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Training Beautiful Flowering Shrubs Into Unique Ornamental Trees


 
There's simply nothing more beautiful than a flowering shrub in full bloom unless it's a flowering shrub that has been trained to grow as a single stem tree. Just imagine having a fragrant Viburnum tree growing next to your patio or outside your bedroom window, waking you up to a wonderful aroma.

Donít confuse what I am about to explain in this article with the common technique of grafting flowering shrubs on to the tall stem of some sort of rootstock. Grafting is extremely effective but it's difficult to do. "Training" is much easier. Also, when you train the shrub to grow into a single stem tree, you can end up with some very interesting plants as a result.

It's a pretty simple matter to train a flowering shrub to grow into a single stem tree. The younger the shrub that you can start with, the easier it is to train. I have a friend who grows thousands of Tree Hydrangeas a year, and he trains them using this method. The variety that he grows for this purpose is P.G. Hydrangea. (hydrangea paniculata grandiflora) This is the one with the huge snowball type blooms.

He begins with rooted cuttings and lines them out in the field about 30Ē apart. The first year he allows them to grow untouched as multi-stem shrubs. These being fast growing shrubs, they usually produce 3 to 4 branches that grow to a height of about 3' to 4í the first season.

The following spring he examines each plant and selects the one stem that is the straightest, since it is likely to grow straight up from the roots if tied to a stake. He then clips off all of the other branches as close to the main stem as possible. Then he drives a stake into the ground as close to the plant as possible, and clips the tip off the single stem that is left.

This induces the plant to generate lateral buds just below where he clipped the top off, rather than continue growing straight up. These lateral buds will grow into branches that will form the body of the tree. He then ties the stem to the stake. As it begins to grow, any buds that appear below the top group of buds are plucked off to keep the plant in a single stem tree form.

Thatís all there is to training a flowering shrub to grow into a flowering tree! You can use almost anything as a stake. Be sure to tie the stem to the stake with a piece of cloth.

You can also anchor your plants to stakes with a single wrap of duct tape. I find that if I only wrap the tape once, the sun will dry the glue and the tape will fall off by itself in about a year. ĹĒ electrical conduit also makes a great stake, and it only costs about $2 for a ten foot section.

You can also train an older established shrub if you can find one branch that can easily be tied to a vertical stake. The stem is likely to be slightly crooked and not very smooth because of the wounds from where the branches were removed, but that doesnít mean that you can't create an interesting plant.

Some of the best shrubs for creating beautiful and unique ornamental trees are the many varieties of Viburnums, Burning Bush, Winged Burning Bush, Red and Yellow Twig Dogwoods, Weigelia, Mockorange, Rose of Sharon, and Flowering Almond. Iím sure you can think of many more.

My favorite shrub to train into a tree is Harry Lauderís Walking Stick. In it's natural shrub form this plant is very interesting with itís twisted and contorted branches. The new growth is quite reminiscent of a pigís tail. Using the same basic technique as described above I choose a single stem, tie it to a stake, and train it to grow as a tree. The effect is extremely unique. Call your local garden centers and ask them if they have Harry Lauderís Walking Stick plants.

Give it a try! Iím sure youíll have lots of fun while creating some very interesting plants for your lawn and garden!
 

Article courtesy of Mike McGroarty.


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