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29 Nov 2021

Gardening: The art of niwaki and topiary

In The Garden with Jo

Gardening: The art of niwaki and topiary

Niwaki trained green branches

Beautiful topiary, the kind you see as features of great gardens and landscapes especially in the Italian gardens, can look amazing. These living sculptures come in all sizes - and here at Caragh Nurseries, we feature a number of shapes and sizes in box, yew, olive, hornbeam and beech, to name just a few of the topiary trees.

You will find fresh inspiration, as well as popular spirals, cones, parachutes, cylinders, cubes, pyramids and balls, on the nursery in a range of sizes and species. We also have trees pruned using the Japanese art of Niwaki. We call these cloud trees and, like the topiary, these stunning creations are art forms and act as sculptures for your garden. We have a range of these in stock, but can source bespoke creations too and have them with you within 7-10 days.

Niwaki literally means ‘garden tree’ – as distinct from the more well-known bonsai, which means ‘potted tree’. Niwaki are the bigger, easy ones that go in the ground. Bonsai are the little, difficult ones that stay in pots.

As these are one offs, we don’t have all of them on show on our website, so it is worth a call to us if you are interested in niwaki specimens.

We have a good number of examples of the topiary and niwaki currently in stock. Here is a guide to the plant material that works well in this form:

Ilex Crenata, or Japanese Holly

This is an evergreen shrub native to east China, Japan, Korea and Taiwan, and a popular bonsai species. It is very suitable for shaping dense hedges and is sometimes mistaken for boxwood (buxus sempervirens). Its small green leaves produce tiny white flowers and small black shiny fruits. However, fruits will only develop if there are female and male trees near to each other and flowering at the same time.

Cupressocyparis Leylandii Blue Jeans Tuscan Bonsai

The Tuscany form is a name that is given to a tree that has been shaped in a natural way. It has character and architectural form and this one is produced from the Blue Jeans conifer which, as the name suggests, has a lovely blue tinge to its coniferous foliage. It is easy to manipulate into shapes like this and only needs a quick and simple trim once a year to keep in shape.

The particular specimen we have is a modest 100-120cmcm tall, is in a 35L pot and has five to six plates of foliage - much more like plates than balls - winding up its stem.

Juniper Grey Owl Bonsai

This is a finely textured evergreen shrub with arching branches clothed in soft, silver grey foliage. This one is shaped in a bonsai form and looks extremely striking, especially in the blue-grey colouring. It requires little maintenance and is drought tolerant when established.

Carpinus Betulus Bonsai Form

A member of the beech family of trees, the European hornbeam has densely textured foliage, and a slate and smooth looking grey bark. The dark green leaves turn an attractive yellow in the autumn, and the bark and buds are ornamental in winter.

Osmanthus Ilicifolius (Heterophyllus) bonsai

Osmanthus is one of our favourite plants with large holly-like green leaves and unmissable branches laden with scented white flowers through Autumn and Winter. These have been shaped into a topiary/bonsai form.

Taxus Baccata Semperaurea

Golden yew bonsai form is stunning in a raised bed as a feature tree. This low maintenance, slow growing and well behaved evergreen shrub is ideal for adding structure to the garden.

Juniper X Media Pfitzeriana

This is a beautifully shaped, windswept bonsai tree. This popular and vigorous variety is ideal for the larger garden. It is very hardy and will withstand hard pruning.

Olea Europea

The olive tree is a hugely popular tree here but we still think of it as a Mediterranean specimen which gives it a slightly exotic feel. With its stunning silver grey foliage and gnarled bark on older trees, it creates real focal points in our usual darker green gardens.

These beautiful trees come in a wide range of shapes and sizes, some are single stemmed with nice loose heads and some have more clipped forms with multiple stems others and large mature specimens with trunks that you would struggle to get your arms around with the quirkiest of foliage – such a stunning individual tree.

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