The Weekend Post - Cairns Eye - - Front Page -

Lin­ing up a gar­den like a row of soldiers may well work for those who sym­pa­thise with the Louis Kings of France and their grand gar­dens at Ver­sailles and the Tui­leries, or closer to home to the Ital­ianate and for­mal lay­outs of some (most) of Paul Ban­gay’s struc­tured gar­den of­fer­ings.

But na­ture is not for con­tor­tion or hy­per man­age­ment in its most nat­u­ral form. Prun­ing and shap­ing and what could be called gar­den tor­ture and rec­ti­fi­ca­tion prac­tices of the most in­tense kind are like in­ten­sive train­ing of a dog for a show or the four and five AM starts for ath­letes to hone their game to the point of per­fec­tion and the hope of vic­tory.

Plant train­ing is noth­ing new. The Chi­nese were do­ing it thou­sands of years ago to what seemed to be test­ing the lim­its of en­durance for some plants that seem to oblige and con­form in their most beau­ti­ful re­sponse.

Pen­jing the Chi­nese ver­sion of what the Ja­panese later re­ferred to as Bon­sai was the realm of ex­pert hor­ti­cul­tur­ists who could tease and twist a branch and show it to its great­est per­fec­tion.

This was con­trol, pa­tience and con­cen­tra­tion at its best.

Later gar­den­ers shaped and pruned the 400 to 500-year-old hedge rows of Yew into tight green hedges that gave the scale and grand­ness of the es­tate build­ing and manors their com­ple­men­tary green cre­den­tials.

Shap­ing and prun­ing also has a prac­ti­cal need where there is lit­tle space for a whop­per of a tree.

So, in minia­ture, the Chi­nese and Ja­panese em­u­lated land­scapes in minia­ture to give joy where a larger gar­den was not pos­si­ble.

Hor­ti­cul­tur­ally this, of course, demon­strates the adapt­abil­ity, en­durance and ca­pac­ity for ex­treme treat­ment of a plant to please. It shows just how hardy and sup­ple a plant can be.

Reg­u­lar prun­ing and tip prun­ing will force new shoots be­low the cut and cre­ate more den­sity of fo­liage or un­der the ground, strengthen the roots.

What­ever your taste is in bend­ing the will of a plant to yours, it is al­ways amus­ing to be able to test the lim­its.

And bear in mind that in most cases you are of­ten help­ing the plant in a phys­i­cal sense.

Pleach­ing, top­i­aris­ing, es­palier­ing lol­lipop­ping and other forms shap­ing plants is worth a look for the ef­fect you like best.

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