The pruning of our fruit trees is undertaken in winter, when the trees are dormant. Above: One of four pollarded crab apples in need of pruning in Cuxa garden
The first important horticultural task of the New Year was the pruning of the crab apples in Cuxa cloister garth garden. (This year, the work was performed on Plough Monday, the traditional day on which farmers and workers returned to the fields after the Christmas rest. For a nineteenth-century account of the history of Plough Monday in English tradition, see Chambers’s Journal of popular literature, science and arts, Vol. 56.)
Above: Gardener Esme Webb cutting last spring’s growth. Below: The straight and rapid sucker growth engendered by last year’s cuts is taken back to the “heads” or “knuckles” formed by three successive years of intensive pruning. The crab apples have now been successfully transformed into pollards.
Our consulting arborist, Fran Reidy, completed the three-year phased pruning necessary to transform our crab apples into pollards last winter. The Gardens staff is now undertaking the regular winter maintenance of the dormant trees, which entails taking the last spring’s growth back to the knuckle formed by previous cuts. Next spring’s buds will break from these knuckles, which are characteristic of pollarded trees. For more about our decision to pollard these trees with Fran’s help, see “Woodswoman, Pollard That Tree,” (February 25, 2011). For pollarding as a medieval woodland management technique, see “Coppicing and Pollarding,” (March 4, 2011). For more on the month of January and the return to work after the Christmas feast, see “Works and Days: The Medieval Year,” (January 9, 2009).