The Eastern Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis), is a tree that can grow as tall as a hundred feet, but some of them seem to prefer shorter heights of about thirty or forty feet. They’re great shade trees, with thick evergreen foliage on long, horizontal limbs. This makes them ideal for windbreaks, or for privacy from the neighbors. Allow lots of space if you plan on planting one.
|Before pruning the Hemlock looks a bit raggedy.|
I’ve seen this tree offered as a hedge plant in gardening catalogs. Descriptions say they take well to pruning and that they can be kept at the size of a shrub. There are plenty of hemlocks here, and, conveniently, one had gotten started at the edge of the woods. So I thought it'd be fun to give this a try.
I took a loppers and trimmed the top off, then shaped it evenly all the way to the ground. I stood back to have a look. The poor thing looked awfully skimpy. Branches were nearly bare, and the trunk was glaringly obvious.
But the shrub soon filled in. Branches thickened up with many little twigs holding dense foliage. It was looking very different from the day it got a haircut. The little tree had come to look just like a pruned shrub, quite a metamorphosis.
|The hemlock looks shapelier now.|
That was some years ago. I’ve been pruning it every year since. With each shearing the hemlock responds with vigorous growth, quickly becoming thick and lush.
In case you might be thinking of using a hemlock tree as a shrub, keep in mind that without an annual haircut it could soon grow tall and become the tree that it really is. As a pruned shrub, it can’t be beat. Inspired, I went through the woods with the loppers and started shaping a few more young hemlocks. Yard art for the woods...? -jmm