DO THE TWIST
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.