The Art of Tree Pruning

Art is usually discussed in terms of galleries and stages and mp3 files and writing. Yesterday I talked about pruning trees as art. Just click here, if you missed it. I’ll expand on that a little. Here’s a tree I pruned last week. This is a Macintosh apple tree. It’s probably about fifty years old. macHere’s another. This is a Starking Red Delicious tree, about fifty years old.


One of the things about the art of pruning is that the artwork, a sculptural process, involves the sculpting of life, not of inert material, and the sculpting of it over time. One sculpts the life energy of the tree, at the same time as which one works with previous sculptural forms of the tree. Notice, for example, the leafy furze on the top surface of this red delicious’s limbs.

detailThese are the result of long practice at cutting all of the upper growth off the limbs, especially last year, when no other pruning was done. The work now is to let the tree relax and turn that leafy growth into fruiting wood. It’ll take two or three years. After five, the tree will have stabilized. In other words, in order to prune a tree, one works with time. It’s not something that one does alone. This truth suggests to me that the concept of the individual artist either working alone or as part of a collective, to produce art works in the present, is a constriction not much different than the walking path cutting up the hill in the background of the image above. It is designed for people to walk on and look out from, but when seen from outside a human perspective, it’s as mis-placed as the mechanical, artless clipping of upper limb growth is on the red delicious apple tree. Here’s another truth of orcharding:



Yup, it’s not what one intends that is art, nor is it entirely what happens by chance. It’s a dance. It can be made by people, but the earth is always there, even if hidden deeply, and the art is ultimately hers, not ours.



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