Cloud Pruning a Conifer




Introduction: Cloud Pruning a Conifer

When I first moved into my house a few years ago there was only one thing that annoyed me about the place. It was an ugly lump of gray conifer in the front yard. It was a thick mess of twigs and foliage, about 1m tall and 1.5m wide. Beneath the outer layers it was mostly brown dead foliage and spiders. The shape was reminiscent of a giant cow pat - though it did smell better.

I lived with this eyesore in my front yard for a year or two, but then I was lucky enough to be able to visit Kyoto in Japan. Kyoto is inspirational. Kyoto's beauty is astonishing, and among the most striking aspects of Kyoto for me were the gardens. It was here I first saw what could be done by artistically pruning trees. They tell me that tree pruning in that part of the world is an art form mastered by very few people, and they are usually from a long family line of tree pruners and the art is passed down the generations. They certainly have my admiration and respect.

On my return from Kyoto my eye fell on the hideous blob of conifer in my front yard, and even though I hadn't the faintest idea of how to go about it, I decided I would have a go at turning it into a thing of beauty. My reasoning was that if it didn't survive my attentions then that would still be a better outcome that doing nothing.

My next step was to do some online research. I learned the term "cloud pruning", and that's about all.

The next thing I did was get out my secatuers (spell check where are you?) and a saw, and started cutting. I cut anything that looked dead. Then I cut off anything that looked plain ugly. Then I tried to shape it like a tree, so I could see the trunk and some branches. I had to clean up the branches so they were pretty much bare except the ends.

As I removed the weight of all the dead material and excess junk, the tree seemed to come alive. The branched relieved of all that weight started to lift up and present themselves in a much more proud manner. I continued trimming off anything that didn't look quite right until I got to the point that I no longer wished the thing dead. Then I stopped.

Clearly I'm no master, but I quite like the result. It certainly is more tree-like than it was, and I'm glad I had a crack at it.

If you have any questions please post them and I'll do my best to answer them, but be warned they are probably better directed to someone who knows what they are talking about.

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    4 Discussions


    8 years ago on Introduction

    i just came back from a visit to Kyoto and was blown away by the trees, no mattar how big. as an arborist, i have a great love of trees and i just cant wait to get stuck into the conifers in my own garden. i shall attempt to shape my Thuja Plicatas, and my Pinus Radiata.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    My biggest beef with people is how little they care for their trees until it's too late.  "It's a tree!  Let nature take its course!" or "Trees don't need to be water." or "Trees know how best to branch."

    Trees will die and potentially fall on your house.  Trees most definitely need water during a drought just like any other plant.  And trees branch in ways that won't lead to anything good.

    So congrats on taking charge and looking after your tree!  Removing dead branches and leaves helps keep them living longer, and it looks like you got one that will live for hundreds of years if properly cared for.  Best of luck!  It looks great!