Prune to keep a tree small

How to, and to what

Here's the process, and links to demonstrations on real trees. 

 

(This article really, really needed a Sponsor)

 

First, choose main limbs:

You might decide that the (cartoon representation) tree below would be most beautiful if just five main limbs (1-5) branched from its trunk. You see that each of those limbs draws a graceful line and has its own branches and foliage neatly arrayed in its own part of the sky. Once you select those five as "keepers", you know you will remove limb A when you next prune, because it's duplicating limb 1's foliage, filling the same air space. Likewise, you'll eliminate limb B because it's cramping limb 3's style, and limb C must go because it makes the tree look bushy and its leaves are mixed into the same air space as those of limbs 3 and 4.

You might decide that the (cartoon representation) tree below would be most beautiful if just five main limbs (1-5) branched from its trunk. You see that each of those limbs draws a graceful line and has its own branches and foliage neatly arrayed in its own part of the sky. Once you select those five as "keepers", you know you will remove limb A when you next prune, because it's duplicating limb 1's foliage, filling the same air space. Likewise, you'll eliminate limb B because it's cramping limb 3's style, and limb C must go because it makes the tree look bushy and its leaves are mixed into the same air space as those of limbs 3 and 4.

Any tree can be kept small. The tricolor beech behind Janet was just the size we wanted it to be 16 years before this photo was taken. It's still that size because we prune it every two years in August. We use techniques that have worked well for at least a thousand years for gardeners in tight places. 

Here's that same cartoon tree with its "keeper" limbs and their foliage outlined from above. Although there is a little overlap, there are no big duplications. As you prune in the future, you'll remove limbs that "cross" into other limbs' territory, such as a branch the sprouts from limb 3, crosses the center of the canopy and mixes with limb 5's twigs.

Here's that same cartoon tree with its "keeper" limbs and their foliage outlined from above. Although there is a little overlap, there are no big duplications. As you prune in the future, you'll remove limbs that "cross" into other limbs' territory, such as a branch the sprouts from limb 3, crosses the center of the canopy and mixes with limb 5's twigs.

Then go to the end of each main limb and clip:

 Click for an expanded version of this excerpt*.

See this process applied

1) To a Colorado blue spruce - perhaps the simplest application since it has only one trunk -- one main cut to make, and many side brances to shorten.

2) To a Japanese maple.

More links to Sponsor-recommended articles

*Yes, it's an excerpt.

We originally created this page as a stop-gap, an excerpt to help with pruning we were all doing right at that time. For those who needed more explanation, we had to direct them to the complete article in our magazine Trees,... At the same time we begged for a Sponsor to help us speed up website posting of the
full article.

Kelly Allen stepped up when we
really, really needed a Sponsor
to expand this article.
Thank you, Kelly!
Read the full article here.

 

We will post all of our work on this website in time.

There is a great deal to post -- as of this writing we have about 900 pages posted, of about 3,000 in queue.

The information we have already published and which is still available in books, magazines and on CDs, is last in line unless a Sponsor calls it forward.

 

Sponsoring is simple and we appreciate every bit of help!

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