Giving trees what I call the ‘Royal Chop’ is not as drastic as it sounds. It is one way of controlling the low growing branches that restrict light, create unwanted shade and generally get in the way. The technical term may be to ‘Lift the Crown’ which has the result of leaving the lower trunk clear of branches and letting the growth starting at an acceptable height.
My problems started when I couldn’t reach the upper part of the conifer to keep it in trim. The same energy is going into the trees growth without an outlet at the lower end so it gets a bit wider and a lot taller. I pruned out the lower branches leaving about one third of the trunk height bare.
Had I taken out the growing point at the top of the tree the spread of lower branches would have been far wider and been the opposite of what I wanted. Conifers trimmed in spring were not the best subject to learn, on broad-leafed trees trimmed in autumn or winter may have worked better.
What the Experts Say
‘Crown lifting is the removal of the lowest branches to a specified height and where possible should be achieved by removal of smaller branches so to minimise stress to the tree. The crown of the tree should not be lifted to a point which is more than 1/3 of the overall tree height (i.e. leaving 2/3 of the trees height as crown).’ Crown thinning and crown reduction are variations that are also designed to change the extent of the canopy. Nick Organ Tree maintenance
Shrubs Suitable for Crown Lifting
Acer palmatum and Acer japonica
Bamboos, such as Phyllostachys
Conifers, such as Chamaecyparis, Juniper, Pine and Yew
Prunus laurocerasus (Cherry laurel)
Rhododendron and azalea
This is my Copper Beech that has been lollipoped over a few years, in fact it is regularly licked into shape.