The Art of Arborculture

posted, 12/15/06
Arborculture is the art and practice of doing unusual things with trees to create living works of art. There are even practitioners who grow trees to only cut them down and create furniture.

The photo on the right is a living sculpture by the father of the movement Axel Erlandson. The 6 Sycamores create a fantastic and unusual sculpture.

The photo was taken at Bonfante Gardens in Gilroy, CA. Which is not where these trees started out. They actually started in the San Joaquin Valley as part of Erlandsons Tree Circus. The story of how they got from one place to another is told here, here, and here. The page for Mark Primack is here.

A pdf from Bonfante Gardens which talks about the large aquascape gardens and later in the file talks about the big move of Erlandson’s remaining 29 trees from their original location to their present home. It’s quite a story of determination and co-operation, and a man who wanted to see these specimens survive.

The fellow on the left is Arthur Weichula. Art had some interesting idea about arborculture and other uses for living trees. he was very interested in how living joints, or how inosculation worked.

While looking at all this I was reminded of the ancient art of pleaching, which was developed by the Romans. I say Romans because they were the 1st to speak of it in their writings. it’s certainly possible pleaching happened before then. But . . . I digress.

Here’s a good explanation, the images were missing when I looked at the page. Here you can see a few good examples of pleaching but the writing on the page looked strange for me. The 2 examples will give you a very good idea of what pleaching is all about. let me know if the      links are a problem.

In today’s World of Arborculture the guru seems to be Richard Reames who has written the book, called ARBORCULTURE, Solutions for a Small Planet. I have not read the book but between his site and his work, and now the book there has been a new growth in interest in this form of living art.

Here is a interview in Cabinet magazine with Richard Reames, and I have a few other links of interest from other place/sites in the world where there is great interest in the art of growing trees to create art:

  • where they are creating “people” out of trees. I would think in the dark with just the right mist this place could turn into a horror movie.
  • living houses? maybe, I found this on the Kircher Society web site.
  • Growing Village, Arborculturist from around the world.
  • Archinode goes into the future of arborculture with a look at the Fab Tree Hab. Hey . . . who knows?
  • Finally Mr. Wu, chair anyone?

Finally, finally . . . a big thanks to Hank over at a Lake County point of View. Thanks a lot, I was just spinning through the day minding my own business and boom! It happened Topiary, more topiary, and after catching another post on topiary on the site (like 3 in 3/4 days) I came across a comment refer to arborculture-that was enough to set me in motion. Now, much later in the day-it’s up (the post on arborculture). Thanks Hank.

By Rick Anderson

The Whispering Crane Institute was originally formed to act as the umbrella organization for the Philosophy of Design Symposium, and other seminars and workshops given by Rick Anderson and Richard L. Dube’. In the year 2000 WCI became a sole proprietorship owned by Rick Anderson. Today the WCI provides design and consultation services for Landscape Contractors, acts as a Green Industry think tank, and provides training for others in the form of workshops, seminars, and individual consulting. The WCI also provides written material, opinions, case-studies and how-to articles for industry trade magazines.


  1. 2 comments:

    The County Clerk said…

    I “feel you” brother.

    This is a GREAT post. It curious… what started with formal topiary is taking me all sort of directions too…



    (I don’t know why I’m not surprised that you dove deep into this too.)

    By the way… I’m still on kick.


    Great post. Great info. Useful.
    2:13 PM
    Rick Anderson said…

    Thanks, it seems to me that Axel was way out there, kind of a nutty professor type who loved messin’ with trees . . . wish I had known him.

  2. Maybe you should make changes to the post name The Art of Arborculture The Whispering Crane Institute to something more better for your subject you create. I liked the post yet.

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