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Tree Shaping

Tree shaping is an art and a talent that allows us to sculpt trees into interesting shapes! Also called Grown Furniture, or known by its more technical term, Biotecture, this amazing art uses a variety of techniques to shape the trunks of both trees and certain types of plants.

Tree shaping as an art dates back to the 16th century, and is referenced or seen in both literature and paintings of that time. However it was a man by the name of Axel Erlandson, an icon in modern tree training, who introduced us to the practice of modern tree shaping.

Erlandson pioneered a technique known a inosculation¬– he noticed that when close together, the trunks, branches and roots of a tree can fuse together, and that this can occur in both a lone tree or in trees that grow in close proximity.

This form of grafting inspired Erlandson to develop the techniques used in modern tree shaping.

Currently three main methods are used in shaping trees– they are known as:

  • Instant tree shaping (arborsculpture)
  • Gradual tree shaping
  • Aeroponic culture

Instant tree shaping involves bending mature branches or trees into a certain design and encasing them in a cast for between 3-4 years, during which time the tree adapts to growing in the new shape.

Gradual tree shaping begins with using a frame during the grown of new seedlings, then planting taller seedlings– the new growth is then monitored and trained over several years so that as the trees thicken, they fill out the desired shape.

Aeroponic culture uses a technique where the roots of the tree are grown in a mist of nutrients to a certain length, and then shaping the roots as the tree is planted.

While most species of trees are candidates for tree shaping, not all can be used in Instant tree shaping– trees being shaped this way must have a certain level of natural flexibility and an ability to be grafted. Ideally, Instant shaping should be used on trees with thin bark, for example sycamore, birch, and poplar.

The really interesting things about tree shaping is the variety of designs that can be achieved, ranging from symbolic to functional, and abstract¬– while some tree shaping is done simply for artistic reasons, others can be functional, such as furniture, ladders, and more.

From archways and gazebos, to living fences, with careful planting and planning, there is a wide range of gorgeous tree shapes you can achieve!