Although tropical planting has given new impetus to hard-pruning tree species for large leaves, the practice of coppicing goes back a long time, being a traditional way of managing woodlands. Coppicing means cutting to close to ground level and allowing the cut tree stems to sprout again. In the past, it was used especially with hazel, beech and hornbeam. These species, and others, such as ash, respond to pruning by producing new stems, some of which outgrow the main bunch. After 10 or 20 years, the stems are cut out and the process recommences.
The technique can be used for ornamental purposes too but with different objectives, and more frequently. There are two objectives. The first is to produce out-size leaves by exploiting the fact that the largest leaves are produced on the youngest, most vigorous shoots. The second objective is to reduce the size of a garden tree that might otherwise out-grow the space available to it, especially in a small garden, or close to a house. Coppicing is done at any stage of the dormant season, November to March. The existing tree, single or multi-stemmed, is cut down to between 15cm and 40cm off the ground.