The Art of Creative Pruning

Decorative tree pruning brings innovation and artistry to gardens. It has something for all tastes, including sophisticated sculptural trees, modernist bumpy hedges, boxwood balls and lollipops.

Author Jake Hobson outlines an approach to topiary that is more creative than traditional and positively encourages out-of-the box thinking. Instead of peacocks and rabbits, you will see boxwood shaped to reveal Russian dolls, trees snipped to resemble the top tiers of a wedding cake, and hedges carved with graffiti. All the practical considerations are here as well, including pruning to improve a view, remedial pruning to fix problems, and pruning fruit trees to increase yield.

Nothing brings a touch of artistry to the garden like ornamental pruning, and a series of deliberate cuts can create landscapes and evoke faraway places. All that’s needed to recreate the effect in the garden are a sharp pair of pruners, some imagination, and the instruction found in The Art of Creative Pruning. Drawing on both eastern and western styles, author Jake Hobson moves beyond the traditional, and teaches a whole new approach to ornamental pruning which will appeal to modern sensibilities.

Complete with spectacular photographs and well-illustrated step-by-step projects, this book will have everyone reaching for their secateurs!

Jake Hobson worked in a traditional Japanese nursery in the outskirts of Osaka, Japan, after completing a degree in Sculpture at London’s Slade School of Fine Arts. A keen observer of the artistry of gardens, Jake now runs his own pruning equipment and consultancy business, and experiments with mixing pruning styles from the East and the West.


The Art of Creative Pruning

Inventive Ideas for Training and Shaping Trees and Shrubs

By Jake Hobson

ISBN: 978-1-60469-114-6

Published: November 2011, £25

Published by: Timber Press



Selecting Appropriate Scrolls for Bonsai Display

A 表具師 Hyougushi is an artisan that works in paper, textiles, glue, and wood to create a variety of products. The two primary products made by a Hyougushi associated with bonsai display, are 掛け軸 kakejiku (hanging wall scrolls) and 屏風 byoubu (folding screens/partitions). The reader will be introduced to the methodology of judging scroll formality, how formality is related to different scroll designs, and some rules of thumb regarding the cloths and the pictures themselves.
The principles that the Hyougushi uses to design the frame for the scroll is entirely different from the principles used to display the scroll with a bonsai or viewing stone. When I first started working professionally as a Hyougushi, I understood little of the needs of the bonsai artist. It led me to learn new ideas, methodologies and ways of thinking to understand how to make scrolls more suited to the bonsaiist’s tastes.

The system of display that I have begun to study is called 雅道Gaddou or the “Way of Elegance/Refinement”. This display style focuses on the display of shohin bonsai and utilizes a very simple system of determining the formality of the display based upon every element. This article will only focus on the elements of the scroll in determining its use for a display. Additionally, the reader should realize that there are many more different types of scroll styles. Only the most basic elements of the scrolls will be presented to provide the bonsai artist with the ability to recognize the level of formality of the scroll. By recognizing these elements, decisions to select an appropriate scroll for a display may then be made with confidence.
The crux of understanding about the kakejiku is the ability to verify the level of formality of the scroll. Some basic attributes applied or omitted will resolve whether the kakejiku is ranked as 真Shin (formal), 行 Gyou (semi-formal) or 草 Sou (informal). This classification method also applies to the tree varieties, styling, pots, tables, slabs, calligraphy , accent pieces

The following are the most formal , Shin style scrolls. The most striking feature is the intermediate paper, called 台紙貼りDaishihari used as a buffer between the artwork and the cloths.


Figure 1; Photo provided courtesy of Al Keppler, and the Clark Center for Japanese Art and Culture


What type of scroll is pictured in Figure 1 to the left? This is the Shin no Shin style scroll, and is often reserved for Buddhism and religion related theme. Such religious themed works are not the most appropriate motifs to use for display.

In Figure 1 it is hard to see the picture, but it is quite clear that this is not religious themed artwork. This display was critiqued by my display Sensei and Figure 2 shows that the scroll being reduced in width would have produced a simplified display. In this case, the shin no shin is transformed into a shin no gyou scroll.




By removing the fuutai, the entire display becomes less busy and pushes the eye more to the bonsai. Additionally, by removing the 草者 kusamono there is no competition in the height between the tree and the accent. Replacing it with the 茅葺 Kayabuki, which is an old thatched roof Japanese house, correctly provides the depth (space) for this size of 地板 jiita used in the display. 

Figure 2; Photoshop version of Original Al Keppler photo courtesy of Kuzuhara Ikkou, Shihan Rank of Gadou Style of Display














[one_half]What is the scroll type in figure three to the right? The scroll is an excellent example of using good whitespace, and also has good color combinations of gold on light brown with khaki.Both of these points will be discussed in more detail below. One thing to consider when displaying this type of scroll is to properly straighten out the fuutai. In this case the fuutai are slightly bent and affect the display negatively.[/one_half] [one_half_last]

Figure 3; Photo Courtesy of Bob Hilvers, Bonsai Curator, Clark Center for Japanese Art and Culture







The scroll to the right in Figure 6, is an example of a Gyou no Shin scroll. In this case the Fuutai are replaced with suji (the four vertical black lines running along the Ten or top of the scroll). Matching the season to the image on the scroll is very important. Appropriate images will not be discussed in this article, but the Magpie is often associated with a fall display. Based upon the information above though, this is too strong an image to be paired with a bonsai. It could become the focal point of the display rather than the bonsai.

