Tamamono: Rounded shrubs *(FAQ)

edzard(3b Canada)September 30, 2004


while I'm waiting for hibernation to set in, a short question:

would anyone know the historic origins of the rounded shrubs commonly used in Japanese gardens,.. tama-mono, sheared shrubs..

I'm curious when they first came into use, why, what,- if anything they do for the landscape, or possibly represent if anything, when to use them, when not to. How should they be pruned? champagne glass? or short muffins? like snow cones?

Are all shrubs to be pruned this way? why?

any information or thoughts come to mind? since these seem to be a 'most common item of the garden'.

*pls. think FAQ thread to resource


...and I thank many for the kind thoughts and words, the Vet was out, the mare is recovering and after some persuasion has agreed to stop being bait.

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yama(7b Ga)

Hi edzard
I hope you are doing well.
you must be writing with red eye , a big lifile and big cup of coffee next to you.
Can I make joke about Bear now? hehehehe.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2004 at 10:35AM
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yama(7b Ga)

Hi edzard
Today is my hapy day. I finaly found meaning of kouzama. while I was serching for Ippen shonin of Ji shu sect of jodo Buddhism in inter net. visiting Korean temple aslo helped me great deal not only stone lantern but Japanese history as well

Chinese jodo shu temple aslo helped me to find answers.
Now I know meaning of famous zen monk saying that zen demand action, or Rinzai Zenshi said if you met father kill father , if met master kill master. and he/Rinzai aslo said about his master "Obaku". his master Obaku is not great as Rinsai thought" Rinzai never lost great respect to his master. but Rinzai found that his master saing ordinary things for ordianry way. onece Rinzai found answers him self with guidance of his master. His master is no longer a person above cloud.

It took me almost whole a year to find meaning of word of kozama" since you have asked me., I could not give you answer, not only give you answer , I did not even know word of Kouzama. I am going to write about it in Japanese first then I will ask to cady to help me to write in English correctly. now I can put away some books .

Tamamono :
I know that you know answer of it. since I know you well what you know, you are trying to entertain to others. :) :) :)
questions can be anwered by apprencice. JOJG had article in the past too.
I hope bad bear(s)and wolf do not keep you awake all night...... me ? I am going to cerabrate myself with green tea............................ mike

    Bookmark   October 2, 2004 at 8:10PM
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Gorfram(7b W Oregon)

Thanks for starting this thread, Edzard :)

A search of this forum yielded only one reference to "tamamono". On Mar 31 of this year, Mike-san posted the following on the Podocarpus 'Topiary' thread (Ive taken the liberty of editing slightly for spelling, etc.):

"ÂÂtama has several meanings: one serving of Âudon noodles is tama, a pearl is a tama, and any beautiful rounded gem stone shape* is also a tama.
In terms of gardening, Âtamamono is a half global shape."

[*Prior to the introduction of modern faceting techniques, gems were cut cabochon style, in rounded hemispheres or half-ovoids. Â Ev.]

IÂd love to see more on this. One of my frustrations with many J. Gardening books that some of them seem to cover everything that could possibly be in a Japanese garden except for *plants*. Many have plant lists and placement advice, but donÂt say much about what to do with or for a plant once youÂve gotten it into its place.

- Evelyn

    Bookmark   October 3, 2004 at 1:19AM
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FranVAz7(Alexandria VA)

I think this is a case where the JOJG is of help. They've had several how-to articles on them, and the illustrations are pretty good. If anyone wants a list of what issues have what articles, I can provide that later--all that stuff is in my files at work.


    Bookmark   October 3, 2004 at 3:07PM
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didgeridoo(z7 SC)

Hey Edzard,

I offer some random thoughts...

As i understand it, tamamono can function as a visual weight, similar to a stone, where the proper stone cannot be found, or a stone simply cannot be used. Tamamono seem to satisfy the requirement for a visual weight at the lower level of the garden. The rounded shape is sturdy, balanced, and tranquil.

A dark, small leaved tamamono beneath the leaning side of a tree can provide a visual support, thereby creating a balance and alleviating the visual tension of said tree.

I would describe their shape as resembling a snow cone, yet after having attempted this style of pruning on some Japanese hollies, i found the shape somewhat difficult to achieve in practice. Where to break from vertical to horizontal...? Ive found the consistency of the curve to be tricky.

I have seen some square shrubs used in hillside Japanes gardens and some modern jgs, but those wouldnt necessarily fit the description of 'rounded shrub'.


    Bookmark   October 3, 2004 at 10:05PM
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yama(7b Ga)

Hi edzard
I am sorry. I did not answering your post straight.

Evelyn and Fran :
Thank you. I thought I killed intrest of this post.
Tama has lot's of meanigs . Bullet, a type of woman also called "tama", tresure, ball etc are also called tama.

