The taller the better

“Whatcha doin’ up there, Ed” my little neighbor called out as he walked down the lane along the front of my property.

“I’m building a waterfall” I called back from the tippy-top of my tallest three-legged ladder.

The thought of me building a waterfall from the top of a ladder while doing something to a ‘funny-looking’ tree in my garden was all it took to distract him from continuing down the lane with his baseball bat over his shoulder and mitt in hand. My young friend made a detour, turning to proceed onto one of my garden paths, which intersects the lane leading to my house and connecting with his back yard.

“How are you going to build a waterfall from there?” he asked.

Pinus strobus 'Angel Falls'
When staked as tall as possible, Pinus strobus ‘Angel Falls’ takes on the appearance of the famous waterfall for which it was named.

Of course his question was perfectly reasonable; how could I possibly build a waterfall from the top of a tall, narrow tree?

“Well, I suppose that it’s not a real waterfall – you do have an imagination don’t you?” I asked. At this point I finished tying the leader of my Pinus strobus ‘Angel Falls’ to the top of the 15 foot stake that I have used to train this beautiful tree as tall as I can manage, and I began my decent down the ladder.

I asked my young friend if he had ever heard of the South American country called Venezuela. I then began to describe to him that there is an amazingly tall waterfall there that had been named Angel Falls – in fact, it was the world’s tallest. I explained that the tree I was working on, when staked as tall as possible, actually looks quite a lot like this famous waterfall with its tall narrow form and long, weeping branches that turn slightly outward here and there giving the appearance of water splashing and fanning out as it approaches the ground. In fact, the tree had been named after that waterfall.

My young friend stood listening and looking from the tree and back at me for several minutes. “Yeah, guess so.” he said, “Gotta go!” and off he ran back out the path where he entered my garden and on down the lane to the main road.

“Google it later” I hollered as he trotted out of sight.

When staked as tall as possible, this is one of the most beautiful trees one may ever desire for their garden. It will take up a rather narrow footprint for many years as it is encouraged to grow skyward. It will, however, eventually begin to fill out when the central leader is allowed to fall over and weep and flop and flow on its own. I think I may try removing the leader next year – since my tree is as tall as I can manage now – preventing significant further upward growth, while allowing the lateral branches to continue to weep down, layer upon layer, reaching the ground and spreading like a river flowing below my very own replica of the Angel Falls waterfall.

Conifer Lover

4 thoughts on “The taller the better

    1. Nor have I, Ellen, but I’ll fill you in on a little secret. On taller trees like this one, I’ll tie a five foot stake (or whatever length of sturdy stake I have) to the tree itself for support, and then train the top up on the extended portion. No need for the stake to go all the way to the ground when only the top few feet need support. ;^)


  1. Hi Ed,
    I love the dramatic height weeping conifers like ‘Angel Falls’ can add to the landscape when continued to be stalked higher and higher. I too have a lovely 15′ specimen of Picea omorika ‘Pendula Bruns’ that I am just about out of ladder rungs to go any higher and stalk. I was wondering, can I cut that central leader to stop the skyward reach? I really like the height, but too much higher and it will become out of proportion in my landscape. Additionally, how tall would ‘Pendula Bruns’ get if the leader is allowed to grow and could it be damaged by strong wind gusts? I recently recorded 45 mph winds during a serious thunderstorm and am always worried that the tree could be broken. As a side note, I procured my specimen from Iseli in a wooden crate when it was about 7′-8 tall 4 years ago and it really has taken off, I am located in Pennsylvania, zone 6b.


    1. Hi Dave, I have never seen a ‘Pendula Bruns’ with its main leader removed, so I cannot say for sure. Based on what I have seen, they are very vigorous growers and I suspect that with a main leader removed, either by pruning or breakage, one (or more) of the top lateral branches would attempt to dominate in the upward growth department and become quite a character in its form. As far as high winds go, I believe it is fairly flexible and wind gusts up to 45 mph shouldn’t be a problem. We frequently have strong east winds here which during the winter months can gust 45-60mph without causing trouble to ours. But, who knows, with just the right combination of wind and ice and freezing and thawing anything could happen. All part of the challenges that we gardeners face.


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