Fast growing tree, never-ending cut

Weeping cherry: One of those problems with no final solution.

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Stumpers! All we can do is to share the pain and ease the pain with laughter. For instance:

Whyizzit that fast growth comes only on plants ultimately too big for the average landscape? For instance, a gardener will never be done pruning this cute "little" weeping cherry.


Here's the story of pruning a weeping cherry that had gotten away from its gardener. It applies to all fast growing trees from mulberries to pussy willows. We aim to control that tree with just one cut per year, keeping it small yet preserving its natural shagginess.

First it had to be reduced in size by half. Then in each subsequent year we can follow routine pruning for restricting the size of weeping cherry trees. (We've described this routine before; check What's Coming Up 158, pages 1-4).

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Reduce it by half

We begin with a brutal cut, softened by feathering the branch ends.

• The tree today (below, left),
• What it was just over one year ago after our first cut (below, center), and
• What it was before we touched it at all (below, right).
Use the orange lines to gauge how much we reduced the tree's size.Cherry2YrCompoN4529s.jpg

Take another look at that first cut. Below, left: Spring #1 just after bloom and (below, right) one hour later.

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Annual cut to restrict size

Spring #2, below: Two weeks after bloom and one hour later. This was a hard cut but not so brutal as when first we decided to keep the tree small. No cut is as drastic as that first year.

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Designate main branches. Prune!

Over the course of the two cuts we established certain limbs as the main branches. From that point on, each year right after bloom we will go to the end of each main branch and shorten it to a graceful side branch.

Below, left: The end of a main branch may produce all these side branches in a year. Below, center and right: We don't have to deal with every one of those new limbs. We only look back along a main branch to shorten it so one of its graceful side branches becomes its new end.

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Focus on just one main limb at a time.

This is one of the most important tactics in pruning a fast growing plant. Find a place on each main limb where one cut will leave a pretty side branch as the new leader.

Below, left: To look at the whole canopy may be like seeing a jumble.
Below, right: Instead, look at just one branch. We've repeated a main limb in this picture with blue lines just to the right of the real thing. The orange arrows mark two places where a cut could leave a nice side branch as the new leader.

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Wait a minute. It will grow!

We know we can depend on a fast-growing tree to quickly produce more branches below our cuts, and do more shortening and shaping the next year.

Below, left: Immediately after our cut in year #1. Center: Immediately before the cut in year #2. Below, right: After the cut in year two.

9eChryHddBkN4555.jpg CherryB4NEN0730s.jpg CherryAftrNEN0736s.jpg