One is a hybrid witch hazel, Hamamelis x intermedia 'Diane'.
Leaf persistence will diminish as the plant ages, from what I have read, so eventually, in years to come, the leaves will be off when the witch hazel blooms in February.
In summer Hamamelis 'Diane' is shapeless. The pleated green leaves are glossy and crisp and look nice enough, but the whole shrub was just a leafy blob.
So this fall the pruners were called for, the garden surgeon was prepped, and the lower branches were lifted up. I like the twisty, architectural shape of witch hazel 'Diane' much better now with bare branches below.
Imagine this as a small, spreading tree. Imagine those candelabra stems as thicker trunks, shapely and twisting. Imagine.
I also limbed up a viburnum. It's a Viburnum prunifolium, which wants to be a multi stemmed bush about 10 feet high. But with some pruning of the lower stems, they can be trees, and can reach 20 feet in height.
I started when the viburnum was a small shrub, and made cuts over three seasons. The trunks were twisted together and the cuts looked crude, and I thought I had butchered the whole thing.
But this fall I was happy with the way the bottom of this blackhaw viburnum is lifted up, exposing a few multiple curved trunks
There is a green plastic mesh tube around the stems, please ignore that. It's there to protect this shrub-becoming-a-tree from the deer. Just imagine this viburnum as a twenty foot tree, with elegant curving trunks and a wide crown of foliage, covered in flat white blooms in May.
The best I can do is show you a suggestion of what is to come -- the white viburnum blossoms were only at the bottom this spring because a frost got the upper blooms, but imagine how it will be. Imagine.
I am also limbing up another Viburnum prunifolium that is planted near the house, between the air conditioning units. An unfortunate placement.
It started as such a tiny thing in 2006, not even a foot high, but unlike the other blackhaw viburnum, it always had a single trunk, even as a tiny sapling.
Another shrub that can be a small tree is Cornus mas, cornelian cherry dogwood. It is not naturally as tree-like as a flowering dogwood, but it is not suckering and thickety like redtwig dogwoods. Sort of in-between, it just seems to want to be a tree, so I'll help it.
Imagine the dogwood all grown up and spreading, with a strong central trunk and those droopy leaves providing shade. And in early spring, before the leaves come out, it is covered in a yellow haze of flowers, looking for all the world like a forsythia, but standing upright.
To help you imagine that, here's a mature one in bloom, limbed up, but with three trunks. Maybe I should keep that angled stem on mine?
Another dogwood, Cornus racemosa, is the last of my pruning projects. This one you really will have to imagine -- I don't have much to show, since mine is little. I just planted a one-gallon container plant this fall.
It is called gray dogwood, and it can form big mounding thickets that cover some real estate. But trimmed and kept in check, they can be graceful trees.
Here is one just leafing out in spring at Berkshire Botanical Garden in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. It takes some work to get this form. Gray dogwoods I have seen growing naturally are quite weedy and rangy, sending stems up all over.
But I am encouraged with the successes I have had so far pruning my other dogwood and the viburnums and witch hazel into small trees. I think I can keep the new gray dogwood gracefully pruned too.
There is something in this work that makes me feel like a sculptor. It's very uplifting.