Shaping Plants of All Sizes. Part one of a series

I was pruning a few bonsai trees for a client. This task allows plenty of time for pondering and I got to thinking about the number of ways I apply bonsai techniques to other pruning situations.

Pruning bonsai trees to maintain and enhance their shape

Pruning bonsai trees to maintain and enhance their shape

One of my first and most popular articles that I wrote some time ago is about “The Basics of Pruning”(click) which tells about ways in which the plant responds to different pruning actions such as cutting tips and removing side growth. Aside from the fact that I shape and maintain a lot of sculptured plants for clients, My wife Dekie and I enjoy plant shaping as a hobby. I periodically bring home old scraggly plants that nobody wants and we shape them up for our collection. We plan to use our collection for a decorative project in our back yard next spring. (the shoemaker’s children being barefoot applies here). Here’s a picture of Dekie working on a new acquisition:

Sweetie works on shaping a dwarf tree

Sweetie works on shaping a dwarf tree

Someone planted two Leyland cypress in our yard a number of years ago and they are too close together, too close to the property line, and a stupid choice for a small back yard. I was getting ready to take them out 6 years ago when someone told me that if you cut the top out of a Leyland cypress it would die. That didn’t sound right to me so I came home and cut the tops our of ours. That was six years ago. We’ve kept them pruned to the top of the neighbor’s eight foot fence. They ain’t died yet.

Shaping a Leyland cypress for strength, compactness, and size

Shaping a Leyland cypress for strength, compactness, and size

On one of my jobs we kept pruning a Hollywood juniper that was in a large pot. It finally got to the point that it needed to get out of the pot and in the ground so we put it in a place that needed a nice plant. I work on it about twice a year. We are working on turning this location into something nice. I will include that before this series is completed.

I've been pruning and shaping this Hollywood juniper for years

I’ve been pruning and shaping this Hollywood juniper for years

This dwarf cryptomeria has been in a put and used in a foundation planting for over three years. We will trim it this fall and it will begin a process of miniaturization.

A well shaped dwarf cryptomeria

A well shaped dwarf cryptomeria

In my work I really abhor the use of Leyland cypress and/or Bradford pear trees. They are over-used, space consuming, smelly, and problematic. They are famous for growing too rapidly and falling apart in storms. I am being kind here. I could say some bad things about these plants.
However, if these trees are shaped properly, they will serve well. I have told you above about the Leylands in my yard. Here is a Bradford pear that my friend Santos planted in his yard 15 years ago. He prunes and shapes it every year. I have seen this tree withstand snow storms that have torn other Bradford pears apart.

Shaping this Bradford pear has added strength and durability as well as beauty

Shaping this Bradford pear has added strength and durability as well as beauty

And today I’ll finish with a black pine that I plant years ago and have maintained faithfully. This is one of my favorites.

Japanese black pine. I've maintained it for ten years--don't know how old it was when I installed it.

Japanese black pine. I’ve maintained it for ten years–don’t know how old it was when I installed it.

Thanks for visiting Johntheplantman. As I have said, I am currently working on a full-color book on pruning techniques for ornamental plants. My wife and I are excited and we would love your suggestions and recommendations for what you would like to see in it. Leave a comment, if you please—John P. Schulz

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