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Book Giveaway: Creative Pruning

The surprise hit gardening book of 2011 is this intriguing one by Jake Hobson, who explores the creative side of pruning and shows readers some awesome sculptural landscapes – boxwoods trimmed into Russian nesting dolls, hedges inscribed with words, and a tree snipped to resemble the toppling tiers of a wedding cake (below).  Pruning isn’t just a chore anymore – or just for formal estates, either.

The author blends styles from the East and the West to show readers how much fun pruning creatively can be, and his enthusiasm is infectious.  He urges us to: “Clip hard, be brave and learn from your mistakes.” The book also includes plenty of specifics about which plants to use, how to achieve the desired shape, and when to prune.

Hobson shows us a wide range of styles but his favorite (and mine) is free-form, naturalistic pruning that allows plants to blend into their surroundings, or pull a garden together, like the boxwood balls shown here.

Creative Pruning is illustrated with spectacular photographs of some of the world’s most creative gardens – all sure to inspire readers to take up this fun art form.

Here’s just one interesting detail from the book – about how pruning is seen differently in the East versus the West.  In the West, pruning tends to change plants from their natural state, whereas in Japan, the aim is to manipulate and enhance the natural state of plants, to reflect the landscape (mountains, forests, waterfalls and rocky coastlines).  European traditions therefore involves control over nature, whereas Japanese traditions aim to working with nature.

About the Author
Jake Hobson draws upon years of experience with Japanese gardens and landscaping. He first traveled to Japan after completing a degree in sculpture at London’s Slade School of Fine Arts. Intrigued by the tree pruning techniques he encountered there, Jake spent two years working at a traditional nursery in the countryside outside of Osaka, Japan. He then returned to the U.K. with a desire to apply the skills he learned to non-Japanese plants, settling into a five-year position at the Architectural Plants nursery in West Sussex.

A keen observer of the artistry of gardens Jake experiments with how to apply niwaki skills to non-Japanese plants, coupling a love of sculpture and nature, and is particularly interested in how we relate to certain landscapes and elements of nature, and how through the combination of horticulture, sculpture and nature this can be expressed in the garden.

In 2004, Jake set up Niwaki Japanese Garden Tools with his wife, Keiko. A member of the Royal Horticultural Society, the European Boxwood and Topiary Society, and the Japanese Garden Society, he has written for the specialist journal Topiarus and delivers lectures on Japanese pruning techniques throughout the U.K. He resides in Shaftesbury, England.

To Win a Copy
Just leave a comment at the end of this blog entry, telling us something about your experience with pruning – or lack thereof.  We’ll choose a winner randomly on February 1 (9 a.m. Eastern).  The winner can pick up the book at either Behnkes location.

Stephanie Fleming

Stephanie Fleming was raised at Behnke’s Nurseries in Beltsville. Her Mom, Sonja, was one of Albert & Rose Behnke’s four children. She was weeding from the moment she could walk and hiding as soon as she was old enough to run, so many weeds, so little time. Although she quickly learned how to pull out a perennial and get taken off of weed pulling duty.

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. it would be great to learn some pruning skills and designs other than square and low. which is all you see…..

  2. I moved in with my now ex-husband, the house boxwoods were in bad shape. They had been hacked & were lacking volume. After a year of fertilizer & aggressive trimmings the neighbors would stop by & comment about how great they looked. A few had made the comment when I started that they would just rip them out. One of the biggest problems was the competition of the boxwoods with grass.

  3. If you’re interested in topiary gardens, you should visit the Ladew Topiary gardens in Monkton, MD (near Baltimore).

    Also, there’s a miniconference sponsored by the Montgomery County Master Gardeners on Feb. 25 which will include among its talks a presentation on pruning. You must register in advance–see the MCMG website for details.

  4. We just bought a house and it has a few very overgrown boxwoods. I’d love to do something ‘fun’ with them and I’d love to win this book. Thanks.

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