February 11, 2012

Privacy by Pleaching

A shady walk in a formal garden is created by parallel stilt-hedges. Courtesy of Anguskirk-Flickr

Gimme some green! Everyone around me seems to have had their fill of the greiges of winter, and I'm no exception! 

The gorgeous green in this post comes from pleached trees. Pleaching is the ancient art of weaving the branches of multiple trees or plants together so that they become one living unit.  Pleaching is generally done with trees that are 'inosculate', which means they are self-grafting: the branch of one tree will, as the result of gentle abrasion over time, form a living bond with the branch of another tree. "Pleaching" results when this grafting is initiated or aided by humans. 

A pleached hedge in a garden by Jinny Blom,creates a divide between two parts of a garden.

There are various forms that can be achieved by pleaching. The form shown here and my favorite is the stilt-hedge. Trees are planted fairly close together (about 4-6 feet apart) in a straight line. Each tree is trained to a single central stem or leader; the branches are trained horizontally along a continuous grid of canes or wires to connect with the branches of the neighboring trees to form a single hedge on "stilts".

This and next four photos: In a enviable Cotswold garden, Jinny Blom has used pleached hedges to enclose a large section of garden.

Pleached hedges have been used by farmers for the utilitarian purpose of creating wind blocks and were at one time used as a status symbol by European landowners to showcase the number of gardeners in their employment as very long and immaculate avenues of pleached trees required a considerable amount of time spent in training and pruning them.

Pleached hedges are making a comeback as modern gardeners recognize the usefulness of stilt-hedges in urban and suburban gardens to create privacy, primarily, but also to create wind and sound blocks, shade and habitats for wildlife within the confines of limited space.  In many suburban communities, there are restrictions limiting the height of fences and walls that can be erected, and some subdivisions (such as those on golf courses) disallow the erection of fences altogether. In my own neighborhood, fences must be kept to a 4-foot maximum leaving me very little ability (short of a stilt-hedge type solution) to hide my embarrassment from the neighbors that, yes, once again Chester (my Airedale) has  dug up the internet cable or mutilated yet another chair cushion. The sweet little devil..

There are a variety of trees suitable for pleaching. Among the most common: Lindens (commonly called Limes in Europe), Hornbeam, Beech, Apple and Pear. I have also seen beautiful examples of pleached Hawthorn and Carob trees.


Here you can see what a pleached hedge looks like before it has had its seasonal close clipping.

Beneath pleached hedges is prime space for other gorgeous plantings. In the photos above, where the sunlight will still reach plants below the pleached hedge, designer Jinny Blom has planted a mix of foxglove, peonies and other perennials. 

An undesirable view is blocked from this suburban backyard with a row of pleached trees. Beneath the hedge which is shaded due to the wall that backs it up, hostas and other shade-lovers are growing.

This pleached hedge shields the garden from the view and noise of a nearby street. 

The pleached hedge that surrounds this modern urban setting creates softness in an angular space. via Jill Anderson

This photo taken in early spring, gives a good view of the framework of mature pleached lindens before they have completely leafed out. 
Photo by Andrew Fulton via Thinking Outside the Boxwood of Arley Hall  

Another early Spring look at pleached hedges. via 

Pleached horbeam in winter. via 

While there are a number of good trees to choose from, my tree of choice would probably be the American Hornbeam (Carpinus Caroliniana) . It is hardy to USDA growing zone 3 (-40 F) through zone 9a. It is very patient with being pruned and bent and not susceptible to breakage. It is resistant to Japanese beetles, which can be a significant problem here in mid-summer and is tolerant of heat and most soil types including heavy clay. At my favorite local garden center, the nursery-woman tells me that while other trees are stressing from weather extremes, the Hornbeam doesn't miss a beat. And maybe one of its best features is that while it is a deciduous tree, it will hold some of its leaves through winter, shedding them the following spring, so that it remains a privacy screen year-round.

(USDA and UK growing zone maps HERE and HERE, respectively.)

Ready-pleached trees take out a lot of the work of creating a pleached hedge. These from Instahedge, UK.

If you would like to grow a pleached hedge of your own, there are a couple of ways to do it. If you live in the UK, some nurseries have ready-pleached trees available. The down-side is that they are reported to carry price tags of between 400 and 1,000 pounds, see Hopes Grove Nurseries, UK. In the United States, pleaching is still unfamiliar to many, and I haven't yet found a nursery that offers ready-pleached trees for sale. (If you know of one, please do let me know.)

