Training, clipping and pruning

The tools used most for clipping and pruning belong to the standard garden equipment. Here laying on top of a buxus.

Left to right buxus-shears, hedge-shears and a hand pruner or pruning shears, secateurs scissors.
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Buxus Sempervirens

Basically there are two clipping strategies.
We distinguish between clipping during the initial growth, when the plants still do not have their final shape and size (photo to the right). And clipping for form. That is when the desired shape and size has been reached and they now need to be kept "static".
In order to prevent a plant of putting energy in growing where we do not want or need it, we better cut off new growth at an early stage. We should do this on a height where we also want it to get denser. This we do more frequently than the eventual clipping for shape that we do two or three times annually.

For clipping for growth we mostly use a small hand pruner rather than buxus-shears or hedge-shears.
Usually we clip these plants to keep the shape. This should be done before there is too much growth as it will be harder to reshape the plant. Clipping should be done in the growing season, from May and no later than the end of August.
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Removal of seedboxes is also importand when we still need the shrubs to grow to their desired shape and size. In order to prevent a plant of putting its energy in growing the seedbox we should remove them so that the plant can again continue to put its energy in further growth. This activity should be performed shortly after the flowers have dropped off and the seed-boxes show up.
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As an example of Buxus sempervirens clipping we show maintenance of the Karikomi and hako-zukuri in the main garden compartment.

To see and read how we clip for shape, select a photo or start the slide-show from the beginning.

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After a few years the trimmed surfaces can become very dence, especially on the top of the topiary. This reduces the ventilation around the shoots. So it is a good idea to thin out some of the growing shoots every few years. This can be done by cutting out some of the main stems about 10 to 20cm (4-8 inches) below the clipped surface of the plant. The lenght depends on the plant size and growdth characteristics. Take care to not make any visible gaps. The remaining branches will spread out to cover any gaps, while allowing more light and air into the hedge. The exact quantity of shoots to remove is found by trial and error and is based on "look and feel".

Wisteria sinensis pruning

Our Wisteria sinensis was planted early 1999 and at that time about 3 years old.

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This is our Wisteria sinensis (see: Deciduous trees, Wisteria sinensis) in full bloom on May 3rd 2009 at the age of 13 year.

The Wisteria is located in the main garden compartment close to the Buddhist triad stone arrangement. This spring it starts with over 600 flower strings or racemes. The flowers are produced in pendulous racemes up to over 40 cm (16 inch) long. Intertwined these can show even much longer than that.

It is not only the look that is breath taking. The odour that these 48-thousant flowers spread (600 racemes with some 80 flowers on average each, accounts for these 48 thousand) is also breathtaking, and perhaps even a bit addictive as I do catch myself taken a short walk to the Wisteria for some frequent sniffs.

For a larger size and a brief description select a thumb-nail photo or start the slide-show from the beginning.

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Pinus densiflora, Japanese Red Pine

This is about pruning the Pinus densiflora, Japanese Red Pine, in the main garden compartment.

Our Pinus densiflora, Japanese Red Pine got a "fukinaoshi" 15 treatement at the age of about 14 year. After that it went into "regular" maintenance mode, and that is what is shown here. We now need to have it develop steps, danzukuri.

A book like Niwaki [12] is indispensable for this type of job.

The best way to promote new growth is to prune shoots that are less than one year old. In Japan this is mostly done in early summer and called midoritsumi.
Midoritsumi, literally "green picking", is about pinching out all new buds to force a second flush of growth during a season. This pinching out is done by hand either right at the base or, like in the case of our Pinus Densiflora, as it is slower growing and still needs to develop "mass", up to 2 cm (0.8 inch) from the base.

Bud pinching is a bit of a dirty job as the pine resin that comes out is really sticky stuff. Best to do this early during the growth, when it has yet to open its needles and has not yet turned woody. Then they snap off easily when turned and bend. We use a combination of hand and the small hand pruner on the photo. It is small but big enough to clip five buds in one go, when held together.
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Midoritsumi is a dirty job. In no time your fingers will be glued together. That is why I use these thin gloves.
I also found out that using a bonsai-root shears is a very good idea. In particular because you will not easily drop it while performing the act.


For a larger size and a brief description select a thumb-nail photo or start the slide-show from the beginning.

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The last maintenance attention we give the Pine around November is called momiage. Momiage is about removal of old and dead needles and can be combined with thinning back to one or two new shoots by with a second midoritsumi, that is removal of (part of) the second flush of bud growth, if required.

If you want the tree to look denser during winter then you can decide to postpone this activity until the next spring.

Be aware to cover your wrists and arms to protect against the needles during these activities. Cloves are also an option. In Japan one often uses special sleeves.
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Pinus mugo mugo

The Pinus Mugo mugo in the front garden compartment, also got a "fukinaoshi" 15 treatement at the age of about 14 year. After that it went into "regular" maintenance mode, and that is what is shown here. We now need to have it develop steps, danzukuri by applying Midoritsumi once or twice per year.

For a larger size and a brief description select a thumb-nail photo or start the slide-show from the beginning.

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2859 Like the Pinus Desiflora (above) the last maintenance attention we give this Pine around November is called momiage, removing of old and dead needles. When required this can be combined with a second midoritsumi, that is removal of (part of) the second flush of bud growth.

Abies procera

The evergreen (or -gray/blue) tree that stands on the Turtle island in the front garden compartment is symbolic for the crane.
This is a beautiful Abies procera "Glauca" (Noble Fir).

It is very slow growing. This tree was planted in 1999, then about 1 meter (3 feet) tall. In 2008 it got its first major pruning. The purpose of this is to not let it grow taller and to develop steps, danzukuri and/or "shells", kaizukuri (also see Fukinaoshi 'to re-do').
To see what we did and to read how we did it select a photo or start the slide-show from the beginning.

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Armeria Maritima

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On part of the Hõrai-jima (Turtle island) in the front garden, Armeria Maritima (Dutch: Engels gras) grows around the "mountain-lake" or lower-pond. In essence this is a low maintenance plant.
Each and every flower gets hundreds of very potent seeds that need to be removed before they are blown away. Once a year we need to remove the dried flowers that contain lots of fertile seeds, before they populate the Ginshanada.
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Danzukuri or steps.
Different pruning styles for the shape of foliage on branches are given descriptive names.
A step is the upper half of a ball.
Kaizukuri or cockle shape.
Different pruning styles for the shape of foliage on branches are given descriptive names.
Kai is a cockle (bivalve shell) or at least a shape that resembles that.

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