Friday, October 8, 2010

French Chainsaw Massacre

The biennial ritual has begun. Pollarding the plane trees. I have read some about this arborist practice of "extremely radical pruning"the leafy growth in order to control the height and size of the tree. It is commonly done to certain species in urban areas in Great Britain and Europe; but I don't think I have ever seen it done in the US.

Leran is now undergoing "French Chainsaw Massacre". A highly efficient crew is working its way along Cours St. Jacques, removing the canopy of massive plane tree leaves. For those of you who have never seen a plane tree, it is similar to the sycamore tree in the US with the papery-thin camouflage bark. I imagine these city employees having to attend "pollarding school", where they learn the techniques of cutting off just enough but not too much.

It may be good for the trees. It certainly keeps the city employees busy for several days. And by next summer, there will be a new full canopy overhead. But from now until then, there won't even be bare branches to look at. Because what is left is just stubs. Butchered stubs. It is like a blight has wiped out the village.

In a country that treasures fine wines, cheeses, breads, art, and architecture, it is aesthetically reprehensible to butcher the most famous tree in France.

There must be alternative solutions, ones that are more visually acceptable and yet accomplish the goal of restraining tree height and size. As I watched the crew buzzing away, it occurred to me that rather than pollard every tree every other year, why not pollard every other tree every year? Get it? This would always leave some leafy foliage until it drops, and branches to soften the harshness of the stubs. If you agree, drop a comment to your local city council person.

To say that Cours St. Jacques has that eerie post-apocalyptic feel and look would not be a stretch. Time to go.


Kate Euser said...

Oh man! I'm so sad to see the naked trees. I loved traveling through tunnels the plane trees create with their leafy branches. It just doesn't look right. I agree with the "every other" plan. I think you should type up a proposal, in perfect French, that will persuade them to change their long running and successful, however horrifying, pruning techniques. Let me know how it goes! :)

Anonymous said...

Leran's been scalped!!

From Rivel to Chalabre, when the planes are trimed they tend to leave two or three prominent branches to keep height and some illusion of looks like they're stopping the trees from rising above roof'll be business as usual by next summer.
Ian G

Anonymous said...

Poor, poor trees. They look old and sad without their leaves.
xoxo your niece, sarah

Peggy said...

While a good idea, I think the every other tree would be a logistical nightmare for the poor Pollard Pruning Planners.