Pruning and managing plant shape, form and habit has been a bit of an obsession for the last ten years or so. Since returning from work in Japan in 2006-7 I have developed specialist pruning techniques and styles. I now apply these skills & knowledge to my horticultural work in Devon and the south-west of England.
The whole idea of creative pruning is to think a little bit differently. By using the natural branching and structure you can play around and have some fun. You can do this with a wide range of shrubs and trees. It is important to understand the growth and branching patterns and requirements before you start. Plants that regenerate quickly are ideal such as the Camellia and Brachyglottis below, also Yew, Box and Osmanthus make great specimens. Evergreen shrubs are generally easier to work with and have a more amenable habit for regeneration and easier creative pruning projects.
The plants in the images have pruned in a creative Niwaki style. Opening up the specimen to bring a sense of age and maturity and also allowing additional planting below due to the light that can now come through. This style is promoted and practised by Jake Hobson of Niwaki in Dorset. It is a Japanese style of pruning which is the inspiration for a lot of my current work.
Pruning apple trees in the winter encourages new growth and increased yield in the coming season. By removing the current seasons growth you also allow light into the canopy and allow air to circulate through the canopy. This process will help to create optimum conditions for a healthy fruiting tree when done on an annual basis. (Summer pruning can be done to open up a crowded canopy if necessary).
Sometimes planting just needs a little something extra. By introducing these raised box-balls to this contemporary planting design it brings the garden to life all year round. The clean lines of the spheres complement the overall urban design and bring an extra dimension of height.
As the seasons begin to change and winter interest moves to spring revival its time for a little reflection. We can still enjoy those small moments of magic when low winter light shines through the peeling bark of Acer and Birch trees and the brilliant red of the Cornus stems acts like a beacon at the bottom of the garden.
Different methods and reasons for pruning are just as important and just as rewarding. From simple cutting back of Salix and Cornus to more complex thinning and crown lifting of ornamental Birch, each application has its place and purpose.
Three years ago in a creative moment I created clouds on the wall. A relatively ordinary wall shrub Euonymus ‘Emerald n Gold’ was given a new lease of life with a little careful pruning and manipulation. By understanding the way the plant grows and the branching structure you can open up individual sections to create the “clouds”.
Cloud pruning cannot be done overnight. It is a slow process that will take several years to complete, if it is ever complete. This short film by Jake Hobson of Niwaki explains the process on English Yew trees, Taxus bacatta.
Although the final process takes time there are a number of options that can be adopted. From extreme clouds to a more simple structure get in touch and I will happily let you know if your tree or shrub can be cloud pruned.
Time spent working and traveling in Japan opened my eyes to a new way of using plants in gardens and landscapes. The Japanese have a long association with gardens especially in relation to belief and religion.
The use of plants, predominantly evergreen trees and shrubs in association with rock and water brings the wider landscape into the garden. The understanding of plant growth, form and habit is a strong part of the Japanese garden. It is this understanding that i am now bringing to my own work in Devon.
The work of Jake Hobson from Niwaki is an ongoing inspiration. Bringing his sculptures eye, experience from living and working in Japan and plant knowledge Jake creates some truly inspirational work.
The image at the top of the screen is an early stage piece of work opening up an old privet ball to create a cloud pruned feature.
Our inspiration comes from many places. Often from our own experiences, often from other people and sometimes from places we have never been. Les Jardins de Marqueyssac in the Dordogne, France is one of these place. Somewhere I have wanted to visit for a while now and definitely on my list. The creative use of clipped evergreen trees and shrubs to define areas and bring wonder and delight is quite fantastic.
The levels of creativity and imagination are wonderful and highly impressive. The understanding and manipulation of plant growth is amazing giving an overall sense fun and grandeur at the same time.
Choosing the right tools is essential to make all jobs easy, safe and a pleasure to undertake. These Japanese Niwaki tools are both extremely high quality and a pleasure to use. They cut cleanly, maintain their sharp edge and feel fantastic in your hand.
Opening up and revealing the structure of mature trees can bring a sense of stature and grandeur to a garden space.