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drunken Blue Atlas Cedar

We have inherited a Blue Atlas Cedar which has been planted below the house, at the foot of a steep bank.  The trunk is now 2 metres or so high, and with a pronounced lean outwards from the slope.  The arching branches add another couple of metres to the overall height, and it is somewhat wider than it is tall.  The previous owner had fashioned some 'crutches' from wooden poles, to prop up the main 2 lateral branches.  It has been a handsome plant but its angle and general appearance now give me an 'edgy' uncomfortable feeling which is difficult to describe.  The weeping branches overhang the grass strip at the base of the bank and make mowing difficult.

Is it possible to pollard these trees effectively?  It would need to be cut back quite hard, and even then, since the main trunk is leaning outwards I wonder if it wouldn't just grow back looking ugly?

Should I take it out and replace with something else, perhaps a lower-growing form of blue cypress?



  • Alina WAlina W Posts: 1,445

    Why not try staking it straight? At that size it should still be quite flexible. Fashion 3 guy-ropes, each looping around the trunk at the same height and pull it as straight as you can, spreading the three ropes in as near a circle as you can. You may not be able to pull it entirekly straight in one go, so wait a year and then move the ropes to straighten it more.

  • That's a good thought, Alina W.  Thanks.

    I have just been out to take another look and measure the circumference of the trunk. It is about 45cm around, and the trunk is not actually leaning, as I first thought, but is the shape of a shepherd's crook.  All the branches are at the top, so it gives the impression they are being thrown forwards. The optical illusion of falling seems to be further magnified because it is at the foot of a very steep bank.  I find it really quite disconcerting to look at - perhaps because subliminally it makes you think of somebody about to jump off a cliff, or something like that.  Hard to say, but it just looks WRONG.  image

    We have tried to straighten a wonky gatepost of a similar size using ratchet straps, so I have a pretty good idea that trying to adjust a trunk of this size by means of ropes might not work all that well!

    I think that once we get into the colder weather and it starts to go dormant I will have a go at cutting the side branches back fairly hard and see what happens next year.   If all else fails, there's always the chain saw the year after, but we have had to take out so much from this garden since we moved in that I am now trying to conserve, where possible, rather than pull up or chop down.

    Perhaps I can make it into a topiary Tom Daley?  image

  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Posts: 83,966

    There's some guidance on here

    about how you can 'control' the shape of a weeping blue atlas cedar.  Hope it helps

    Gardening in Central Norfolk on improved gritty moraine over chalk ... free-draining.

  • Thanks, Dovefromabove.  I have learned that I should remove no more than 1/3 of the tree at a time, and should do it in winter. (But I think I won't wait until it is snowing, though!)

    We also have a very nice twisted willow, but the previous owner planted it in the corner of our plot and on the boundary with next door, and it is now a mature tree.  Fortunately we have good neighbours who don't mind it over-hanging the fence, but to all intents and purposes it is 'wasted' in our garden, because it doesn't get to show off its full glory, being right next to the other neighbour's overgrown laurel hedge, and it can't be seen from any of the windows in our house.  Location, location, location, as they say in the house-buying programmes.

  • ChapelGirl,

    The uncomfortable feeling that I would have about this tree is that it will become enormous, and surprisingly quickly. Think about whether it's the right tree in that location, while you've still got a view and it's easy to do something about it!


  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Posts: 83,966

    The site linked to above states: "Size & Shape of Weeping Blue Atlas Cedar:

    On average, the weeping blue Atlas cedar will be 10 ft. tall at maturity and 15-20 ft. wide. The actual size will be based on how it is trained. Weeping blue Atlas cedar has a weeping shape."   Given that it's situated at the foot of a decline below the house, I don't think it should cause a problem view-wise.  The width should be fairly easy to control, given the advice on the website.   Whether or not ChapelGirl likes the tree is another matter.

    Gardening in Central Norfolk on improved gritty moraine over chalk ... free-draining.

  • The tree trunk is about 2 metres high and 45cm circumference at the moment, and the branches arch out to the left and right of it, parallel with the base of the slope.  The branches are longer than the tree is tall.

    I suppose the reason I started this thread is that I am in two minds myself whether to keep it or chop it down.  I think I will probably try cutting it back this year, and if I'm still not happy with it next year (and I haven't killed it) I can always take it out then. 

  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Posts: 83,966

    It won't get any taller, and the fact that it's wider than it is tall is typical of this tree.  Study the shape carefully, think about how you'd like it to look, (look at the info on the link I posted) and try some judicious sculpting and see how it grows from there. image

    Gardening in Central Norfolk on improved gritty moraine over chalk ... free-draining.

  • ChapelGirl,

    I didn't realise that this was the weeping variety. I thought you were just being poetic when you referred to the weeping branches, as the normal species' branches tend to hang downwards a bitimage. So in respect of your tree I withdraw my comments!

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