by Jake Hobson
Workman Publishing 2012 – ISBN 1604693568 781604693560
Topiarius Volume 16 p52
All over the world, wherever there are garden traditions, different local cultures have developed different traditions of clipping and training plants.
Increasingly this previously confined, area-specific local tradition of technique is being shared around the world as part of a more creative approach to garden and urban landscape design. There is now a shared international garden heritage.
Smart Japanese department stores have dedicated sections devoted to English gardens and we are taking on flowing cloud hedges, clipped trees as sculpture and asymmetrical garden layouts.
Jake Hobson’s wonderful new book The Art of Creative Pruning opens its gaze across the world. This not just a ‘how to’, or, ‘beware the shortcomings of certain shapes and techniques’, manual. As a skilled professional pruning specialist, using his trained sculptor’s eye, he spotlights extraordinary and unique examples of topiary and grouped topiary effects as an expression of the aesthetic impulse. These range from the western European traditions of formal gardens to the great asymmetrical gardening traditions of East Asia and the fusion cultures in places like California.
The book continues the unique contribution of his earlier book, Niwaki, on the Japanese pruning tradition and extends the visual repertoire and vocabulary of aesthetic effects for designers. It is in every sense a designer’s toolbox of potentialities for garden and constructed landscape. Here the garden is a dedicated realm for framing and focussing the eye on nature, using pattern and form which is achieved by using clipped shrubs and trees, grouped or on their own, as visual accents,
He writes, ‘I get excited by interesting forms, ambitious scale, unusual plant types (not so much exotic as unexpected), surprising contexts, breath taking locations, visible enthusiasm on the part of the owner or creator and a general vibrant atmosphere.’
The rhapsody of the garden experience is shared by lovers, summerhouse tea drinkers and artists, and those of us who are totally fascinated by the sheer naked vitality and variety of plant life, and how it responds to our interventions.
A garden needs to intrigue the eye and it needs to be fun and an exploration of light and dark, empty and full, exposed and concealed. This anecdotal book is personal and full of practical ‘hands-on’ insights, to achieve these effects.
Jake Hobson writes, ‘… the art of topiary is not the controlling of plants, but a collaboration with them, pruner and plant working together. No matter how sharp the shears, or keen the eye, the tree will always contribute its own presence to any pruning project, and inevitably, over time, it will prevail.’
It is very much everything that the EBTS stands for in its educational and aesthetic mission to explore, identify, record and ultimately help to spread know ledge of a diverse two thousand year old tradition of training, clipping and pruning, of ‘ornamentals’ used for aesthetic effect, either as solitary ‘accents’ to provide visual focus in the framed landscape, or planted in clumps and rows to form counter pointed patterns, or sculptural or geometric shapes. This tradition of great inherited skills was usually passed from father to son, or master gardener to apprentice, but is now disappearing with modern urban migrations, horticultural automation, garden-centre cheap identikits and municipal park mediocrity.
This is a wonderful compendium of European and Asian images, but also from the spinoffs of these garden cultures in the Americas, where Jake Hobson identifies a fusion Californian style, where generations of Japanese émigré gardeners, married east Asian pruning styles to the new sprawling ranch bungalows with their glass bay windows and doors, of modern American suburban architecture.
This is a book about creative ‘possibilities’, a toolbox of successful pruning, clippings and trainings, ranging from Pollarding, Pleaching, Coppicing, ’Revealing the stems’, to ‘Raising the Crown’. This was carried out in a downtown San Francisco city street, on the great white-barked Ficus microcarpa trained and shaped trees which rise three stories with an almost espaliered simple and strong branch network, to the organic rolling and flowing ‘karikomi style’ cloud effect, clipped azaleas of Daichi–ji temple in Japan.
He brings to our notice pruned pattern box cube effects in a Citroen factory in France, strange bizarre and whimsical abstract arches in a Kentucky garden, Royal Palace tree pompoms in Bangkok to the similar Fukinaoshi process of bring an overgrown tree back into scale by shortening branches and shaping greenery.
That straggly unkempt tree blighting the corner of the garden should watch out as it comes within the possibility of manageable total transformation – the pauper of a tree is about to become a magnificent abstract, rhythmic tuning fork resonating the rest of the garden.
Beware all ye Cupressi who overwhelm with increasing shadow presence. Your days are numbered.