The Art of Shaping Trees

Tree shaping is a highly skilled process with beautiful end results which can no doubt be considered a form of art. At Tree Works, an arborist who provides tree shaping in Coquitlam and Burnaby with spiral pruning, we're always excited to share a bit of knowledge about what tree shaping is and how it's been used by humans throughout history.

Tree shaping essentially consists of deliberately shaping a living tree in order to create a desired shape or structure. Tree shaping in the Coquitlam area can be done using a few different methods, and shares common techniques with other horticultural practices such as topiary, bonsai, and espalier.


Different cultures have been practicing tree shaping for at least several hundred years. Perhaps the most famous example of tree shaping is the root bridges which were created and are still being developed and maintained by the Khasi people in the Cherrapunjee region of India. Living trees were also used
to make garden houses in the Middle East and later in Europe. In late medieval Europe it furthermore became common for gardens avenues to run under interwoven canopies.

There are three methods commonly used for tree shaping in Coquitlam: aeroponic growing, instant tree shaping, and gradual tree shaping.

Aeroponic growing is an interesting method of using water vapour instead of soil to grow plants, allowing the roots to be examined. In recent years, new processes have developed which also allow the roots to be formed into many different shapes.

Instant tree shaping is carried out on mature trees and consists of bending and weaving tree trunks into desired shapes and designs. In order for the trees to bend but not to break, designers must have a strong understanding of a tree's fluid dynamics.

Gradual tree shaping begins with a pre-designed framework through which saplings are then trained. As the saplings grow, they take on the desired shape. Weekly or even daily guidance is needed to ensure that the tree follows the framework and pathways laid out for it.

Asides from these three methods, there are a variety of different types of tree shaping. In the Burnaby area, spiral pruning, also known as crown thinning, is particularly popular. Spiral pruning is done in order to remove smaller branches and create a dense, evenly spaced foliage covering. Spiral pruning helps promote tree health by allowing more sunlight to pass through to all of the branches and reducing overall tree weight.

Tree shaping can range from a complex and involved process to a process used for basic tree maintenance. You can try your hand at some basic shaping yourself, but it is always best to hire professionals if you aren't sure what you are doing or if you want a more complex shape. At Tree Works we provide spiral pruning services in Burnaby and Coquitlam. Our tree shaping process will leave your trees healthier and more beautiful to look at.

If you have any questions or would like to hire our services, don't wait to get in touch with Tree Works today.

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