Japanese Pruning the Pine Tree (Niwaki)

Regular readers know I planted a Japanese Red Pine “Dragon Eye” two years ago.  In the intervening time, I’ve been trying to figure out the correct Pruning methods to make a nice Japanese “Niwaki” Tree.  Meaning, open hard pruned branches, and a trunk that moves in interesting ways.  The whole point is to make the tree look like it’s been around for 200 years.

What’s interesting, is that in Niwaki pruning, there are general rules for different tree.  Pine Tree’s are no exception and the pruning method is aimed at forcing more pine needles to the tips of the branches, and none in the middle of the branch.  Pine Trees are the original Niwaki trees, as they are native to Japan, and hence the techniques have been mastered over centuries.  Here are the steps:

  1. Spring Time: The Pine tree will grow 4 “Candles” at the end of each branch, which will eventually become 4 Branches.  Don’t touch these, let them grow.
  2. Late Spring / Early Summer: Hard prune all 4 Candles down to their base.  Leave maybe 1/4 left at the base.  The Japanese recommend using your thumb nail, and first finger.  It does get messy, but makes for cleaner, better cuts.
  3. Summer:  Over the summer, these cut candles will grow again, but will grow small, stunted Candles.  That’s what we want…Small stunted Candles.
  4. Autumn: Cleanup: Remove 2 of these “Stunted” candles.
    1. Remove all Brown or old needles on the branches.  Leave only the new needles on the tips of the branches.

That’s it, that’s your Pruning system.  YOu do that for a couple of years, and you’ll have a tree, with short stunted branches, that seem to grow “Clouds” of needles.  It’s quite an interesting look.

Maple Branch pruned utilizing principles of Niwaki

Maple Branch pruned utilizing principles of Niwaki

Here is an example of a Maple tree pruned utilizing the principles of Niwaki.  Note that the branch seems to be floating.  This illusion stems from the simple method of removing horizontal growth.

 

 

This is a great book on this subject.  I read it end to end almost every year.  “Niwaki

Niwaki: Japanese Pruning

Niwaki: Japanese Pruning

2 Responses so far.

  1. Urs says:

    Thank you Mike for saving some Meadow Hill canes for plainntg at the Garden of Eaton. We planted them on Saturday and are looking forward to treating them right so they’ll in turn produce many berries for everyone at the Garden of Eaton. Thanks for spreading that Razzle Dazzle love!

  2. Hi,
    I am new to Niwaki and Japanese gardens and i am going to produce a kind of one for my clients. I am buying a Niwaki Cloud tree from a nursery but its very straight and i saw a Youtube clip of an expert sawing the trunk of a Bonsai almost in half with a wedge shape then tying it down to create ZigZag effect on the trunk. Is it safe to do this on my 2m Niwaki Pine Sylvestis?
    Thanks and best regards, neil.


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