Design Exercise: Seeing into the Future

Michael Hagedorn

This odd maple earned the nickname ‘Snuffleupagus’ in our recent Seasonal session, in appreciation of the elephantine upper trunk. (Source: Snuffleupagus, from the TV show Sesame Street, a giant anteater-like mammoth, without tusks or visible ears.)

At the moment, this tree is rather awkward, but over time…maybe interesting. In this exercise we investigate the question of the future, trying to imagine different outcomes.


A quirky Japanese Maple, Acer palmatum, about 12 years old, after a summer of growth. First it needs a pruning. 


After pruning. Removed branches would have gotten too strong and thick next year, creating future scars.


One of my favorite tricks for trees that make you scratch your head is to grow them into the next size larger tree. This is a good example, a tree that could be improved by adding 1/3 to the height. Attaching red pipe cleaner to the new leader helps ask the…

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