Typical Dutch: Keeping trees in shape

There is a very Dutch way to prune and train the branches of trees. As you walk along the Wageningen dyke you can see old willow trees planted in line by the water. A lovely sight: they are so old and majestic. To picture them, imagine the shadow of the Grinch’s hand on a chubby…
Illustration: Henk van Ruitenbeek

The branches of these willows get cut off during the pruning season in February. Then the trees look to me like a big mushroom on top of which geese can rest on a natural perch similar to the ones built for storks. The pruning is a traditional activity. On a February weekend, you can see people by the dyke with extensible pruning shears, ladders, chainsaws and other tools. They are taking care of those old trees.

There are linden trees in front of many Dutch houses to provide shade in summer. These trees are grown as sunshades that don’t take up much space in the garden. To me, they look like a head with elongated tuning pegs from a guitar on it. I was surprised when I saw that branches can be trained into an L shape on a corner to continue the hedge. That’s not something you see back in Italy.

 I saw that branches can be trained into an L shape on a corner 

I once spotted a recently planted linden tree whose shape reminded me of a music stand. There is poetry in this image. Just as there is accuracy in music, it takes a clear structure to shape young trees. There is beauty in the tradition of those typically Dutch ornamental shapes. I hope now you have been triggered to spot them.

Elisa Bongiolatti, double degree student of Agricultural and Food Economics, from Italy.

Do you have a nice anecdote about your experience going Dutch? Send it in! Describe an encounter with Dutch culture in detail and comment on it briefly. 300 words max. Send it to resource@wur.nl and earn twenty-five euros and Dutch candy.


In Italië laten ze boomtakken doen wat boomtakken doen, maar in Nederland willen we de boel graag naar onze hand zetten. Elise Bongiolatti ziet hoe in februari groepen Wageningers naar de uiterwaarden trekken met grote snoeimessen en zagen om de wilgen in bedwang te krijgen. En ook hoe Nederlanders lindebomen gebruiken als een soort buitengordijnen: we leiden de takken in een platte vorm voor ons huis langs en zelfs de hoek om! Daar zit poëzie in, vindt Elise.

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