Pruning and Shaping in the Japanese Garden

There are several reasons why Japanese gardeners give such attention to pruning.  First of all, it controlls the size of the plant in keeping with the overall design of the garden.  Secondly, it opens up the plant to light and air.  Thirdly, it may expose the beauty of the plant in its branching habits.

One pruning style is called tamazukuri, or making round.  You might see this used with mounded azalea to represent rolling hills or the round tufted branches of a juniper or pine resembling clouds or repeating  the pattern of nearby rocks.  Other plants frequently pruned in this manner include Japanese holly, dwarf mugo, boxwood, privet and other dense evergreens.

In the Japanese garden, you might see a tree whose branches resemble spoked wheels stacked up with space between the layers.  Care is taken that no one limb is left directly above another.  This technique is called kuruma-zukashi.

Another technique is used in asymmetrically pruning opposing branches.  Pines, especially the Japanese black pine, and other evergreens, such as yew or different kinds of holly, are commonly pruned in this manner.

Sashide, a technique in which the tips of branches are cut off along with any downward growing branches, is used in pruning pines, maples and hemlocks.

Heavy pruning causes the branches and trunks of trees and shrubs to thicken up and look aged.  It also helps control the growing habit of the plant.  With knowledge on what and how to prune, you can encourage the elegant twisted and curved lines that are so strongly associated with the beauty of Japanese gardens.  Sometimes, it is necessary to rope and stake the tree branches to each other or to the ground. Pieces of hose are used to protect rope form scarring the branches.  You may contort the growth of smaller,  more supple trees and shrubs in this way.  These techniques are also used in some cases to get long horizontal growth. Trailing branches may also be desired, especially in the art of bonsai. You can use special wire to get maximum control of the branches and growth of the tree.

Anyone who has visited a Japanese garden has seen branches bolstered by supports or held in position by rope or wire. These supports are part of the garden scenery and are not considered unattractive.


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