A Gardening Journal

Extreme Snow Removal, plus Pollarded Lindens

Right outside the front gate, I've planted a pair of standards of dwarf linden, Tilia cordata 'Summer Sprite'. The standards were formed by grafting, so their ball-on-a-stick habit was in place from the beginning. They get one or two cuts a year to train their two heads into one, but the most thorough one is usually in the Winter, when the leaves have fallen and the branches' architecture is revealed. Their united canopies form a single striking block. Just visible in back is the top of an arch of beeches, whose branches will be trained up and out into a second, higher block of foliage that will screen the center second-story window.

 

Tilia cordata Summer Sprite 030515 640

 

The unusually cold Winter has preserved all too much precipitation from a string of unusually heavy snows. Because our 18th Century house is typical in its placement close to the road, the front gate is barely five feet from pavement, and the lindens closer still. Their trunks are buried several feet deep in the iced-through berm of plowed snow that has been building up week by week. Without the berm, there's room even for me (6'3" in bare feet) to walk under the linden canopy, up a couple of steps through the gate, and up two more steps to the front door.

 

The boxy shape of these clipped lindens is dramatic year-round, in leaf and out. But its best show is after fresh snows in Winter, when the bare branches turn black with moisture.

 

Tilia cordata Summer Sprite 030515 canopy 640

 

Pruning is easy. These trees are so hardy (to Zone 4, as is typical for Tilia cordata) that they can be clipped any time you have the urge when, as here, you are gardening in Zone 6 that is almost Zone 7: The profuse new growth that results is hardy from birth, as it were. That said, I like to prune in Winter, when outdoor gardening is strictly limited to what can be done above the frozen ground; see my pruning progress on the hedges of American beech. But when the snow is as deep as this, hedge pruning isn't practical, because the lowest branches are buried. In blizzard-a-week times, pruning tall pollards such as these lindens is a gift: Even when mounded up, the snow will never get that high. 

 

Because the bottom of the canopy is already high enough for me to walk under, the top and sides of the canopy are accessible only from a stepladder. My eight-footer provides barely enough height. Given that I don't stand on the ladder's upper two steps, and it's awkward to prune much higher than shoulder height, my outstretched arms are about four feet higher than that eight feet when I prune the top of the linden-pollard's canopy. The canopy, then, is about twelve feet high.

 

That dimension was put into motion yesterday. Our need for some serious snow removal meant I had to call in equipment far larger than a plow on a pickup. Extreme plowing was in order. How big was the rig? Besides providing privacy and no little Winter interest, these linden standards were also good yardsticks.

 

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So how high was the roof of that earthmover's cab? Easily twelve feet. Its front bucket was a monster, too: eight feet wide, scooping up a couple of square yards at a time. Snow removal that might have taken miserable days when done by hand, took under an hour.

 

 

Here's how to grow another cultivar of Tilia cordata, 'Winter Orange', and here's yet another, 'Akira Gold'. Their look and scale—and, therefore, uses—could hardly be different, but their hardiness and culture are the same.

 
 
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