The other way is to start from scratch. The photo below shows an example of the type of framework needed for getting a pleached hedge started. Once the hedge has matured and is holding its own, the framework can be removed.

Very young trees have been planted along a framework of wood posts and wires. The trunks have been cleared of any branches that are below the desired height of the hedge as well as cleared of any branches that cannot be directed into the horizontal framework. 

This diagram shows the progression of training as the trees mature. 

With some tree varieties, (those that transplant easily and are very tolerant of training and pruning) as was the case with the hedge in this photo, semi-mature trees can be planted to achieve a dense hedge in a shorter period of time.

The Royal Horticultural Society website is a good place to visit if you need more details on the "what, when and how" of pleaching.

A very happy week to you all!
xo Keri

Photo Credits HERE unless stated otherwise.


  1. Oh my goodness! This is fantastic! The depth of detail and examination of this single gardening technique is food for my researching soul! You have given us such a thorough post here accompanied with beautiful pictures.


    I have been pussyfooting around horticultural aspects in my posts because I was afraid of sending my readers to sleep. I will be taking example from you. Bravo.

    And breathe!

    Have a beautiful Sunday and the greenery is on its way!


  2. Dearest,

    Next to aqua or turquoise, GREEN is my favorite color, indeed. The life that flows through the viens of each leaf revitalize my senses, and what you display here is of exquisite quality. NOW....we have done something similar in our yard. With arbor vitae hedges, we started off with baby plants and now 10 years later, they are finally ONE UNIT! My beautiful boxwood hedges as well have performed in the same manner. HOWEVER, I am worried. This year, as you probably know, we have not have ANY SNOW! Oh, we have had maybe two episodes of a dusting, but not the usual amount to PROTECT the roots. Temps have been mild, but just this weekend, we have had a BLAST of artic air that supposedly can harm the roots without the proper covering of snow. So, time will tell. And all the hard work and waiting to see our hedges could be destroyed, but we just have to cross our fingers and hope! But there is nothing more pleasant than to go outside and sit in a garden of green. OH! Do you know the GARDEN OF MARQUEYSSAC in La Dordogne region of France? IF NOT, please Google some images. You will see the most AMAZING garden of BOXWOODS grown and matured to render the most fascinating gardens!

    THANK YOU FOR VISITING and give that man of yours a HUG!!!! Anita

  3. Thank you so much for posting this. I wish my thumb was green enough to accomplish a hedge of this type. Absolutely beautiful!!


  4. Wow! What an absolutely stunning post....this is what you call a major labor of love. How I wish I had the green thumb required to do this! Just beautiful.

  5. I love this labor of love and didn't know about this method. Personlly I would be happy with a simple alee of trees. I just love the look. Love this post and cheering on spring!


  6. Oh my. So so beautiful. And so INTERESTING! As pretty as it is down here along the Southern California Coastal Desert (Zone 10!), I often long for shady green trees. Oh well, we can't have it all. Thank you for taking me on this verdant little journey!

  7. So much beauty here. And lovely lovely green!!! I am slowly thinking of my garden, the first seeds I will plant in a few weeks..but for now, still enjoying the white and the frost and looking at pretty blogs like yours :) Am so in love with the image of the boxwoods floating in lavender....xo Karen

  8. I've seen this kind of hedge before and even when the framework is still intact, but I must say I never knew the name for it was a Pleached Hedge. I love seeing all the photos at different stages and at different seasons. Now when I see it in my travels I will have even more of an appreciation. I came to your blog today after reading a comment on another blog...I love the title of your blog.

  9. Wonderful post, Keri! I've never heard of pleaching before. I love the look of these trees and hedges woven together and the privacy they create.
    Thanks for sharing!
    ~ Wendi ~

  10. Beautiful images. Thanks for such an interesting post!

  11. Dear Keri,
    I can't take my eyes of this post!!! Oh my, indeed what a gorgeous place to go for an inspiring walk!!!!
    Thank you for sharing this !!!

  12. Beautiful gardens, I liked being able to look in different seasons!! A hug. Manoli

  13. Keri dearest!!!!

    OH NO! A CYPRESS IS SHOWING STRESS? NOOOOOOO! I so wish we could grow those here, but it is too frigid! And you found MARQUEYSSAC!!! Is that NOT a dreamy place? About 2 years ago, I used one of the photos of these dream spot as my header. Oh dearest, I wonder what spring will bring for our gardens. I don't even feel right watering because of the lack of water we have now! But we shall wait to see what spring has in store. I do hope that no one has any violent weather but just GENTLE RAINS!!!!