I am not for sure that Edzard only thinking of semi global shape of shurbs like azalea ,box wood or small to medium size tree of "Tama zukuri", "Tama chirashi" "kai zukuri" dan zukuri...
Evelyn ....Do you want to know name of trees which are used for Tamazukuri , tamachirashi ? ..........mike

    Bookmark   October 3, 2004 at 10:30PM
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edzard(3b Canada)

Hi Mike, all,..
thanks for adding to this thread.
this one should be only for tama mono, rounded shrub. This way perhaps the thread stayes shorter and more useful.

"Tama zukuri", "Tama chirashi" "kai zukuri" "dan zukuri", should (imo) all have their own heading...
however I made one mistake already. The thread needs to be started with "FAQ: subject", so that all the FAQ's will show up when someone searches.

examples of thread title:
FAQ: Tama zukuri
FAQ: Tama chirashi

This way a list of them will show up in the search engine, and one topic per thread unless the two subjects really relate very closely.

I am trying to start a Frequently Asked Questions, or FAQ so that next spring when everyone is busy, these items may be refered to, instead of answering over and over. And trying to keep it as a repository of information without the personals involved, like my bears...
can be done?

inreference to the tamamono, Christian's experience with the holly leads me to ask, What species or type of growth habit or size of foliage is good for tama mono?

and on the right track for 'what does it do in the landscape?, it also establishes 'here' 'there' 'over there' and 'far over there' by using differing leaf sizes with different leaf reflectivity, which is the most important aspect of foliage selection.
Holly is highly reflective etc. perhasp best under one of Yama's headings.

and ..... when was tama mono started? why is it used? When? (different from what does it do)

    Bookmark   October 4, 2004 at 12:25PM
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Gorfram(7b W Oregon)

A brief summary of JOJGs articles on Tamamono:
[Note: my subscription to JOJG started with #22, so anything in #s 1-21 will have to be covered by others.]

"Basic Pruning: Tamamono Shrubs and the O-karikomi Wave."
JOJG No.27: May/June 2002, pp. 8-15

Defines tamamono as semi-spherical, usually evergreen shrubs, whose role is to ground a Japanese garden, linking it to the site in a way comparable to that of to boulders. Notes that tamamono are usually evergreen for four-seasons interest and constancy.

Discusses shearable evergreen shrubs such as azalea and boxwood, which are suitable for tamamono, in comparison to non-shearable plants such as pines.

Describes the problem of cutting too deeply into the shrub, leaving a bare spot of leafless woody material (and recommend avoiding this through planning, care and gradual pruning). Also discusses the problem of creating a "shell" of dense foliage on the surface which shades out any leaf buds in the shrubs interior, which can be addressed by pruning so as to open up "holes" in the surface to allow light to enter the interior.
[Its not mentioned in the article, but I would expect problem #2 to exacerbate problem #1 Ev.]

Compares pruning the surface of the shrub with hand shears, to pruning each twig individually with hand snips. Describes snips method as superior, but notes that it is very time-intensive and, even in Japan, most gardeners use shears, twig-snipping only as time allows, or necessity demands.
[Again, its not mentioned, but I would expect twig-snipping to be the best way to open up the holes allowing light to enter the shrubs interior Ev.]

Notes that tamamono are usually twice as wide as tall, and, since there is no space in such dense shrubs for the 3rd leg of a tripod ladder, are impractical to prune if more than about 150 cm tall, and more usually are about 1 m tall by 2 wide.

Illustrated with 3 line drawings and 5 photos helpfully showing aspects of tamamono.

"Basic Pruning: Training Tamamono to Hug the Ground."
JOJG No.28: Jul/Aug 2002, pp. 18-19.

Notes that tamamono should be semi-spherical rather than ball-like. To fulfill their "seemingly geological role" they must "fit the contours of land" through having been trained to "sink in and hug the ground. Special attention must be given to their lower edges to avoid any inward curl, and a "hovering or elevated look."

Includes 12 useful line drawings showing "good" vs. "bad ",or "OK" shapes.

"Basic Pruning: Start With Tenba."
JOJG No.41: Sep/Oct 2004, pp. 16-17.

Defines "tenba" as the top surface of a tamamono [or of anything? This is not made clear Ev.], and a critical reference point, as well as the proper place to start pruning. Gives several reasons for stating at top, the most important being that most of the new growth is at top, and the shrubs height defines its curve. Conversely, starting at the bottom of the shrub would have the gardener trimming the weakest growth first, and possibly over trimming the shrubs circumference in proportion to its new height.

Includes 9 helpful line drawings showing "The Wrong Way" and "The Right Way."