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Figure 6; Photo Courtesy of Rich from Bonsainut Forum.



Calligraphy with Scrolls


When placing a scroll which utilizes calligraphy, it is recommended to hang one written in the 草書Sousho (Full Cursive) or かな Kana styles. If one looks closely, the character for 草 Sou is the same as that for the informal scroll style. The full cursive style is the most informal writing style, and is appropriate for display with a bonsai, because it is softer, less bold and does not compete for the viewer’s attention. The example in Figure 7 is a sample of Sousho writing and reads, 清風万里秋Seifuu Banri no Aki. This is a poem and means the Pure Wind is the Completion of Autumn.

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[one_half]jm-figure8[/one_half] [one_half_last]One additional note is that one character scrolls are discouraged to use with bonsai because they compete for the viewer’s attention, but often do work well with certain types of 水石 suiseki. The scroll labeled Figure 8 is actually not a character, but is an abstract painting of the Ru Yi (Chinese) or 如李Nyoi (Japanese) scepter. It was a scepter held by the Chinese Emperor and would grant a requestor their wish by using the scepter. Poems and Sutra’s like the one outlined in Figure 7 are better suited to display with a bonsai, particularly those that expound on nature or the seasons.[/one_half_last]


裂地Kireji (Cloth) Colors

[one_half]The correct term for the cloth mounted into a wall scroll is Kireji. This is the last point to consider when selecting a scroll for a display. The Gadou style of display encourages the use of very light earth tones for the cloth color. The justification of this is that these colors are soft, neutral and do not compete with the bonsai or main display piece. Khaki’s, tans, golds, grays, light greens, and light browns are the most desirable colors. The above Crow scroll in Figure 6 is a good example of using a light brown and tan. It can be further pointed out that colors can go with the seasons. The green with gold ivy arabesque with the khaki cloth in Figure 7 was designed specifically to represent fall colors that would likely be seen during the Autumn season. The last scroll in Figure 9, is a spring scroll written in Semi-cursive style and reads梨花一枝春 Rikka Isshi no Haru. This is a spring poem that states the blossoms on one branch of the Nashi (pear) tree signals spring. In this case, the scroll cloth colors of the light green with a moss design and a celadon/teal cloth were used to represent colors related to spring, especially young growth of the flower buds.

With these ideas in mind, it is hoped that the bonsai artist can be more confident to look for certain characteristics associated with scrolls that will enable them to select or design something that will complement their tree and add value to the entire display. If the reader has questions, please e-mail to [email protected]

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Selecting Appropriate Scrolls for Bonsai Display
By Jonathan Maples, 表具師Hyougushi of Custom Japanese Calligraphy

[message_box]No Portion of this article may be copied, distributed, or disseminated without the express written consent of Custom Japanese Calligraphy and Jonathan Maples.[/message_box]


From Bonsai: Writers comments and statements in their articles are the subjective opinions of the writer.


Which bonsai species to start with?

As a beginner of bonsai one of the key questions that you will always ask is, which species to start with? Craig Coussins explains your options.

The best species to choose largely depends on whether you live in the northern or southern hemisphere. Popular outdoor species in temperate areas of globe, such as northern USA, Canada and northern Europe, parts of South Africa, New Zealand (South Island), Japan, and other temperate areas of Asia, include junipers (Juniperus), pines (Pinus), maples (Acer), larches (Larix), cotoneaster (Cotoneaster), hemlocks (Tsuga), oaks (Quercus) and beeches (Fagus).

These are also many local species that have their own particular requirements.  In the USA these include buttonwoods (Conocarpus), cypresses (Taxodium) and desert junipers (Juniperus). South Africa has acacias, white olives (Buddleja), peaches (Kiggelaria) and figs (Ficus). Australia also has figs as well as gums (Eucalyptus), while New Zealand has Tortaras, Pohutukawas and Rimus. Local climate differences will determine the species used.

For complete beginners cotoneasters are almost impossible to kill, and cypresses, such as the Chameacyparus pissifera, are very easy to develop. Maples are excellent, except that you must keep them out of frosts, but conversely they are also a temperate species, and conifers, pines, larches, cedars etc., are a little slow to grow.

Elms (Ulmus) and Zelkovas are excellent for bonsai and can be grown almost anywhere in the world because there are so many varieties of indoor and outdoor elms these days. Any of the indoor species used in temperate climates such as Sageritia, Serrisa and Chinese elms, are also very to grow. It is a good idea to find a species that are quick-growing, so that you can see the result, or else growing a bonsai could end up like watching paint dry!

Seed culture is extremely slow, and in my opinion should only be tried in addition to other methods.

Buying a bonsai is easy and is the usual route into the hobby, but only buy a tree that is workable. Avoid pines to start with, as they can be slow to develop if you are a beginner. A maple, juniper, or cypress will be an excellent first tree as they are all vigorous plants. In colder climates, the indoor varieties consist of tropical trees. These include figs, a succulent known as the money tree (Crassula), sageritia, serissa and many other species.