick

  7. Jacqui Says:

    Hi, well you’ve inspired me! I was looking at the Ashridge site earlier and doing my Maths! We have a small suburban garden so was planning on planting 1.5 meters apart and allowing then to get nice and thick. Thing is, I’m hoping they’d give some privacy in winter. Do you find they keep some of the old leaves on like beech hedges seem to in winter – or am I barking up the wrong tree? Thanks, Jacqui

    • kgarden Says:

      Barking up the wrong tree I’m afraid! My Limes don’t hold their leaves at all in Winter, so if you pick Limes they will be deciduous. Not sure about Hornbeam. My Hornbeam hedge holds its leaves (but not quite as well as Beech), but I suspect that a pleach will behave like a [mature] tree, rather than like an [immature] hedge plant

      I think 1.5M is too close, but I don’t have enough knowledge to know if it matters or not. Of course the closer you plant the quicker they will “knit” together, but part of the impact is the spacing of the trunks, and personally I would find 1.5M as being too close. I’ll measure them tomorrow in daylight and report back

  8. Andrew a Says:

    We live in Melb, Australia, and have 15yo pleached Hornbeams across the front of our property (70′), and pleached Lindens down the sides (40′).

    Initially I just trained them 2 dimensionally at 2 m spacings, and cut the side branches back 1-2 x per year. I originally wanted hedges about 1-2 ‘ wide, but they have grown out to about 6′, largely because of the tie. Involved in trimming them. The Hornbeams across the front are about 10′, but the lindens grow very quickly, and are now up to about to about 15’.

    Our garden looks great when all trimmed, but a lot of work to keep it that way.

    I’d post some piccies, but not sure how.


  9. What a splendid blog! I am delighted to have stumbled across you in my search for information on how hard to prune the stubs of the limes I’m pleaching (the ones at right angles to the line of pleaching). I foresee time well spent as I browse through your archives – I am starting out creating a new garden out of 3/4 acre field and you will provide excellent inspiration (and cautionary tales). Thank you!

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