Shaping Pines, Spruce, And Junipers

Dwarf Compressed Scotch Pine, Pinus sylvestris 'Nana Compressa'
Dwarf Compressed Scotch Pine, Pinus sylvestris 'Nana Compressa'

I was never a big fan of evergreen conifers shaped into different balls and spirals. But I must admit, the Bonsai look has grown on me, and I'm starting to like how they can be used in a natural landscape bed as a contrast.

Bonsai, a Japanese term 'planted in a container,' is an art form that seeks to replicate the growth patterns of larger trees in nature. Seeing evergreens pruned and shaped this way reminds me of this incredible art form.

This video looks at shaping two scotch pines, a Colorado spruce trained on a standard, and a lower-growing "pon pon" juniper.

Maintaining the shape of evergreen conifers is a yearly ritual. I wait until the growth or candles have elongated and just begin to open. At this point, I shear off approximately 1/2 to 2/3 of the candle (sometimes more). This shearing, done in late spring each year, is a one-time annual task that can keep evergreens small, shaped, and visually appealing for decades.

I'm surprised how long this False Cypress has thrived in its original container. I only prune the lower hanging branches each season, keeping this small tree form. I love how it looks in this tall metal container.

Eventually, it will become root-bound and look like this Alaskan Blue Weeping Cedar, now showing a lot of stress.

Both of these conifers mentioned here are not fully hardy in my area, and that is my reason for keeping them in their nursery containers. I overwinter them artificially each season. Here's a link to a video on that process if you are interested in such a thing:

Once upon a time, I was hired to "reclaim" a juniper that had been "let go" and prune it back to its original form. I thought it turned out pretty good, but I noticed the customer had removed the juniper and planted daylilies a year later. Maybe they were just tired of the yearly maintenance.

The spiral juniper shown here is one of the longer-lasting container conifers I have grown. I'm pretty sure this is on its seventh growing season now. When it starts to show stress from a root-bound situation, I'll have to cut the metal container off before planting it in the ground. Or perhaps I'll plant the tree in the ground with the metal container on and allow the roots to break through as the rust degrades the metal.

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