The pair of Golden String / Thread (sometimes called Mop) Cypress, seen in the two cover photos for this blog post, that are major focal points in my back garden, did not always have pyramidal shapes. The natural growth habit of the string cypress, to some, might be a bit conical or pyramidal, but to me they look like lovely overgrown upright haystacks. This post shows step-by-step instructions on how I turned my unruly haystacks into more formal pyramids.
4 sturdy sticks ( plastic coated aluminum poles, found at garden centers everywhere, and some home improvement places) Mine were 8 foot long,
an electric or gas-powered hedge trimmer (a good pair of hand shears, if that is your style),
a step ladder if needed.
Step 1… Push the sturdy sticks into the ground, at the place where you will be making the four corners of your pyramid. Place the four sturdy sticks on an angle as seen in illustrations 1, also laying them into the cypress as seen in illustration 2 so the four sticks will be forming the outline of the pyramid which you are about to create. If your sturdy sticks don’t reach to the top of your pyramid, that is just fine (mine did not reach the top either). Place them on an angle as best as you can, and then envision them extending upward to form the top of the pyramid. In the first six illustrations for this post, the red dotted lines, shown how the line created by the sturdy sticks continues up to form the top of the pyramid. After initially placing your sticks, step back and look at them from all sides. Adjust the sticks until you get them positioned correctly. I had to adjust mine many times until I got them where I wanted them.
A trick to envisioning the dotted red line, past the sturdy sticks….
Standing out in front of your soon to be pyramid, First extend your right hand out in front of your face, then close your left eye. Take your index finger, or a straight stick or even a ruler that you are holding, and line it up with the sturdy stick(s) and have it extending upward past the stick(s), in the direction of where you think the top of your pyramid will be. By doing this you will easily be able to see if your sturdy sticks need re-positioning.
Step 2… Each pyramid has four sides; think of a north side, a south side, as well as an east and west side. When shearing your cypress you will first work (let’s say) on the south side, followed then by the north side, which forms one half of a clipped pyramid. After that you will then clip the east side, and finally the west side, which will complete your pyramid.
Now look at illustration 3, in the space marked off by the red arrows labeled A. That is where you should start your cypress shearing. When shearing a cypress, you don’t want to take off too much of its foliage-needles so that you create a bare spot exposing its inner branches. The cypress does not have dormant buds on older branches, so if you cut off all of the plants foliage you will be creating a permanent bare spot.
When starting the shearing, first try to cut in a horizontal movement, going back and forth with your trimmer, using the sturdy sticks on both the front and back sides as your guides. Take off a little at a time (don’t rush), running your trimmer from one pole to the other. Then cut downwards a bit to even things up, always using the sturdy sticks as your guide.
After your initial cut, step back and see how things look. If things look fine, then go onto the lower part of the cypress, as shown in illustration 4 labeled B and continue with your trimming. You initially only want to trim the middle and the bottom of your pyramid first. After trimming (let’s say) the south side of your pyramid, work on the north side, starting again, in the middle and working down to the bottom.
Now look at Illustration 5 labeled C. After clipping the middle and bottom of each side of the pyramid and stepping back, many times, to see if both sides are equal, for angle, it’s now time to trim/form the top. Starting on one side, slowly trim upwards from the top of the middle in the direction of where you think the point will be. You don’t want to trim from where you think the point should be, working downwards! After doing one side, step back, look and start the other. After trimming the second side, step back again and see which side, or if both side needs more work. You have just formed one half of your pyramid, as seen in illustration 6.
Step 3… Now it is time to trim the final two sides. Repeat Steps shown in illustrations 3, 4 and 5. Illustration 7 shows a completed pyramid.
The initial trimming of my two pyramids took a good part of a long afternoon, as I had never done anything like that before. Now that they are shaped, the trimming goes fast, as their form is already there, and I just want to take off new growth. I trim my cypress pyramids yearly, in late Fall, as they are in the garden, and I like to neaten them up when nothing is growing around them. If a person has cypress that is planted in a lawn area, I would suggest trimming, in Autumn, Winter, or early Spring.
So there you have it, some instructions on how to trim a cypress into a pyramid. The cypress, with its chartreuse foliage is a stunning looking large bush/small tree when it is left to grow to its natural shape, but when trimmed it really becomes an eye-catching sculptural show-stopper on any property. If you have one, give it a trim. If you don’t like it, once sheared, just leave it and Mother Nature will have it back to its natural look in three to five years.
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