NiwakiOruning Traiing and Shaping Trees the Jap wayThe trees and shrubs seen in Japanese gardens have a unique look and are known as niwaki, or “garden trees”, They are trained, shaped, clipped and pruned using a special set of pruning techniques developed by Japanese gardeners to bring out the essential characteristics of the plant. Jake Hobson’s book, Niwaki, explores the techniques used to create niwaki giving detailed information on the general principles and skills as well as specific instructions for several groups of plants.

Introductory chapters on the elements of Japanese gardens and the history of niwaki provide the background for understanding the role of niwake. Influenced by religious beliefs, cultural aesthetics, and the geographic characteristics of the country, Japanese gardens have evolved to include trees and shrubs that fit into the landscape in a way that is unique to Japan. The trees and shrubs used as niwake are chosen from a limited number of native plants and are the same species that have been used for 1500 years. Hobson emphasizes, however, that niwaki is defined by how the plants are grown, rather than the species. The author also points out that although niwaki and bonsai are both grown to capture and represent the essential characteristics of the plant, they are different in an important way; bonsi are grown in pots, while niwaki are grown in the ground.

A chapter on general principles and techniques of pruning, training and shaping trees and shrubs leads to separate chapters detailing the special methods needed to produce niwaki from pines, azaleas, conifers, broadleaved evergreens, deciduous trees, and bamboo. Each chapter includes step by step instructions enhanced with an abundance of sketches and photographs. A final chapter describes the role of nurseries and gardeners that make niwaki possible and provides information on the tools needed.

Although niwaki are traditionally drawn from a limited plant list the techniques used to create them can be successfully applied to many other plants. If you like the look of niwaki and want to include them in your garden this is an essential read because there are very few books available to the average gardener on this subject. Even if you just want to enjoy and understand more about niwaki and Japanese gardens this book is a good read.

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By Karen