Cloud pruning- turning a blob into a sculpture, how to do it!

Cloud pruning is a form of topiary that is now becoming very popular now. Many thanks to people who have the great vision in creative pruning like Jake Hobson. It is basically sculpturing the plant from one large rounded shape into one that has many rounded part and indeed can look almost like a cloud. Almost any plant that doesn’t mind being pruned and shaped regularly can have this done to them. Ideal candidates are plants like yew, box, cotoneaster and forms of shrubby loniceria. They can be newly planted or mature specimens that have well been blobbed in the past and it’s a specimen like that I am showing you how to turn from a blob into a thing of beauty within one growing season. It will take a few trims to get it right but once you have a shape and structure you need, it’s a case of just trimming back to this every few months or once per year depending on growth on the plant.

The tools you need are a pair of sharp good quality pair of shears. I use these pair of ARS shears, the reason I don’t use my quality topiary shears at this time is due to the fact I will be cutting into older wood and they aren’t designed for it. A pair of secateurs finishes off the tool requirements well apart from a rake

Firstly you need a blob and this variegated loniceria is indeed one! It’s made up of a group of plants and lends itself perfectly to want I want to do.

As you can see, there’s lots of growth on there to be trimmed back

So I slowly start to form more round shapes into the bush using shears. I trimmed this first section a bit harder, to get it away from the potentilla.

You can see shapes slowly starting to appear and you just keep trimming these shapes into the plant, these don’t need to be any shape of size, just what you want and feel it would be good for the plant. It is at times, these shapes appear to you as you trim, these shapes may come from branch networks or indeed from the individual plants within a group, making natural mounds or shapes. These are hidden from the first view from other branches, so try and be flexible when pruning like this

You can see the shapes really forming now

Thicker bits can be removed using secateurs

While the shaping can be done with the shears

It doesn’t take long to form these lovely shapes that give a little bit of a simpsons cloud effect and give the garden a feature of interest for you all to look at

It’s a pretty quick job, I think it took me about 45 minutes to form this beautiful shape in this garden. When I have gone in so hard into a shrub like this, I look at it as a summer project to get the plant shaped up into its final shape. It may change a little bit but that’s the fun thing about pruning like this. You can do the same effect by buying in new Plants and shaping those as they grow.

We shall be returning later on in the summer to see how it is doing and look at adjusting the shape if required and regular shaping

7 Comments Add yours

  1. fredgardener says:

    I really like to prune clouds with shrubs. The lonicera are good for that and holly or yew too. One thing I tried is to turn clouds (Niwaki) with my magnolia stellata 2 years ago. It wasn’t great as a result …maybe a little bit early . I will try again with other shrubs!

    1. thomashort says:

      It’s great fun isn’t it Fred, I have a few plants I am trying at home to turn them to forms, love trying them out, would be great to see some of yours 👍

  2. Vivien Hyde says:

    Love reading your articles, they are interesting, well written & relevant.
    I’ve still got a couple to catch up on, but i think they are just right. Keep up the great writing & Gardening of course ! VH.

  3. Thank you for this , loved the photos as you went along, easy to see how it is done.

  4. tonytomeo says:

    Shrubby lonicera? Well, . . . . that one is a mystery to me. We lack those here for some reason. We happen to have some nice old junipers at work, those Juniperus chinensus procumbens. They would work for this, but must be removed! It is sad. We were not going to cloud prune them, but had planned on making them more lumpy. The do work well for cloud pruning. Most junipers are at their best in their natural form instead.

    1. thomashort says:

      Ahh you aren’t missing much, great for topiary but mainly get blobbed and look pretty dull normally ☹️

      1. tonytomeo says:

        I happen to like the common Japanese honeysuckle, and thought that I would also like the North American honeysuckles, but most are rather disappointing.

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