Dwarf but still not small enough

High time to say "off with its head"

 

Sure, it's winter but it's also time to to evaluate the stripped-down landscape for form and balance, and to prune while lines are so clear.

When the leaves fall away from branches we like to see beautiful lines, where a trunk and main limbs form a graceful sculpture. Within those lines we want every main limb to branch and rebranch to fill its own and only its own part of the plant's canopy. (More help to make this happen, in  Prune to keep a tree small.)

 

Winter's time to look, to prune, or to plan to prune

If you're never thought about this aspect of a tree or shrub, winter is certainly the time to look and assess your landscape plants and other features.

Even if you can't prune right now (the scarcity of daylight hours certainly can be limiting!) you can take photos or tie string around limbs-to-be-removed to guide your clippers later.

There's a lot to be learned by looking at a plant's leafless framework. Crossing branches, ungraceful clutter and imbalances stand out. In addition, we learned something about photography, too. That is, don't bemoan a foggy day but seize it do some camera work. As in B.S.' photos here, fog eliminates all the shadows and confusing background that make pruning so hard to capture.

There's a lot to be learned by looking at a plant's leafless framework. Crossing branches, ungraceful clutter and imbalances stand out. In addition, we learned something about photography, too. That is, don't bemoan a foggy day but seize it do some camera work. As in B.S.' photos here, fog eliminates all the shadows and confusing background that make pruning so hard to capture.

The Japanese maple tree featured at the top of this page  has just a few main branches and those are spread so each covers its own territory. That's good! Yet the branches that stem from each main limb lack grace. Perhaps someone has been shearing their tips so that none have elongated to claim dominance in their sectors. Now would be the time to do some shaping and thinning, eliminating branches that are not doing anything except duplicating an effort. (See what we did to this and other Japanese maples.)

Looking at the same tree from another angle reveals a new consideration: The neighboring "dwarf" globe blue spruce is too large.

Looking at the same tree from another angle reveals a new consideration: The neighboring "dwarf" globe blue spruce is too large.

It's a hulk that overpowers the maple. Even such a large plant can be cut back.How far depends on how deep into the interior it has needles and live tips. Now is the time to look and see what the possibilities are, and do the cutting. (See what we did to this spruce!)

It's a hulk that overpowers the maple. Even such a large plant can be cut back.How far depends on how deep into the interior it has needles and live tips. Now is the time to look and see what the possibilities are, and do the cutting. (See what we did to this spruce!)

We addressed these plants in a pruning session during late winter. Follow these links to see what we did, and how, to the Japanese maple and to the globe blue spruce.

Prune to keep a tree small

Keep tree small unabridged

Prune a globe spruce

Prune dwarf maples

Photos above: ©2012 by Barb Sturtz

Related links

  • What's Up 171: Fir tip, protect maple, popcorn, peat
  • Presentations to download
  • Cut to keep small