Commercially available trees nearly always have a trunk that is 2.5m (8.2ft) tall. Trees that have already been trained should have five to seven layers of branches.
The best nurseries will have removed any branches from the trunk as soon as they appear, so there should not be any signs of large branches having been cut away.
Even in this immature state they have an instant and dramatic impact in a garden but, before planting them, it is essential to imagine what they will be like in five, 10 and 20 years’ time. An imposing row of neatly clipped trees looks beautiful, but demands work.
Head gardener David Martin looks after dozens of pleached trees at the Jardins du Bâtiment in Thiré, France (the country where you will find the best examples of the technique).
Planting tips Prepare planting holes that are twice the size of the trees’ root balls, and dig in lots of compost or well-rotted manure.
Plant the tree with a stake that is long and strong.
Selecting trees Whether you are planning to start off with saplings or large trees that are already growing on a framework, always choose trees with dead straight trunks and about the same girth.
Every trendy planting style, technique and design element is just a reinterpretation of what has gone before.
Cut back to a single bud any shoots that are growing the wrong way.
Pinch back leading stems to encourage shoots further down the stem.
Traditionally used to demarcate grand allées or to enclose intimate spaces, pleached trees had, until recently, fallen out of widespread use.
Now, following their appearance in Chelsea Flower Show gardens, often in the form of “hedges on stilts,” enthusiasm for pleached trees is filtering across the country.The 26th National Tree Week (uk) starts today, and it is a good opportunity to think about how to make old arboreal techniques sing in a contemporary setting.