Skip to main content

What to Do With a Large Leylandii Tree

This is our trimmed leylandii from behind.

This is our trimmed leylandii from behind.

Our Leylandii Tree Headache

When we moved into our house, the garden had been a bit neglected. Luckily for us, the area near the property was clear, but towards the back of the garden, things were quite overgrown. A huge fir tree, also called a leylandii, had created a partition splitting the length of our garden in two. This tree also cast a huge shadow on the patio until the sun moved later in the day.

As it was about 24 feet tall and 12 feet wide, we originally asked a gardener to give us a price for removing it entirely. He wanted £700! As this was only one part of the garden we needed to cultivate, we didn't want to pay that much. So we set about trimming it back ourselves. We felt we couldn't make it look any worse, so we would just give it a go. We are rather proud of the results and it didn't cost us a penny.

This is the "before" shot of our leylandii. Our tree was ugly, huge and split our garden in two.

This is the "before" shot of our leylandii. Our tree was ugly, huge and split our garden in two.

What to Do With an Ugly Fir Tree

Our huge tree was dominating our garden, and it created a wall of fir that was the first thing you saw as you looked out the window. The greenhouse and lawn behind could not be seen unless you pushed past the leylandii and went into the darkest end of our garden.

To start to tackle this monster tree, we decided to take the very top of the tree off first. As we had only a hand saw, we only removed the top six feet of the tree. The trunk was still fairly slim and easy to cut at that point.

A suitable ladder was securely tied in amongst the branches and I held the bottom steady. We chose an area that was comfortable to saw by hand, and we cut at the side so the tip fell away from us. We only worked with what we felt safe with, and although it wasn't very daring, it did make a noticeable difference to the look of the tree.

We cut the top to stop the tree from growing any taller, and it also gave the shape of the fir tree a more rounded look. Cutting a smaller bit off the top like this also stopped it from looking like it had been brutally hacked.

This is the "after" shot of our fir tree. With all the lower branches removed, the garden is lighter and looks larger.

This is the "after" shot of our fir tree. With all the lower branches removed, the garden is lighter and looks larger.

Trimming a Leylandii

Next, we removed all the branches that grew below the six feet mark. We cut them off flush with the trunk. Many of these branches had grown quite twisted over the years, and a lot of the inner tree had died off and gone black. As each branch came off, the tree looked more and more healthy.

The lowest branches were only a foot off the ground, and they were also very thick. As we only had a handsaw, this process took us several days, but it was very satisfying and didn't cost us anything. If you had a power saw this would not take as long.

Once all the lower branches were removed, you could walk straight under the tree. Visually the garden expanded as you could see much more of it, and we felt as if we had much more usable lawn. The tree was no longer like a wall separating one part of the garden from another, and the shadow it cast was very much smaller.

Once we had most of the work done, we took time to walk around it and improve the shape further by trimming here and there. We also removed any dead wood and misshapen areas.

Branches were sawn off at the trunk to make a different shape to the tree.

Branches were sawn off at the trunk to make a different shape to the tree.

A Flower Bed Around the Base of a Fir Tree

At the bottom of the leylandii, there was a bare patch of dusty soil that had not seen the light of day for many years. We marked out a central circle around the tree trunk, which we were going to have as a flower bed. Next, we planted grass seeds up to this circle to make it match the rest of the lawn. The grass seeds took well with plenty of water.

The flower bed area around the tree trunk was planted with rockery alpines, watered and fed generously. We placed a few rocks in there as well. The alpine plants have slowly covered the area, and two bear's breeches plants have also been placed in the bed for height. It has to be said that all these plants have been slow to grow, despite there being plenty of light now, as the soil is poor around the base of this tree.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2016 Susan Hambidge


Susan Hambidge (author) from Kent, England on December 18, 2016:

Thanks Ann, it totally changed our garden, and it did make my neighbour's garden a little lighter removing the top!

annart on December 18, 2016:

It looks great! I'm not a fan of Laylandii as there are so many hedges that get out of hand, spoil others' views and cause many arguments amongst neighbours! This tree, however, looks good and is an asset to your garden. It's such a transformation from the 'before' picture!


Susan Hambidge (author) from Kent, England on June 01, 2016:

Thank you Dirt Farmer. The tree lost a lot of branches but it looks so much better.

Jill Spencer from United States on June 01, 2016:

This really does look lovely after its trim. Very inviting!

Susan Hambidge (author) from Kent, England on May 25, 2016:

Thank you RTalloni. I am so proud of this as we really had no idea what to do with this monster, but it turned out so nicely, and just cost a new hand saw because we wore the old one out!

RTalloni on May 25, 2016:

What a wonderful transformation! Thanks for sharing the process you implemented along with the pictures. You guys did a great job and this encourages me about tackling bigger trim jobs than I am used to doing.