It's a "one man job"
on shrubs under 6 feet tall. On taller shrubs and trees it may require
one person to hold the Gauge and another to do the actual pruning where
the Gauge dictates.
A Gauge 1 foot long may be adequate
for small shrubs, but a large tree may require an 8-foot or longer
and a string. The length of the Gauge and attached string will
the radius [R] of the finished shape. The string is attached to a stick
or other lightweight Gauge and also tied at the center of the
the string loosely to the
trunk so it can revolve around the trunk as the Gauge moves around the
tree. The length of the string and where it is tied will determine how
tall and wide the plant will be. It may be best not to remove more than
20% of the growth to ensure enough remaining foliage to nourish the
The string is stretched in a
straight line, being careful not to distort it around limbs or other
This straight line is the heart of the system. The end of the Gauge
where a limb is cut off. The cuts will all be made the same distance
the "center" where the string is tied.
actual cut location should
be determined by the position of nearby growth on the limb; if you want
new growth to be upward or horizontal, then leave a terminal bud or
that is growing in that direction. Make the cut 1/4" past the selected
growth to provide a stub that will heal and seal the cut.
The tendency of the plant will
be to grow more branches to compensate for the branches lost in
This will produce a thicker shrub or tree, and may also attrract more
If this pruning is done before
the growing season begins, the job is made easier by the absence of the
new growth plus the impending growth will soon soften the "new-haircut"
(A) are made by first marking
a circle on the ground. Tie a string (blue line) loosely around the
of the tree. Tie a knot in the string at the point where you want the
taper to point. Then use sand, lime, or a spray paint marker to mark
circle as you move around the tree with the string taunt and the marker
at the knot.
Next fasten the string to the
top of the tree where you want the point to be. Hold the other end of
string at the circle with a stone or other weight. Make sure the string
is not deflected by branches. Remove the growth that extends past the
and you will end up with a cone.
Straight sides (B) are made by
always keeping the string tied to a point that is horizontal to the
where the branch will be cut. This means that as you cut limbs from the
top to the bottom of the trunk, the string must be retied as shown by
Red line for each cut to keep the string "Level".
Spheres (C) are made by keeping
the string tied loosely at the same position on the trunk as you remove
all growth that extends past the string.
The Blue "Crutch" Gauge shown
at "B" can be made to position the "Y" on the tree trunk. It has an
black Slider, graduations, or notches to be used for various Topiary
without the use of a string.
You can also use a Carpenter's
adjustable Square and adjustable Laser Level to make some interesting
Using this page as a beginning, you should be able to make about any
imaginable, unless you desire a Topiary Mermaid riding a Motorcycle.
you're on your own; Good Luck. Send