Lift That Canopy

Once you have cleared up the autumnal leaves, you might be looking for some projects in the garden towards the end of the year. Why not reclaim some of the space lost to the prolific growth of garden trees and shrubs by lifting the canopy, or in other words, removing the lower branches whilst keeping the crown, or top, of the plants?

This allows you to look through the plants, admire the shape of their stems, and gives space to plant smaller plants in the ground that has now been exposed. The top of large shrubs and trees will continue to grow, and delight you with blossom and lovely leaves. 

Top Tip: cut off the branches close to the trunks so you do not leave ugly stumps which might get diseased.

A word of caution though, A&E departments report the highest level of garden accidents immediately after Christmas as gardeners rush out to use the pruners, saws, and loppers they have been given as presents. 

Expose the Structure

In the gardens at New Hopetoun, there are a few projects on the go to lift the canopy and underplant during autumn and winter. The branches of the Amelanchier tree are quite sculptural and now that the canopy has been lifted, the statue of ‘Modesty’ can again be enjoyed – she first appeared in the show garden at the Glasgow Garden Festival in 1988! 

Lift the Crown

The lovely Mount Fuji Cherry, Prunus incina ‘Kojo-no-mai’, is usually sold as a small shrub in full blossom in the late winter. It can grow to 2.4m (8ft) after 10 to 15 years and steal a lot of space. Here, wearing its lovely autumn coat, it has had its crown lifted leaving the umbrella top for blossom and leaf display.


At New Hopetoun, they have just lifted the canopy of the Japanese Cedar, Cryptomeria japonic ‘Elegans’, and regained some steps and a large bit of border in partial shade once the lower branches of the conifer had been neatly removed. 

They have chosen to plant up the space gained here with an Oriental feel beside a stone lantern, selecting plants which will perform well in shade and brighten the border: vinca, evergreen fern, a weeping standard cotoneaster, dwarf Pieris, and some special grassy plants that will tolerate partial shade. These were all chosen from their ‘Bright Shade’ plant list.

Another great idea is to choose leaves with white and green variegation to add some sparkle to shady areas like Euonymus ‘Emerald Gaiety’, Brunnera ‘Jack Frost’, and Cotoneaster horizontalis ‘Variegatus’. A full list of suggested plants from New Hopetoun Gardens can be found here.

New Hopetoun Gardens is an award-winning garden centre situated to the west of Edinburgh. Dougal Philip and Lesley Watson set-up the garden centre over 40 years ago. Now, thriving as an employee-owned business, New Hopetoun Gardens is so much more than one of Edinburgh’s best-stocked garden centres. With the addition of an inspirational gift shop, and the popular Orangery Tearoom, New Hopetoun Gardens continues to focus on first-class gardening expertise, outstanding customer service, and a diverse variety of choice and exceptional quality.

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