When thinking of an artistic masterpiece, we most often think of a painting. In our world and work, though, pruning is an art form. But unlike the typical process of adding shapes and colors to a blank canvas to create a painted masterpiece, the skill of pruning lies in the taking away. Here at Hanselman Gardens, we have learned this from long years of study and practice.

Our workmanship is beautifully displayed in the carefully sculpted Japanese Black Pines we have been working on for years in our nursery and in client gardens. These Pines take far longer to craft than the average painting. In fact, years of investment are required, and no small amount of patience. A Japanese Black Pine “sculptor” must be able to see the future tree inside the uninspiring sapling–the sculpture inside the rock, so to speak–and will gradually and carefully prune until the tree takes the desired form. Since every cut should ensure the health and long-term beauty of the tree, the tree “sculptor” must take time to evaluate which branches will crowd out the others, which limbs need to be prioritized, and which head will be the one to take the tree where it needs to go. Selecting a new head for the Black Pine every couple of years is one of the most essential aspects of its pruning, so as to create the graceful windswept motion of the trunk for the desired artistic effect. While certainly an investment of years and exacting care, pruning a Black Pine can be incredibly rewarding and there can be no denying it as an art form like no other.

Submitted by Julia Kramer
Garden Care Technician (& aspiring Japanese Black Pine sculptor)