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Book review: Niwaki by Jake Hobson

NiwakiNiwaki: Pruning, Training and Shaping Trees the Japanese Way by Jake Hobson, English language and published by Timber Press.

In [12] you find a book reference to “Niwaki”, (niwa ki) clipped and pruned garden trees, a book that we should have had right from the beginning.

Unfortunately at was not available at the time (1997/1998) we designed and started building the garden. Nonetheless, although late it is never too late for this kind of expert information. What we did use as a reference for trees initially, is a book on bonsai [13]. Most trees, shapes and techniques on training and pruning that apply to bonsai can also be applied to full-size niwaki. During selection of trees it is important to know how they will grow and show and need to be handled.

This well written and easy reading book may very well be the only western book that addresses these training, trimming and pruning techniques in such depth and detail. All simply explained supported by photo’s and drawings.

For all gardeners wanting to learn to prune in the Japanese style, this book is a must have.  Jake Hobson explains, in language that also non-natives to the English language can easily understand, how to prune, trim and train plants. He not only explains, but in the beginning chapters, gives insight into the essence of a Japanese Garden. This information will also help you understand what you want to accomplish designing your garden. In addition many Japanese terms and words related to trimming, training and pruning techniques are given and explained. For example: training like “twins”, sakanshitate, “bud pinching”, midoritsumi, “thinning”, momiage and so on.

The book is a must have for anyone just starting or like me trying to grasp the insight to make our garden have that essence only a Japanese Garden can evoke. There are so many books that show beautiful photos of “perfectly” styled Japanese garden trees.  This however, was and actually still is, helpful in describing how to start and achieve the look I was hoping for. Niwaki focuses on practical how-to methods. As a novice, with little Japanese gardening experience whatsoever, I tried many of Niwaki’s techniques that previously I was too intimidated to attempt. This book also told me that it is almost never too late by applying Fukinaoshi, “to re-do” overgrown trees.

Niwaki will save a lot of frustration otherwise caused by wrong, late or lack of treatment due to absence of the right maintenance instruction as can be found in this book.  I have bought many books to get the information I needed to create a garden in the Japanese style.  Niwaki has given me much information I was missing and a new insight into the development and maintenance of Japanese Gardens. The book shows that to give your garden a Japanese feel, it’s not the plants you use it is what you do with them. I am glad that or extensive use of Buxus (box) as a replacement for Azalea and Rhododendron, shows a solid prove of that. This bottom photo being the most promement example.

O-karikomi, Main garden
Related: Literature, see [12], Books that can be of interest to the “Japanese” gardener.

Niwaki: Pruning, Training and Shaping Trees the Japanese Way (Hardback): Amazon.