That 17th century virtuoso, Sir Thomas Hanmer, had fine words for coppices and the right way to treat them: ‘thicketts for birds cut through with severall straight or winding gravelly walkes, or [make] a variety of alleys set with high trees as elms, limes, abells, firs pines or others, with fountains Canals, Grottes Cascataes statues, arbours cabinets avearyes and seats disperst as the design and nature of the place will admit.’
Well, that’s one way of bringing coppice into the garden, however my postman has been pleased to deliver to me a note from Mr S, writing from Cirencester without a true question as such, nor with any reference to Sir Thomas, but instead with an exhortation, arising several of my notes (76, 92, 93, 115, 137, 172), wherein coppice is mentioned, to say that the practice should be encouraged amongst garden plants.
Indeed, let me say that it can be a very effective treatment, producing large eye-catching leaf in spring and the best winter colour. The practice was definitely general in the 18th century (I still recall my delight when in the 1988 I stumbled upon a stubbed Norway Maple, Acer platinoides, still surviving amongst the jonquils and jasmines of Capability Brown’s shrubberies at Croome Court) and it was described by that great Brownian, William Marshall.
As a style of pruning it was revived at the beginning of the last century in two long articles by the Hon. Vicary Gibbs: ‘Winter’, in Garden Colour, ed. M. H. Waterfield (1905) pp.161-185; and ‘Suggestions for Planting Trees and Shrubs’, Century Book of Gardening, ed. E. T. Cook (1900) pp.412-22.
The Gardener’s Chronicle reported of Gibbs’ garden in Aldenham that Paulownia imperialis grew 10` per year!
Indeed Mr S, the practice is of the greatest value, and I am grateful for mentioning it.