    THANK YOU FOR COMING BY and dream of beautiful and lush paradise!

    Have a great Monday! Anita

  14. I love me a pleached hedge. I have had the first image in my inspiration file for years. The gardens you presented are glorious. Thank you for starting my day with a sigh.
    All the best...Victoria

  15. Wow amazing green in this garden!
    thanks for this beautiful trip

  16. These gardens are stunning...love the pleached hedge!! Gets me so excited for Spring ~

  17. I love pleached hedges. Your images are gorgeous and Jinny Blom is one of my favorite landscape designers. Pleached trees and hedges are a great way to achieve privacy and I think they are so beautiful. A great post, makes me start dreaming about summer gardens.

  18. Hi Terri. Oh my word what an gorgeous post and I am lost in that first pic! It is a capivating garden art form and I love all theother images as well. Thank you so much for your visit yesterday to Tina's post and your very kind comment!


  19. Es una maravilla. Me encanta la primavera. Besos

  20. I am saving this whole post because we totally need to do this in out back yard but I know NOTHING about plants! Thank you so much!

  21. WoW what an intressting post. I have never heard of this before, but it is so beautiful.
    Thank you for taking a moment to stop by my blog and leave a comment.
    I can not wait to read more of your blog and I am now a new follower too.

  22. Gracious! I would love to have a pleached hedge around our property instead of Thuja my husband is planning. Of course, a gardener would be helpful too.

  23. I NEED to see some green too.... both in landscape and the paper kind!! I've never heard of this... very cool. The results are amazing. Hope you had a wonderful Valentine's day! xo

  24. Keri how beautifully artful images. The pleaching is so unique, especially love the Cotswold pics. Also the one with foxglove, peonies etc planted below!

    Art by Karena

  25. Keri, this is just beautiful
    and so interesting, too!
    I don't think I've ever seen
    pleached trees in the U.S.
    We see a lot of hedges when
    we go to Palm Springs for
    spring break each year; similar
    to the hedge with the wall
    beneath it in your pics. It
    really makes a backyard feel
    like an oasis!

    Happy Saturday,
    xx Suzanne

  26. I never knew the name for this before! I swear I learn something new everyday from reading blogs haha! These gardens are all magnificent.

    ~ Clare x

  27. Oh I adore pleached trees. I saw several parks in Paris as well as the gardens of Versailles that features this horticultural work of art.

  28. This is beautiful! Thanks for such an informative blog and helpful collection of photos - I had never heard the term pleaching before, but it is just what I have been searching for. Now if I can just find the time for a project of my own.

    1. Thank you! Glad to help. Good luck getting that project started & when you do, let me know how it goes!

  29. I'd never heard of pleaching--but so glad to be informed! Great photos to go along with the tutorial--nothing like gorgeous gardens to brighten a February day! New to your blog and just love it!

  30. This is such a great post! I love finding something beautiful and getting some education at the same time! I'm your newest follower and would love to use some of these images for a post if its ok? Just loved learning about preaching and seeing these gorgeous images!!

  31. Enjoyed this post thoroughly and will be back often at this exact spot for green inspiration.
    I also HAVE to do this somewhere.....realy!
    Colette x

  32. Came over to your blog because of The French Tangerine blog post. Adore learning new things, Pleaching! YEAH. Have sent this to all my clients. Grand post. xxpeggybraswelldesign.com

  33. Just read the word "pleached lindens" in Architectural Digest. Your blog explained all, learned a new phrase today for us gardeners. Thanks.

  34. Glad to help! I hope you'll return often!


  35. I've seen this kind of hedge before and even when the framework is still intact, but I must say I never knew the name for it was a Pleached Hedge. I love seeing all the photos at different stages and at different seasons.Kalicor Now when I see it in my travels I will have even more of an appreciation.

  36. What is the name of the Pleached Tree in the second picture?

  37. What is the name of the Pleached Trees in the second picture? I live in Miami, Fl USA, Zone 10 and I don't know what trees I can use over here to create this effect. Thank You.

  38. Hi Sandy,
    For growing a pleached hedge in Zone 10, you might try carob or fig trees. Most of the trees shown in this post are Lindens which grow in US zones 3-7. I saw an example of pleached carobs growing in San Francisco, & it was very pretty. If you have any other questions, feel free to email me at ivycladblogger@gmail.com.
    Good luck, & let me know if you try it!


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