What is Niwaki ? Niwaki is an art form based on horticulture techniques to help develop a tree in an ideal and perfect form. Let say you would draw a tree on a sheet of paper you would probably idealise it. Well, niwaki is the same. You see a tree and idealise it and with proper techniques, you help him grow the same as you would have drawn it. For a tree to reach a full mature stature, it would take more then a lifetime. With niwaki tree pruning, you help the tree achieve a perfect shape before itís time.
Niwaki are garden trees. A niwaki tree is often reduced in size to achieve proper proportion with the rest of the garden.
For elderly Japanese folks, niwaki is much more then a tree shaping hobby, it will embrace memory and emotions.
In the early years, around 794 AD, Kyoto was the imperial and cultural capital of Japan. Plants in the garden of Kyoto were native plants and trees. These native trees were known as niwaki. As the years passed, gardeners started to included trees from the local hills outside of Kyoto. Nowadays, niwaki means any native or exotic trees found in a garden. The Nippon art of pruning trees develop itself around the principle of respecting the surroundings and nature balance. A Japanese garden is about reproducing the nature in a smaller scale.
Niwaki vs Bonsai
Niwaki tree pruning is very similar with bonsai as both are a Japanese horticulture art form. Some techniques are the same and one of the similar goals is to reproduce a full mature on a smaller scale. However, the sizes of the final tree of a niwaki pruned tree is much bigger then a bonsai tree.The biggest of bonsai, one that is considered a Dai bonsai might be close to a Niwaki pruned tree. A Dai bonsai is approximately 100 centimeters (40 inches) tall while a very small niwaki pruned tree would be 60 centimeters (24 inches). The different in size between a small niwaki and a large niwaki tree is far greater then the difference in size between a small and large bonsai.
The most clear demarcation and difference between niwaki and bonsai is that bonsai are trees in pot while niwaki are trees in soil. In a Japanese garden you will rarely find a bonsai tree for display. They are rather displayed on a low level table near the house while niwaki tree are found all over the garden and they often serve a purpose. The purpose they serve and the position in the garden they have will determine the size it will be. Some niwaki trees only have aesthetics as a purpose.
Like bonsai, niwaki as some basics and most common shapes of tree. Six of them are most common and they are:
- Bendy (kyokukanshitate)
- Twins (sokanshitate)
- Lots (takanshitate)
- Ball (tamazukuri)
- Steps (danzukuri)
- Shells (kaizukuri)
As stated previously, niwaki trees were native trees of the Kyoto region. While niwaki is now any garden tree, native trees of Japan are the most common used for the niwaki art form.
The pine tree
is the most know garden tree in Japan. This specie can be found anywhere in Japan, on hills, coastlines and deep mountain. It can be found anywhere and the garden is not an exception as the garden king is the pine. Their robust physical characteristics are admired in the Japanese culture as much as the longevity and the evergreen capabilities of the pine. Evergreen represent the resistance to changes as season passed by. The red, black and white Japanese pines
are the most praised pine trees.
While the pine is the most important tree in the garden and in the Japanese culture, the evergreen azalea is the most planted tree in Japan. They are most often seen in the Karikomi shape. This shape is similar to a big ball near the ground line. The azalea tsutsuji and azalea satsuki are the most common of azalea tree. These rhododendrons will remain green all year long but it might turn a more reddish green in cold temperature.
40 percent of the Japan forest is composed of another tree. It is not the pine but rather the sugi (cryptomeria japonica). It is found everywhwere in forest and countryside. The form and shape of the cryptomeria japonica
niwaki tree is know as daisugi. We can even see some daisugi bonsai in the kitayama region. Daisugi bonsai are miniature daisugi tree in pot.
Many other coniferous trees are found as niwaki tree. Juniperus chinensis
, taxus cuspidate and cedrus deodara are amongst them.
For the deciduous trees, the Japanese maple
(acer palmatum) and flowering cherry tree
(prunus serrulata) are the two most common trees found as niwaki tree.
For more Niwaki informations you can refer yourself to this great book called : Niwaki
written by Jake Hobson.