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What is Pleaching?

Apple trees are well suited for pleaching.
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  • Written By: Shannon Kietzman
  • Edited By: Niki Foster
  • Last Modified Date: 28 March 2014
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Pleaching is a process that involves weaving tree branches together for ornamental purposes. The most common modern day purpose for pleaching is to create lattice, archways, or screens to enhance gardens and landscaping.

Pleaching dates back to the Roman Empire, where it was first invented by horticulturalists. Originally, pleaching was used to encourage growth in live trees and to prevent them from becoming damaged by flooding. A form of pleaching was also used in the orchards of medieval Europe, where trees were planted on a grid until their branches touched. Then, limbs were encouraged to grow from one tree to the next in order to create bridges between trees on which huts were built.

Since it was first invented, pleaching has enjoyed brief periods of popularity. Today, the process is quite popular among do-it-yourselfers and landscapers as a decorative choice rather than as a practical solution to a flooding problem.

To begin the pleaching process, the crafter must select the proper branches. The best branches for pleaching are those that are capable of bending without snapping. Certain trees, such as hawthorn, pear, and apple linden, are particularly well suited to pleaching.

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After selecting the proper branches, the crafter must create several small cuts in each branch. This makes it easier to make the branches hold together, a process called grafting. The branches can then be bent in order to create the desired garden design. Care must be taken when bending the branches in order to avoid accidentally placing too much stress on them and causing them to break.

The pleaching effect can also be created with live trees if the gardener has the time and patience to commit to the process. The gardener must plant two trees near each other, typically about four to five feet (about 1.2 to 1.5 meters) apart. As each tree grows, the gardener trains them to grow together into a single stem. To accomplish this, the gardener must prune away the lower branches and some of the upper branches in order to encourage the trees to grow laterally. Within a few growing seasons, the tree branches should be joined together to form a natural, living piece of pleaching art.

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anon61837
Post 1

I can't find any details on how to join limbs from two different trees in order to pleach them. This site says to make cuts as one would with grafting, but then how do you hold the two limbs together so that they grow together? Any advice welcome.

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