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Thoughts on creative pruning

by Timber Press on October 4, 2011

in Design, Gardening

Timber author Jake Hobson is the writer of this week’s guest post. Be sure to enter our giveaway to win a copy of his new book, The Art of Creative Pruning!

This last week has been a busy one—we’re off to Japan shortly for a few weeks, and I’ve been trying to get things in order before we go, including visiting my clients for their autumn prune. The weather, funnily enough, has been extraordinarily hot, more like Japan than England. Over the course of a scorching week, I visited four projects I’m working on, covering the whole gamut of creative pruning.

Tuesday saw me up in London, tending to a roof terrace garden with a magnificent overgrown bonsai Pinus sylvestris. The afternoon took me to a swish hotel with a colossal Pinus parviflora, imported from Japan, that was in need of a good clean-up and pruning. The next day I was near Oxford, where we’re gradually cloud pruning an old yew hedge around a rose garden—it’s early days, but already it’s starting to take on some character. Then, tanned and worn out, on Thursday I drove all the way to Chepstow, almost in Wales, to a large Japanese garden with a collection of pines that I’m training and pruning into shape and are, after three years of attention, just coming into their own.

Each job had its own pleasures, and driving home from Chepstow on Thursday night, it made me think about the joy of pruning. On one level, nothing beats tending to an established plant, whether it be a piece of topiary, or in my case, the Japanese pine in the hotel. All the hard work has been done earlier—the decision making, training and formative pruning—and all one has to do is the straight forward procedural pruning. On the other hand, long term projects offer a different kind of satisfaction, more of a creative challenge. I’m in it for the long haul on the pines in Chepstow and particularly the yew hedge. In some places, I’m carving in like a sculptor with a chisel, taking out great chunks of hedge, but in others, I’m modeling with clay, waiting for the natural growth of the yew to add height and depth. It’s the excitement of the potential, along with the gloriously slow pace of action, that gets me going.

That, in nutshell, is what I love about pruning—every job is different, every plant and every setting. A single cut might make all the difference, but might not be appreciated, or even noticed, for years to come, and as in life, every individual goes about their work in a different way. General rules of thumb are all well and good, but it’s how one interprets events on the day that matter. Your yew hedge will never look the same as mine; your pine can be no other’s. The beautiful combination of plant, pruner, and time—lots of time.

This is what I’m aiming for.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 mardie short October 25, 2011 at 5:07 pm

hi jake! found your sites last night after googling ” cloud pruning ” & have returned for another ‘ fix ‘! i have a real passion for c/p’ing too ( aswell as ‘just’ pruning! ) & have thoroughly & excitedly enjoyed your pics & shared thoughts.
i arrived in the professional horticultural world later than most (aged 37), however i’ve always had a love of nature, flora & forna, & the great outdoors… currently, i am working for a joint venture company ‘tor2′, as a gardener & have been so for only 2 & a half years. i have gained an nvq2 award in hort’ & hoping to complete the nvq3 in the coming year. leading up to my employment with ( then ) torbay council, i partcipated in a full-time work placement & 2 months voluntary at torre abbey gardens, torquay.( which i obsessionally reccomend a google or a visit to quite frequently, & also still garden at! ). the head gardener is an old friend & has since inspired me with her free-reign confidence-in-myself approach of ” the… needs pruning mard…! ”
im sorry if this sounds like a c.v, but i wanted to give you a picture of who & what i’m about…! to cut a long story short… i love pruning! from pyracantha to coletia paradoxa, a hard-pruning of a bouganvillea to renovating & cloud pruning a common conifer. as i mentioned above my heartfelt passion lies with c/pruning & i would welcome any advice on furthering my dream profession. i see it as a ” sculpturing of livng art ” & to achieve a ” cloud on stilts” gives me a real self-worth & buzz.
love your work, your talent & your horticultural visions & just wanted to say you have inspired me too. so, thank-you jake & keep up the amazing work.

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