Tree Haircut

Longwood Gardens, Pa. where Topiary Artists demonstrate their expertise. 

If you lack pruning artistry, these simple pruning aids may be a blessing:

This method of Precision Pruning will result in a perfect shape every time.

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 Gauge and a string. The length of the Gauge and attached string will determine 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 proposed  symmetrical shape.

Tie 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 plant.

The string is stretched in a straight line, being careful not to distort it around limbs or other obstructions. This straight line is the heart of the system. The end of the Gauge determines where a limb is cut off. The cuts will all be made the same distance from the "center" where the string is tied.

The 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 twig 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 pruning. This will produce a thicker shrub or tree, and may also attrract more bird life.

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" look.

"Cones" (A) are made by first marking a circle on the ground. Tie a string (blue line) loosely around the base of the tree. Tie a knot in the string at the point where you want the cone taper to point. Then use sand, lime, or a spray paint marker to mark the 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 the 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 string 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 place 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 the 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 adjustable black Slider, graduations, or notches to be used for various Topiary diameters without the use of a string.

You can also use a Carpenter's adjustable Square and adjustable Laser Level to make some interesting shapes. Using this page as a beginning, you should be able to make about any shape imaginable, unless you desire a Topiary Mermaid riding a Motorcycle. Then you're on your own; Good Luck. Send photos. 


If you enjoyed this page, book-mark it,
tell your gardening friends, and let us know with a friendly...




Site Designed by . . .