Increasing light

We often receive requests to increase the amount of light and space in a garden by working on the trees there. This page looks at the various ways in which this can be achieved and examines the pros and cons of each.

Thinning

Removal of a percentage of secondary growth in the crown of the tree to leave it more open so that light can pass through more easily.

Leaves a shadow the same size as before but with dappled rather than deep shade.

Pros:
  • Increases the amount of light that can penetrate through the crown.
  • Relatively non invasive.
  • Reduces the likelihood of wind damage.
  • Tree is less likely to put on excessive growth in subsequent years.

Cons:

  • Leaves the overall size of the crown the same.

Reduction

The aim is to reduce the size of part or all of the crown of the tree by removing lengths of the primary growths on each branch back to suitable growth points.

Where possible, we use a technique called “Reduction by Thinning” as we find that it provides the best solution for the tree owner and the tree. Reduction by thinning reduces the risks of the various “cons” listed on the right. For more information on this technique, click here.

Pros:
  • Reduces the size of the crown so that it casts a smaller shadow.
  • Reduces the likelihood of wind damage.

Cons:

  • Can leave a large number of wounds on the tree.
  • Can result in the tree putting on a large amount of dense growth in subsequent years.
  • Whilst it reduces the size of the shadow cast by the tree, it doesn't reduce the density of the shadow.

Pollarding

Originally, pollarding was a woodsman's technique for harvesting wood from a tree in a sustainable fashion.

Nowadays pollarding of street and garden trees is a popular way of preventing the tree from growing bigger and opening it up to the light.

A regularly pollarded tree will have a basic framework of branches with knuckles at each end. These knuckles are where regrowth occurs. Every few years the regrowth is cut back and the process is repeated.

Pros:
  • Reduces the size of the tree and opens it up to allow light through.
  • Reduces the likelihood of wind damage.

Cons:

  • Leaves a large number of small wounds on the tree.
  • Results in the tree putting on a large amount of dense growth in subsequent years.
  • Pollarding has to be repeated every 2 – 5 years to maintain the cycle.
  • The look of a newly pollarded tree is not to everyone's taste.

Crown lifting

The lower branches of a tree are removed to prevent interference with buildings or other structures underneath.

Pros:
  • Minimises problems with tree interfering with adjacent buildings.
  • Increases light when the sun is low in the sky.

Cons:

  • If done excessively, crown lifting will starve the tree roots and make the tree top heavy. This makes the tree more likely to be blown over in high winds.

Felling

Sometimes it is necessary to remove a tree entirely. Felling can sometimes be done simply by cutting at the base, but more often than not, it will require the tree to be dismantled piece by piece to avoid damage to adjacent buildings, fences, plants etc.

Pros:
  • Will have a big impact on the amount of light!

Cons:

  • Produces much more waste than pruning which increases the cost.
  • Eliminates wildlife habitat.

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