In Japan, trees pervade the physical landscape and have long held a lofty position in the country's spiritual and sociocultural domain. Fittingly, Japanese gardeners have fine-tuned a distinctive set of pruning techniques meant to coax out the essential characters of their garden trees, or niwaki. The approach is calculated and dramatic; niwaki are sculpted to achieve certain effects, from the appearance of maturity to an asymmetrical or even lightning-struck look.
Jake Hobson, who honed the techniques in an Osaka nursery before adapting them in West Sussex, England, encourages the reader to venture beyond familiar tree pruning methods to cultivate their very own niwaki. After giving insight into the spiritual concept of "yin and yang" and the deep-seated sociocultural emphasis on balance that underpin the approach, the author details the basic principles of Japanese tree pruning. He goes on to offer in-depth guidelines for sculpting pines, azaleas, conifers, evergreens, bamboos, and deciduous trees. He also places Japanese tree pruning in context, discussing what happens "behind the scenes" at Japanese nurseries and describing instances of niwaki in private and public gardens worldwide. Throughout the text, illustrations complement the detailed instructions, while photographs and anecdotes bring the ideas surrounding niwaki vividly to life.
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