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What to do with an oversized Cherry Laurel?

I have recently taken on a garden with two massive cherry laurel (Prunus laurocerasus). They are approximately 8m tall and have 2-3 main trunks each.
Client keen to retain them to keep privacy, but they are so dominating and its a dark barren wasteland underneath them.
I've never really dealt with these before - could I have them cut to the ground and turned back into shrubs? If I manage to convince client to remove at least one, will need a stump grinder to deal with the roots and stump? Anyone with experience with these or I guess any problematic large trees that clients want to keep??!!

Very grateful for your thoughts.




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  • PRO

     I really dislike cherry laurel -- its an absolute thug - it will always dominate an area and win - particularly if its left to its own devices for years and years. The root system sucks all mositure from the direct surrounding area making it hard to grow anything else at its base - and i have read /rightly or wrongly that the small amounts of cyanide it contains in sap and leaf sap can atually be transmitted by rain down to the soil below -- making it even more unhospitable for other plants. 

    Being an aggressively suckering plant -- removing main stems wont stop new shoots popping up at ground level and however hard you prune it back it will branch from the cutting point. The plus side to this is that you can rejuvinate them very easily and create a hedge or shrubs. Problem being privacy once its gained is very important and losing it is a big down point. If the client wants the privacy im not sure what options you have - you could thin them out - reduce some etc but you will need to leave some by the sounds of it for cover. You may be better under cutting/ crown lifting and removing suckers/ivy and looking at what will live at the base -- after that it will be some quite high annual pruning to maintain some shape/form. 

    • I would agree with Dan,

      I would bite the bullet and take the height and sides down to what is manageable in one slap 3-4m max,,, sides back to 1.5m approx.My objective would be to create a form that can be pruned hard once, maybe twice a year or when needed. Clear trunk to leave a single stem effect. If you lift it 50 cm above the trellis board for example.you will let light in but keep the idea of privacy...Then create the form from the 3-4 m that remains. you can either leave it free and hard prune every so often,taking out the bigger branches. This will retain a more tree like appearance. Which ones you choose will be up to you. Obviously dont butcher it repeatedly if you can avoid it. or clip it into a form. Raise the crown first then look for a form i.e  a cloud .... not a ball as it maybe too formal a shape for that garden..maybe the easiest method ..

      Hope this helps



      • Thanks a lot! All great responses.


    • thank you  - realy helpful.


  •  These regrow from drastic cuts very quickly and are indestructible .................. if you cut this down to the ground in the Spring , you could have something 5-6' tall by the end of the Summer.  Bit late in the year now to achieve this but do it now, you should still get something a couple of feet + by the Autumn.   

  • PRO

    Cut tot he ground and it will re-grow - but do it sooner rather than later if you wanted re-growth this year.

    • Thanks very much.


  • PRO

    To maintain the privacy Dan is spot on, clear out around the bottom, expose the trunks, lift the canopy and thin it out. More light will get in which will improve the feel of the area and allow a bigger choice of plants underneath. There will definitely be a fair bit of annual maintenance though.

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