Oh, what a tangled web we weave… when we don’t know how to prune a weeping mulberry (Morus alba ‘Pendula’). You can see this popular weeping standard tree all over the city – and when not wearing its cloak of green, the tangled, haystack-headed results of improper pruning are only too evident.
Therefore, when I do happen upon a weeping mulberry that’s even close to looking the way it’s meant to look, I put on the brakes and hop out with the camera. Voici:
The lower branch shows what correct pruning can produce over many seasons. See how the branch seems to make a series of little bridges?
Below is a shot of what typical branches would have looked like before the cuts. I’ll give you a nice big image to make the tangle clearer.
Can you see the type of branch forms where you would make a cut to produce those little bridges? In this case, I’ve circled possible cuts on the same branch – you’d make one or the other. Cut close to the joint, without leaving a stump.
Can these trees be saved? Perhaps – over time. The job is complicated by the volume of untrimmed branches from past seasons. When pruning, it’s rarely a good idea to cut out more than one-third of the branches at a time (some shrubs are exceptions, but I won’t go into them here).
A weeping mulberry is in fact a prostrate or ground-hugging shrub that has been grafted onto an upward-growing trunk. If you cut back your weeping growth too far, you risking having the species in the standard or trunk take over.
The best scenario is to start building the form of the tree while it’s young. And if you have a young or young-ish weeping mulberry, you have a chance. So… read this and weep.
[UPDATE: Since posting this, a few people have written to us to ask for advice on pruning their own weeping mulberry. We should note that the art of pruning is something that can’t be done remotely from photos. Also, it can be difficult to rehabilitate a mature tree of any kind if it hasn’t been well-trained from an early age. If you have a mature tree that needs serious attention, and you don’t want to attempt it yourself (which you should never attempt if there’s the chance of injury to you or your tree), our best advice is to contact a local certified arborist for consultation and/or service. Tree people do it best.]