Pruning and Shaping Techniques for Trees and Shrubs

Every year when the first cool front of October rolls in I get lots and lots of questions about pruning their landscape and house plants. For years I have enjoyed shaping plants while picturing what they will look like next year or after several years have passed.

This week I have gone into my daunting list of past articles on pruning to review. Here are a few of the links. I hope they help.

 

 

 

Tree forming-Landscaping from the inside out.

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

 

Pruning for Betty. Japanese Maples, Topiaries and Bonsai

I got a text message the other day saying that the Japanese maples needed pruning. I had been expecting this so I shifted my schedule around, sharpened my Felco pruning shears, grabbed my camera and headed out.

 

 

Pruning an Overgrown Topiary

I really enjoy creative pruning.

My friend Tommy called me the other day. It seems that we had planted a large yaupon holly tree in his front yard a number of years ago and I shaped it into a topiary form. Tommy has kept it pruned for a number of years but now he is getting too old to want to get on the ladder any more.  Notice the wording—not “too old to get on the ladder”, but “too old to want to get on the ladder.”

 

 

 

The basics of pruning–What Happens When We Prune a Plant

 

Pruning season is coming up. I wrote this article some time ago in answer to the many questions I receive about pruning. It’s really a very simple process.

Growing a plant is one thing.  Shaping plants well is an art form and adds another dimension to your plant growing experience.  Here is an article that tells you what happens when you prune.  This information applies to just about any kind of shrub or tree.

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February Jobs For the Winter-Weary Gardener

If you’re knee-deep in snow can spring be far behind? The snow went away, the sun came out and we got busy. It’s time to get things done. Nelson Magee likes for his yaupon hollies to look good all the time. They were getting a bit shaggy.

Normally neatly kept yaupon holly needs attention in February

Normally neatly kept yaupon holly needs attention in February

We practice a modified version of “cloud pruning” in this yard and sometimes the growth gets pretty tight. This tightness keeps the light from entering the growth canopy which, in turn, forces all of the growth to the outside of the plant causing the inside stems to weaken. Every year or two I like to prune all the way to ugliness and open things up to let the light shine in. I guess that’s sort of what we need to do for our psyche as the end of winter approaches—Let some light shine in.

The yaupon holly is pruned in a manner that will allow light to the inside

The yaupon holly is pruned in a manner that will allow light to the inside

The pruning will grow out in a month or two as spring approaches, giving the plants the undulations and smooth curves that are so visually pleasing:

Cloud pruning on yaupon hollies will grow out to nicely shaped contours.

Cloud pruning on yaupon hollies will grow out to nicely shaped contours.

The two snows combined with zero degree weather have caused a bit of damage to the pretty loroetalum plants. Here’s a picture of the damaged plants. They get cut way back—again to let the light shine in. I scraped a bit of bark back from some of the lower trunks and everything is green instead of brown and mushy so the plants should come out all right.

Freeze damage on loropetalums. We need to cut them back so the light can shine in.

Freeze damage on loropetalums. We need to cut them back so the light can shine in.

If you haven’t pruned the Knockout roses they probably look like this, all strung out with dead leaves and dormant growth buds. Those buds need to be exposed. Pruning will help them to emerge when the time is right.

It's time to prune the knockout roses for shape and more blooms

It’s time to prune the knockout roses for shape and more blooms

When pruning the roses, I like to carefully reach in and cut just above a dormant bud. This gives strength and compactness to the plant. The more care I take, the more the job stays away from the bloody realm of self sacrifice.

Pruning the knockout rose. Be careful of the thorns!

Pruning the knockout rose. Be careful of the thorns!

Oh, yes—things to do in February—I need to finish up and make it to The Last Stop Gift Shop in Rome, Georgia for Dekie Hicks’ book signing (She happens to be my wonderful wife). Her book of poetry, “These for Me are Therapy” was published in January.

Dekie Hicks presents her recently published poetry book, "These for Me are Therapy"

Dekie Hicks presents her recently published poetry book, “These for Me are Therapy”

Here are some links that will help with your winter-time pruning projects

Deadheading and pruning hydrangeas—It says January, but February is all right, too

The basics of pruning—one of my most popular articles ever.

Pruning Knockout roses—This is more for summer time but the concept is good

 

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?

Tree forming-Landscaping from the inside out.

 

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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