Coppicing

Coppicing is an ancient method of growing trees which increases the amount of tree stems (and therefore wood) growing from a single stool, or trunk.

The tree trunk is cut back to within a few inches of its base in early spring, with the result that many shoots will then grow from this cut off trunk.

Coppicing is a method of woodland management which allows poles of wood to be harvested every 3-15 years depending on the desired diameter of the poles or stems. The timber can then be used for fencing, carpentry and the wood for fuel.

Sweet chestnut – Castanea sativa; Hazel – Corylus avellana and Beech – Fagus sylvatica – are three trees which have been managed as coppiced woodland for hundreds of years.

Coppicing can also be used decoratively in the garden; for example, on shrubs such as dogwood – Cornus; this is grown for its brightly coloured winter stems which are pruned back in March to encourage fresh, colourful growth for the following winter. And on shrubs with decorative leaves such as Catalpa bignoides, where it promotes the growth of huge leaves.

Where there are overgrown shrubs in the garden, coppicing can often be used as part of a restorative pruning programme. Alhtough check before hacking back, as not all shrubs survive the process.

See also Pollarding, which is a similar technique.

a stand of coppiced sweet chestnut, castaneas sativa, managed woodland

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