Gardening where the sidewalk ends

Weeping Tree January 26, 2010

Or maybe it is we that should be weeping, for this tree whose form is so, uh, unusual.

Strangely pruned birch tree

I am guessing that it is a weeping birch tree (Betula pendula youngii) that has had its branches clipped back uniformly to give it this bizarre shape. Kind of like a medieval monk’s tonsure, never the best look on humans.

Odd pruning jobs on parking strip plants are really standing out to me these days. People are really putting the “fashion don’t”s out there for us all to see!

In a recent post, there was a discussion in the comments field about topping vs. pollarding vs. just plain old hard pruning. I am no expert, but I believe the following photo shows the technique known as pollarding, which is frequently done to encourage new growth from particular trees and shrubs. As I have been wanting to try pollarding on my out-of-control red-twig dogwood, I was interested to see that these had already been pruned. Am I already late? Yikes, time to haul out the loppers and try to be brave, I guess!

Pollarded red-twig dogwoods in January

This BBC/UK page has a simple plant-by-plant pruning guide for shrubs that respond well to hard pruning, as well as a video of a guy with thick Scottish (?) accent taking his clippers to some dogwoods and willows to encourage new growth. I love how he says “it might seem crrrruel,” my sentiments exactly, which I guess is why I’m having such a hard time getting around to it!


11 Responses to “Weeping Tree”

  1. Melanthia Says:

    I’m with you. It’s so hard to cut anything back. But if it’s for the best I guess I should look into it myself.

  2. fairegarden Says:

    How interesting, Karen! The first example looks sort of odd though. We do a couple of prune them to the grounds here, dappled willow and cotinus, for it is the new growth’s leaf color that is the purpose of the planting. It does seem harsh, and hard to know when to do it. We only prune out the brown parts on the red twig dogwoods though, but ours have struggled to gain any size over the years. It may be too warm for them here. When I get those pruners in hand, watch out, I am a maniac, no second thoughts about it. 🙂

  3. I immediately said OUCH! when I saw your first photo…poor tree… the beauty of a weeper is just that… a bit severe… much like a crew cut. Still I am sure it will be fine and grow back in time. Speaking of time… it is now upon us here and until spring to prune away… I am so behind! You want to prune while the trees and shrubs are dormant. Enjoy… you can try forcing what you cut! In the long run we are doing the trees and shrubs a great favor. In many cases I have waited too long and weakened my trees. Carpe diem! ;>) Carol

  4. JP Says:

    our fruit trees are very young – but my neighbor pollards his macs and macouns pretty much yearly with a chainsaw, and they are beautiful. He has managed to promote that picture book apple tree shape through hard pruning.

  5. A tonsure is exactly what I was thinking of when I saw that tree! As for pruning, I love, love, love to do it, though I’ve not done any quite like the pictures you’ve shown, so I can’t offer any wisdom at all on pollarding.

  6. Megan Says:

    A tree shaped like a mushroom, like nature intended? Bad pruning really gets me down. In my head, hard puning some shrubs is different because you cut them down to the ground, so all the new visible new growth terminates naturally at the ends of the branches. Branches that have had the tips amputated are always disconcerting to me.

  7. RainGardener Says:

    Hi Karen, we have a tree just like the weeping one down the road. I’ve always wondered what it was – very strange looking but exactly like the one you showed.
    Thanks for stopping by and in answer to your question – I never did the experiments. I don’t have any of the shrubs or trees mentioned to do it with or I would have. And also didn’t do the bulb in the moss lined cup. LoL

  8. Deirdre Says:

    I like to prune. I think I was a sculptor in a previous life. My mother, on the other hand, would rather cut her own arm off than prune.

    Part of the reason people do those hideous pruning jobs is that they put trees in where there isn’t room for a tree.

  9. Jane Says:

    Oh, that “pruning” job is SO inappropriate. But people will persist.
    It seems they learn from each other, too. I’m cheering on Plant Amnesty as they try to educate folks about the dos and donts.

  10. It’s a total fashion “don’t”! I second Jane: let’s cheer on the Plant Amnesty folks in their mission to educate people on bad pruning techniques. (Plus, I just love the name.)

  11. banner6 Says:

    We sometimes get that look because the deer will munch away and prune just as high as they can reach. But on purpose? I don’t think so!

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