Pagoda Pruning

Special Shapes

If all you have is one fruit tree, or an ornamental crab apple tree, it's nice to be able to sit under it and enjoy the sound of bees buzzing in the flowers, or see the leaves shimmering while shading you from the hot sun.

Asian Pagoda in a field

Trees of all kinds, left to their own devices, will just branch randomly, eventually creating a tangle, where nothing will grow correctly.

I devised this method of pruning over a long time, several years.  I bought this Almey flowering crab in 2005, and planted it immediately.

At first, I was quite pleased with the shape of this tree, but over time it became obvious that it required constant upkeep and shaping, even at other times of the year. 

It started to branch out quite a lot from about three feet up the stem, which at that time was a spindly thing, and even though I found it nice to sit under, in the end it was almost like a tent, low to the ground, with the branch ends almost touching it.

Pagoda pruned Almey flowering crab applePagoda pruned Almey flowering crab apple tree - the current level of the bottom of the leaves is where the existing branches emerged from the trunk.

After a few years if trying to make it behave, I got ruthless and took off all the lower branches and started to encourage it to branch out from higher up, at about the five to six foot level. 

That has worked great to make a nice shady spot to sit, even when it gets quite hot in July and August.

The ends of the branches turn up at first, creating the typical 'pagoda' appearance.  In time, I'll reduce the number of branches based on where they emerge from the main branches, and how crowded they are.

As always, the pruning rules hold fast; dead, diseased or crossing branches are removed, as well as any emerging from either the top or the bottom of a branch.  That creates a fan shape, spreading out from the trunk of the tree.

I have over time had to be a little rough with this tree, such as last year when I had to direct the pruning of a big branch that was taking over the top of the tree. It's important to stay on top of the 'water sprouts' - those very enthusiastic branches growing straight up.  If those are left, they'll dominate the growth of the tree.

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