Ewen's garden

A collection of columns, paintings and photographs about gardening on an offshore island in New Zealand.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

IN TRAINING

Last column I discussed the pollarding of trees, the pruning of large trees to form smaller round topped forms. There is also another treatment of trees, and this is pleaching. As with pollarding the aim is to control the shape and size of the tree and this is done by training the branches. The branches may be trained in one plane to create a hedge, or in the case of fruit trees, espaliers. (strictly speaking an espalier is the frame onto which the tree is trained) Trees that exhibit long slender water shoots are often considered for this form of training, popular amongst these are lime Tilia europaea, hornbeam Carpinus betulus and beech Fagus sylvatica. Young supple branches are trained along a frame work to form the basis of the shape while others are cut out. Once the frame work is established, the laterals can be pruned out every winter, and a light prune in the summer keeps the whole in control. There is a famous example of this method at Sissinghurst Castle Kent in the UK. Here Lime trees have been pleached as standards, holding their hedge of foliage at head height.

All this has been done before of course by the Chinese and then later by the Japanese. However, in the Orient, their objective was to emulate nature, either as a true representation or symbolically. Specimens were collected, often from the wild and then trained into shapes mimicking those found in nature, frequently these were wind swept and knarled. So we have the bonsai, in all its many forms and those are almost boundless.

On walks around the island are many examples of wind swept and stunted trees and shrubs, most common I would say would have to be manuka Leptospermum scoparium, growing in tortured formations. The wind swept look is achieved simply by the windward buds continually being burnt off, leaving the leeward buds to grow consequently leaving the tree and with a rakish lean. These walks, while not just being good for me, also replenish and inspire me. Whether it be a different combination of plants or the relationship between plants and their natural environment with a sharp eye, it is interesting what you will discover. It is from the patterns and juxtapositions of plants animals and the elements that are exciting. On one recent walk I discovered the perfectly preserved skull of a seagull, amazingly undamaged for the frail thing that it is. Ah, if only my garden was so perfectly formed!

20 Comments:

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