Jake Hobson

1. Look at the shrub and asses its branch pattern, peering inside it and pulling branches apart if necessary. Think about the overall shape you would like the plant to have, as well as how far apart you want the branches to be—this will obviously effect how many you will remove later.

2. Begin carving into the plant, using shears and secateurs to rough out the beginnings of a hidden shape. For a fully dense shape, you might not remove any branches at all, but treat the whole plant as one continuous surface. For a more open look, think out any branches that are too close together. Later that year, or after the next growing season, go back over your plant with a pair of shears or topiary clippers to consolidate the new growth.

3. A final, finished tamazukuri. 


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by TOAST ( 13.06.12 )

 

Jake Hobson

1. Choose a young shrub. As its trunk will be young and malleable, you may wish to either train the leader using a cane, or gradually introduce bends or kinks into the trunk using stakes. if desired.

2. Remove any unwanted branches and train down the remaining ones with twine if necessary.

3. Continue to train new branches down and begin to consolidate the lower ones through pruning. Clipping with hand-held topiary clippers will soon thicken up the foliage on the branches, and decisions about branch shape can then be made. Forming the head, the final tier of the tree, involves cutting the leader and training down its side branches the whole way around the stem, creating a parachute effect. This is then treated like any other side branch and gradually clipped into shape.

4. A finished example of the tamazukuri form.


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by TOAST ( 13.06.12 )

Jake Hobson

A popular technique in Japan is clipped trees, or tamazukuri. Zukuri translates as style, and tama as round, so it loosely covers a wide range of trees and shapes, from the small Ilex crenata cloud trees that are exported to Europe from Japan (but are noticeably absent from many gardens in Japan) right up to the enormous clipped junipers and podocarps. These kinds of trees are quicker to produce, easier to maintain and cheaper than pines, so they tend to be used more in private gardens, often as screens in front of the house.

The terms tamazukuri does not describe in enough detail all the possible varieties of shapes and sizes one sees in Japan. Trunks can be straight or curved, branches trained or untrained, trees clipped into balls, blobs, flat tops and flat bottoms. Branches can be long or short, and tightly spaced so the tree is almost solid, or well spaced so that the outline of each branch is clear. Evergreens and conifers are both commonly used here, deciduous ones only rarely…


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by TOAST ( 13.06.12 )

Jake Hobson

Creating a hedge from scratch could be compared with the trick of distressing new furniture to give it character and make it look old, or intentionally ripping your jeans. It works, but never quite as satisfyingly as doing it the slow way, letting time add character. As with so much in the garden, time is the master.

So, where to begin? If you have less time than money, there there is a short cut. Thoughtful nurseries have started growing ready-made cloud hedges, planted in rows to be numbered, root balled and replanted in formation. This is the quickest solution, and its off-the-shelf appearance is not to be sniffed at, for the techniques used to get it this far are exactly the same as you would use when doing it yourself. Scale is an issue here though, as inevitably the size of the hedge is limited by what is available for sale. One nursery I visiting in Belgium, Solitair, had an enormous piece of box for sale, the size and shape of a resting elephant, but this was an exception, and more often the material available is much smaller. Tom Stuart-Smith used this approach in his 2010 Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) Chelsea garden, arranging established box balls into a shape to give the impression of a far older, more mature hedge, although interestingly he chose not to clip them for the show, preferring a softer look that was more in keeping with the rest of the planting. Once planted in situ, it would only take another year or two for the lines of the box to become more fluid, were some of the shapes allowed to flow into each other…


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by TOAST ( 12.06.12 )

Jake Hobson

Creating a billowing, cloud pruned hedge out of an existing hedge is one of the most exciting projects available to the creative pruner, as well as being relatively simple and surprisingly quick. Yew (usually Taxus baccata) is the standard for this sort of project, and occasionally box (usually Buxus sempervirens) is used on a smaller scale, but when following this method the beauty is that you get what you are given. Making the best of it is what defines and highlights the character of the hedge. Any hedge that is healthy is a potential target—even the dreaded Leyland cypress (✕Cupressocyparis leylandii), although that will keep you busy over the summer months, and of course can not be cut back too hard…


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by TOAST ( 11.06.12 )

Jessica Seaton, Founder and Managing Director of Toast, on what prompted her interest in organic topiary.

I first encountered cloud pruning during a trip to Japan with Jamie (my husband and co-founder of Toast) at the beginning of last year. I had come across topiary before of course, but the more traditional sort (of rigid chess-men shapes or bird and animal characters) had not caught my imagination as this did.

In Japan it felt different, minimal and calm in its presentation. Each pruned tree had been thought through not just in terms of its own shape, but with regard to how it worked within the surrounding landscape too. These shrubs and trees (Niwaki, as they call them) did not overwhelm the gardens they grew in, they did not fight for attention with each other or the planting around them, rather they quietly emphasised all that was good about the landscape as a whole…


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by TOAST ( 11.06.12 )

Situated on the very edge of the Lake District National Park, just south of Kendal, Levens Hall is surrounded not by towering craggy mountains, but by rounded hills that swell and roll away to the horizon. The Hall itself is old, built on the site of a medieval pele tower in the late 16th century. The gardens followed some 100 years later, flourishing under the care of the then owner Colonel James Grahme and his gardener Guillaume Beaumont.

Remarkably, the garden design you see at Levens Hall today remains just the same as it was 220 years ago. The topiary is some of the oldest in the world, with trees holding the same shapes as they were first trained to take by Beaumont himself.

It is this that we went to see. The day was one of bright, hot sunshine; we travelled on the early train from London, arriving into those glorious hills, happily taking in the view. At the Hall we were met by the current Head Gardener, Chris Crowder, and the rich, slightly bitter smell of box and yew. Our landscape contracted – from the wide skies and countryside of Cumbria to the formal design of the garden, and then, as we set to work taking these photographs, to the intricate topography of the trees themselves. They stretched high in triangular points, smoothed their edges in perfect circles, cast great shadows over us with their curves, caught the light with stark angles, and they mimicked the hills around us, undulating, rolling, swelling deep green toward the sky.


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by TOAST ( 06.06.12 )

Jake Hobson, Cloud Pruner/Organic Topiarist, explains…

Just what is Cloud Pruning? The term is thrown around fairly indiscriminately these days, but there are basically two camps. The genuine, hardcore Japanese stuff – individually pruned trees, trained and shaped to represent stylised caricatures of themselves, sitting within the landscape of the Japanese garden. And the western version – the big blobby hedges that I refer to as Organic Topiary. Once proud, formal things, they’ve been allowed to slip, deliberately or otherwise, and now occupy a fascinating place somewhere between man and nature…


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by TOAST ( 06.06.12 )
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