I lost a beloved diseased dogwood tree that had made a wonderful space in my yard by growing long stretching horizontal branches that made a canopy of sorts.

About a year or two I replaced it with another dogwood, and I would like to try to replicate the growth pattern of the old tree. I was wondering if it's possible to prune or train the new dogwood in this manner.

I don't want to train it to the extent that it looks unnatural like I've seen in Japanese gardens. (See pictures in @yoda's answer for the looks I am trying to avoid.)

What I'm looking for is specific pruning or training techniques to encourage natural looking horizontal growth.

  • 2
    Yes, but you should choose a replacement that likes to grow in this kind of habit. Perhaps another dogwood. But to take an extreme example, not a poplar!
    – winwaed
    Jun 17, 2011 at 14:47

3 Answers 3


You can train trees however you want (except perhaps make them grow underground!) if you start at a very young age. The trees will need to be trained constantly (i.e., if you miss for a couple of weeks to a month, you'll find that it's harder to bend them the way you want) till they reach the desired shape and after that, you can maintain the shape by pruning appropriately.

The hardest part is not in training them, but rather in knowing when to stop. However, there's not much that we can do about it here because we don't know what you have in mind and even if you showed us pictures, it would be hard for us to tell you exactly. But to answer your question, yes you can.

Here are some examples (Click on the image for a link to the source page):

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  • 1
    Dont underestimate trees growing underground
    – mfg
    Jun 17, 2011 at 17:07
  • thanks very much for the ideas, but in my question I did specify I am not looking for the unnatural look. I have to say the examples you provided were exactly what I meant by unnatural. Jun 17, 2011 at 23:07
  • 2
    @glenviewjeff - If you don't want it to look unnatural, use the same techniques, just don't carry them as far as the pictures above.
    – bstpierre
    Jun 18, 2011 at 0:04
  • @glenviewjeff: It is hard for us to envision what you have in mind and even if you provided pictures, we can at best give you only qualitative advice. Bstpierre's comment sums up what I had in mind. Try these techniques, but stop when you reach what you want. Jun 18, 2011 at 2:37
  • Interesting seeing that apple tree. I saw a garden last week in the UK (Leeds area) where the owner was training dwarf apple trees along fence wires in a similar manner. Only about 2ft high, and at least 4ft+ wide on either side but it looked effective and they had a good crop growing.
    – winwaed
    Aug 23, 2011 at 22:13

While growing bonsai trees, trunks and branches are physically manipulated to grow a certain way. I am assuming the same techniques could be used for normal sized tree as long as it is not too old or large. If you are growing the tree from a sapling I do not see why this could not be implemented.


I'm wondering which Cornus (dogwood) you've bought to replace the old one. There is a dogwood (Cornus alternifolia) which naturally grows in graceful, horizontal tiers - Cornus kousa, as it ages, tends to do the same thing, but much later on in maturity. It seems likely you had Cornus alternifolia, and the wisest thing might be to replace it with another one, which would mean a totally natural, layered look without the need for regular shaping and pruning.

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