We have Niwaki (Japanese garden trees) [12] subdivided in Evergreen trees, Deciduous trees and Shrubs (this page) where the main garden Karikomi and hako-zukuri shrubs have a dedicated chapter.

Shrubs play an important role in many Japanese gardens and even more so in a karikomi karesansui garden like Tsubo-en.
The empty space of (swept and raked) gravel, the ginshanada, transitions into the groundcover of the tsukiyama to transform into the higher landscape elements in the backdrop formed by small and taller shrubs that provide the vertical accents to intensify the experience of space and perspective.
Some shrubs are more topiary than others, nonetheless there is not a single shrub that not gets clipped or pruned.
Most prominent and probably most important in Tsubo-en are the karikomi and hako-zukuri shaped shrubs, the O-karikomi and karikomi in the main garden compartment being the largest and most prominent ones.
In this chapter we show some of the Kokarikomi. Kokarikomi refers to the use of one plant, clipped and shaped as desired. "Ko" means "small". In Tsubo-en we have many of these.

In the same way as we had to decide not to use mosses as groundcover we have decided to use alternative shrubs to grow the karikomi. Main reason is that we envisaged that we would otherwise never during our lifetime, see a mature shape.
The shrubs for such a creation would normally be evergreen Azalea`s, Rhododendron indicum (Satsuki) and obtusum Tsutsuji and Camellia (Tsubaki).
Looking at our environment however, this was no option for us. Our location is too windy, our soil contains too much fat sea-clay and above all our expected life-time is just to short to ever see this mature.
For these reasons we selected the evergreen shrub Buxus sempervirens as a replacement, and we accept the fact that we will not enjoy the abundance of flowers in April/May.
Where we opted for Rhododendron we had to later change that to make any progress in growth (see: What did not work well).

In the list of shrubs below we more or less follow the same route as used by the the virtual guided tour.

Buxus sempervirens are used for some large and many small objects and elements, composed of single or multiple plants.
For additional information please see: Main garden karikomi and hako-zukuri.

Here the Cotula (see Groundcovers), in winter, has just been treated agains moss overgrowed.

Also see: Buxus Sempervirens clipping.

Center-left a small composite karikomi of Buxus sempervirens
For additional information please see: Main garden karikomi and hako-zukuri.

In the back Prunus laurocerasus "Otto Luyken". This is a semi-dwarf, with small leaves. Here it is used to screen the garden from the street.

The specimen on the left tries to grow under the Larix in which it does not succeed very well.

Some of the large karikomi and smaller objects are Prunus lusitanica. Always pruned and clipped in the so called karikomi and hako- zukuri style.
For some objects and elements the original Rhododendrons had to make place for this Prunus lusitanica, that grows great.
The Euonymus Japonicus "Compactus" (Dutch: Kardinaalsmuts) is a large-leaved shrub in the foreground, that in combination with the small-leaved Buxus sempervirens placed in the back, reinforce the gardens three dimensional depth impression.

The skinny Rhododendron (Repens) "Scarlet wonder" (Dutch: Dwergrhododendron) in the middle-left only just survives. This is true for the few specimen that have survived, R. "Baden Baden" and R. "Morgenroot".
The enforcement of depth is also established by the large-leaved bamboo, Sasaella masamuneana (just visible in the bottom-right and on the photo above center-left), and the large-leaved Skimmia Japonica "Rubella", that are placed in the foreground from different viewing points.
Photo Above: The highest shrubs, left of the top-center and one just behind the deep-red Acer palmatum"Bloodgood" that stands just behind the chouzubachi as part of the second tsukubai facility, are Juniperus media "blue" conifers.

The photo on the left shows both Juniperus media "blue" (Dutch: Jeneverbes) as seen from the water front side.
Although the water front is very open these give the tsukubai the desired intimacy.
In addition they form a screen between the main veranda and the golf course Tee.
The Cotoneaster "Coral beauty" (Dutch: Dwergmispel) bordering the water front, forms a great canvas based on the principles of the Shakkei (method to incorporate "borrowed scenery") technique. It constitutes a backdrop for the ginshanada and the Japanese Red Pine, "Me-matsu", and at the same time it is almost a continuation of the main garden O-Karikomi on the right.
This is about the best we can get or "evergreen" Rhododendrons (repens) to grow. We have R. "Baden Baden" and R. "Morgenroot". They still flower beautifully.
Like with the Rhododendrons, this is about the best we can get or "evergreen" (Rhododendron) Azalea Japonica "Stewardstonia" to grow (bottom-center).

This photo was taken just after that period and the dried flowers have yet to be removed.
This is about the best we can get or (Rhododendron) Azalea Japonica "Stewardstonia". It flowers beautifully. For this reason we have left it in.
Juniperus horizontalis "glauca" conifers are used on the water front above the wall. Great performers, good covering and relatively low maintenance.

The Cotoneaster "Coral beauty" bordering the water front, here on the left side, although not a groundcover as such, is used to cover the ground area behind the main garden O-Karikomi.
This is done so because the surface is not directly visible from the veranda and pathways and we had no other purpose or application for it in mind.
The Cotoneaster "Coral beauty" bordering the water front, seen from the house. Here it is in full bloom, almost giving a snow covered impression.
Buxus sempervirens are used to create compartments in the herb garden.
Although this is "typical Dutch" it is also in line with the application of hako-zukuri and karikomi.
In the left side garden we have a Laurus nobilis, the edible Bay Laurel. It is a very strong grower that, on this photo, has just been pruned back dramatically.

Shrubs examples

We do not have authentic subject examples dedicated to and specific of this subject.
Nonetheless examples are available in a number of other "examples" sections. Most relevant: For the complete "visual" examples see the applicable framed-list in: Visual Table of Contents.

Lessons learned and what did not work well

Here we document what went wrong with regard to the shrubs that we used or wanted to use.

  1. Most species of Azalea and Rhododendron that we initially planted, in line with Japanese gardens, have been replaced and moved or wholly removed after a few years.
    Reason for this is that they barely survived let alone showed growth to eventually form karikomi and hako-zukuri, the original target for most of them. Although we added plenty of the required soil we think that the combination of soil, wind and (full) sun is the major problem.
    Most of the Rhododendron have been replaced by Prunus lusitanica. Above and in karikomi and hako-zukuri you can see yourself that these perform great. We accept the fact of not having the beautiful flowers in April/May.
  2. The Cotoneaster "Coral beauty" at the water frond compartment, although not a groundcover as such, is used to cover the ground area behind the O-Karikomi. This is done so because the surface is not directly visible from the veranda and pathways and we had no other purpose or application for it in mind. Although during the first years this was well covered and "low maintenance" it turned out to eventually require a high maintenance effort. Strong growth and hard to reach due to the large area.
    For this reason we have drastically "thinned" it so that there is less growth and that it it can be more easily reached for clipping and pruning.
  3. Because this shrub is used as a groundcover it is also addressed in that chapter.

    We forgot to use weed control fabric under the Cotoneaster "dammeri" on the water front. Now we have a lot of work to keep the weeds under control.

    In the Left garden compartment we had Cotoneaster "dammeri" along one site of the path. After 7 years we have removed it and replaced by Leptinella potentillina as a groundcover. This was done so to achieve less maintenance and to get a more spacious impression.
  4. After many years of being almost dead and having been moved to a less conspicuous spot, we have eventually removed the Ilex crenata, Inutsuge (Japanese holly).
  5. Skimmia reevesiana, and others have never performed as we wanted. In the best case, if and when they grow, they grow not in the wanted shape and not in the desired color. Some have been removed.

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