Inspiration. What a concept. It comes from everywhere, it bombards the thought processes. It is difficult to filter at times, especially when full attention is needed on the project at hand. Keeping the focus while the mind wanders in pursuit of new ideas happens, especially when reading garden books and magazines. A phrase will open a door in the recesses of cerebral folds, letting out all manner of memories that lead to new paths which call out to be followed. Sometimes it is a way of looking at things with never before imagined vision. Sometimes it is the aha moment, the I can do that feeling, and even more importantly, the I will try that decision.
Such a decision happened as we were perusing the issue number 155. This particular offering was so chock a block full of inspiration that it has been set aside for daily gazing, not put on the shelf neatly and in numerical order with the others from before and since. On page 59 there is a photo, accompanying the story “A long way from Kyoto”, words by Inger Skaarup and Annemarie Jakobsen, photographs by Andreas Mikkel Hansen, of a tree. Not just any tree, but a tree pruned in the most arresting manner I have ever seen. The caption reads “Paths meander around the edge of the garden, past this cloud-pruned yew tree (Taxus baccata)”. Cloud pruned. Yew tree. The words are seared into my consciousness, the hissing of the white hot branding iron of inspiration threatens the still of the early pre dawn hours.
First things first, the search for this tree begins online with a visit to our friend google. It seems there are many varieties of Taxus baccata, but this may be the upright, or Fastigiata, or so it appears. Nursery sites are scanned for this gem. In a moment of distraction, we order three Taxus cuspidata ‘Nana Aurescens’ from Klehm’s Song Sparrow Farm, to be shipped late March. To view this shrub click here. That happens sometimes, for impulsive is our middle name. It should be our first name. Anyway. There was a need for some golden foliage in the part of the garden now designated as the moment of Zen at the Fairegarden. It sits just beyond the boxwood hedge at the far end of the knot garden.
Okay. Please forgive the distraction, back to the quest for an upright yew on which to practice the fine art of cloud pruning. We have already spent some of the budget and will not even get the immediate gratification of a pot of living material riding home in the gas guzzler. No more online looking, the search will be done in real time, the here and now. We know about yews. We have had them in previous gardens, including our very first house that was encircled with cupcakes of yews at every corner and edge, by the house, along the sidewalk, there must have been a good deal on yews when these mass quantities were purchased, or the home builder was a johnny one note, or both. Most were removed and the remaining ones had to be pruned at least twice a year. Any enchantment held for yews was doused by that pruning imperative. A couple of houses later, there was a need to replace some dead Skyrocket junipers that flanked the gate to the swimming pool. Little was known about trees and shrubs, or any garden plants really, although at the time we thought we knew it all. A local nursery suggested Hick’s yew as replacements, fast growing and columnar. Despite the bad taste produced at the reminder of dealing with yew pruning, two plants were bought, planted and pruned to the desired shape and size. It was easy and they looked good. A shift in attitude had occurred.
Fast forward from this trip down memory lane to current day. On a recent trip to visit offspring and friends and watch an exciting youth basketball game, our team won and we even got to see points scored by offspring of offspring Chickenpoet, M.A. (my how he has grown!), brother G.A. did not have a game scheduled so we had some quality time together in the bleachers, we visited a nursery. Imagine that, visiting a nursery on a road trip. Enough of that, get to the point! It just so happens that this new nursery, Good Hope Nursery is owned by the same fellow who suggested the planting of the Hick’s yew, more than twenty years ago. Among his fine selection of evergreen offerings, a plum yew, Cephalotaxus harringtonia ‘Fastigiata’ was found. It jumped immediately into the vehicle. Whilst doing the online search, this type of nearly yew seemed a good fit for the growing conditions here and was added to the list of might works. Eureka! was yelled out loud when this specimen was found. The Financier jumped at this sound.
We have arrived at the right now. The plum yew was sawed in half after seeing that it was two trunks in the pot. With an eye to the clouds, many branches were removed with the bonsai tool substitute toenail clippers. While not aesthetically as pleasing as the real tool, they work well and were on hand. For those readers looking for a how to on cloud pruning, this is not it. This is the work of a total novice making an effort of trial and error. If the results are pleasing, it will be years before we know that, a post will be written telling what we did, how we did it and why we thought it was a good idea. For now, what we did was remove all but the stoutest branches, to form the main trunk and limbs.
Copper wire, leftover from the rewiring of the main house during the renovation that has been used and reused for a multitude of garden type duties, was wrapped around the branches to begin the bending process. As luck would have it, not a single branch snapped, as the touch was gentle and the pressure light, as we learned when weaving baskets, slow and steady bending is the way. The branches were bent with the purpose of horizontality away from a single trunk. The wire will be adjusted as the shrub grows to direct the limbs as desired. The cloud part will be at the ends of each stem. It is hoped.
Of the many branches cut, eighteen of the most likely prospects were trimmed, dipped into rooting hormone and potted into a mix of two thirds perlite to one third seed starting mix. The flat was wrapped in a clear plastic sheet and set aside in hopes of baby shrublets with stout roots to form. Can you imagine a plum yew hedge? We are nothing if not optimistic.
The two shrubs were planted at each end of the allotment of Asian influence. There is no false thinking that we know anything at all about Japanese gardens nor the intense study that accompanies their making. But there will be studying of the method and striving for the attainment of the easy peaceful feeling such a garden can offer.
As a side note, there was a small mugo pine that was the original evergreen to be artfully pruned at the end of the gravel zen bed. It had not grown a single new needle in the time it had spent in the ground. It looked rather sad, in fact. Digging it up to place the plum yew on that stage, the roots were inspected. A hosing off of the soil revealed girdling roots going round and round. No wonder it looked so pitiful. It is still a small plant though, and zealous root pruning and some top pruning may have saved it. It has been planted in a green glazed pot and placed near the back door where it can be monitored for new growth. And perhaps some practice pruning.
This is not the first post to feature an inspirational magazine photo. There was a post written about the search for a piece of driftwood to be used as a vertical accent that can be seen by clicking here-In Need Of A Focal Point. There will most likely be more.