Using Bonsai techniques to prune and shape overgrown shrubs and trees in the landscape.

 I have always thought that a good landscape design should provide pleasing views from the inside out as well as just from the outside. A good landscape garden is a four dimensional “sculpture” that has height, depth, and width, but also has the elements of being viewed from inside. Another dimension has to do with the changing of the landscape sculpture with time.

 I have been studying two arborvitaes at the house on the mountain. They were cute little things when someone planted them there but over the years they had grown and were now blocking not only the pathway, but also the inside view of the garden from the window. I cut the tops out of the trees last year and continued studying. The arborvitaes were also inhibiting the growth and development of the Otto Luyken laurels at the base of the planting. Our choice was to either take out the trees or find another way to solve the problem. I chose “tree forming” Here are a couple of pictures of the initial problem: (I’ll start by showing the “before pics and finish the article with the “after” ones)

Overgrown arborvitae needs pruning because it blocks the view from inside
Overgrown arborvitae needs pruning because it blocks the view from inside

From the outside, one can see that the arborvitaes were taking over the walkway and the laurels. I next took the following pictures of the view from the inside:

view from inside blocked by overgrown shrubbery
view from inside blocked by overgrown shrubbery

The trees, including a large crape myrtle on the other side of the walkway were blocking the view of the distant mountain, and the arborvitae was blocking the side view of the flower beds.

can't see the flowers for the trees
can’t see the flowers for the trees

We started by cutting the lower limbs from the overgrown shrub, working our way up. One should proceed slowly with this because it is always possible to cut more limbs but not to put them back on.

begin the tree forming processs by cutting limbs from the bottom up
begin the tree forming processs by cutting limbs from the bottom up

The best way to get a good job in tree forming is to cut a little and then stand back and study the situation.

While pruning, stand back periodically to study the project
While pruning, stand back periodically to study the project

The plant now looks more like a tree. It no longer shades out the laurels and the view of the walkway. In a few months, we will trim the top to start the process of shaping it while it grows. I can envision it providing a canopy over the laurels and part of the walkway. If we keep the top cut, it will bush out and do just as the picture in my head dictates. We did the same to the arborvitae on the other side of the window.

turning a bush into a tree makes quite a difference
turning a bush into a tree makes quite a difference

We did some major surgery on a crape myrtle on the other side of the walk way that was also blocking the view and then we studied an overgrown yaupon tree further down the walkway.

We also need to shape up this yaupon holly tree, "before" picture
We also need to shape up this yaupon holly tree, “before” picture

When we finished shaping the yaupon tree, it looked like this:

Yaupon holly tree pruned to perfection
Yaupon holly tree pruned to perfection

The pruning had opened up the view of the walkway and made it much more open and pleasant.

The pruning process has opened up the view of the rock walkway and enhanced the comfort of walking through it.
The pruning process has opened up the view of the rock walkway and enhanced the comfort of walking through it.

It was now time to check out the “new view” from the inside of the house. Notice how we opened up the mountain vista from the big front window

The pruning has opened up the view of the mountain from the living room
The pruning has opened up the view of the mountain from the living room

And we can now see through the arborvitae to enjoy the flower beds on the walkway.

Now we can see the flower beds from inside the living room. It lets in a lot more light, too.
Now we can see the flower beds from inside the living room. It lets in a lot more light, too.

Keep in mind that you can use this tree form pruning  process on all sorts of trees and bushes. It really adds elegance to your landscape garden.

*******Related articles:

Pruning as an art form, the basics of pruning

Pruning and shaping an overgrown bonsai tree

How to start a bonsai

Renovating an overgrown landscape, part one

Renovating an overgrown landscape, part two

If you would like to have a landscaping consultation with John Schulz in the north Georgia area, you may send an email to, wherdepony@bellsouth.net

******************

As usual, I would just love for you click here to go to Amazon and purchase the ebook edition of my wonderful book, Requiem for a Redneck to go on your Kindle. I have also noticed that Amazon now has a free Kindle app for iphones and tablets. Is that cool or what?

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Published by John P.Schulz

I lost my vocal cords a while back due to throat cancer. The laryngectomy sent me on a quest to find and learn to use my new, altered voice. I am able to talk now with a really small and neat new prosthesis. My writing reflects what I have learned in my search for a voice. My site johnschulzauthor.com publishes a daily motivational quote and a personal comment. I write an article a week for my blog, johntheplantman.com which deals with a lot of the things that I do in the garden. I am also the author of Requiem for a Redneck and the new Redemption for a Redneck--novels portraying the lives and doings of folks around the north Georgia hills. I have an English Education degree from the University of Georgia and very happily married to the lovely Dekie Hicks. You may enjoy my daily Quotes and Notes at http://johnschulzauthor.com/

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