Of JOJGs #22-41, #s 26, 33, 35, 36, & 41 have cover photos illustrating tamamono.

I didn't see anything on history, origin, lore, etc. We may have to prevail (yet again :) on Mike-san for that.

Edzard, do I understand correctly that you would like to start a series of threads (each with FAQ in the heading) to serve as an informal FAQ?
(If so, pretty good idea, IMHO :)

- Evelyn

    Bookmark   October 4, 2004 at 4:23PM
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Jando_1(Zone 5 IL)

I agree with what Evelyn states and found that you should also start your pruning at the base and not curve at ground level and when re-shaping start with new growth and prune hard and let the bottoom expand. The lower mounded shape is more desirable. In Japanese gardens these shrubs are used to give shape to flat gardens and the shapes are usually found out in the gaden where they can be seen from a distance. They are used to represent distant mountains or again as Christian noted large boulders. I have found in my zone 5 euonymous work well when pruned in this form. They have small leaves and stay full and lush with the heavy pruning while holding the mounded shape well.

I have not been able to find any information on its origin but wonder if it may have something to do with gift,fruit,result????????????

Cheers Jando

    Bookmark   October 4, 2004 at 6:53PM
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botann(z8 SEof Seattle)

I saw a picture years ago of some Japanese Holly, Illex crenata, var. 'Convexa' sheared so as to appear as a grouping of boulders rather than one by itself, or two in a row. It was located at a bend in the 'stream' on a hill.

This same picture had a tilled 'field'. Does open ground, showing nothing but soil ready to plant, have a place in a Japanese garden? I always like the look of a well prepared field. Must be the farmer in me.

That picture made me realize the value of scale and perspective. The garden had 'flow' rather than a collection of trophy plants scattered about in small, disjointed combinations. I wish I knew the name of the garden because I would like to see more of it.

Back to the master, pupil references. A very competitive friend of mine said this while teaching me chess, "Get a good teacher and then beat him". It took me over a year. ;-)

    Bookmark   October 5, 2004 at 11:24AM
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LouisWilliam(Z5 MA)

Edward Morse's 1886 book on Japanese Homes (and gardens) describes and illustrates most of the features we associate with JGs, including "cloud pruned" pines, maples, iris plantings, and all the inanimate accessories we would expect. He never mentions or shows any tamamono shrubs however, leading me to believe they were not common in the late 19th century. He was a biologist who provided incredibly accurate drawings of most things he observed, including some resketches of Japanese garden drawings of the time.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2004 at 11:28AM
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Louis W - Josiah Condors 1890's publications do depict some, though clearly not extensive, use of tamamono.

Bo Tann - Ilex crenata v. Convexa is in my opinion the best plant material for tamamono pruning. Pruning maintains the juvenile form of foliage which is dense and lush, the habit of the plant growth allows annual removal of some mature stems to keep the plant open and healthy but without revealing 'holes' in the surface.

Christian - I do not know if it is a climate factor, me being in the UK, but I find the initial training and shape development of the Japanese hollies to be more succesful than with azalea or even box.

Edzard - any plant material which readily breaks from old wood, produces multiple new buds at pruning cuts and has small and neat enough foliage to disguise the effects of shearing ? However these requirements surely do shorten the list of potential candidates.

Interested to hear of Junes' success with Euonymus, which species/cv's have yo used ?

    Bookmark   October 5, 2004 at 3:31PM
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edzard(3b Canada)

Niwashisan, i think shortening the species that may be used as a 'common' species would be advisable. Of course it would differ zone to zone, which was part of the purpose of the thread.

if one knows one needs this design element in the pattern of the garden then this could be a resource.
One thing I noted in earlier posts, and I apologise for inattention, yet Jando's post reads that the shaping begins at the bottom, I presume that something got changed around, since the height is established first. (and I trust someone will correct me if I am inaccurate)

which leads to the question of, how do we know what height it should be at? and specifying what species are used for what heights where, based on what leaf size, for what location in establishing distance.

The mention of Edward Morse's book/observations cause me to ask why each individual specimen is to be pruned with separation from the next?
--which is opposite of Okorikomi.. which if invented by Enshu, places the probable use of tamamono, before Enshu's time.
and, not being common, why is it common now? time, technique. knowledge, use?

    Bookmark   October 5, 2004 at 4:43PM
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Another suggestion for tamamono pruning is Escallonia - the Newport Dwarf variety in particular. The Newport Dwarf has much smaller leaves too. All our Escallonias grow back vigorously no matter how drastically I prune them.

I like two of the small-leaf Hebes as well - they grow naturally in a tamamono shape, but I'm less confident about their capacity to regrow. I cut our biggest one back really hard a few weeks ago and now it looks dead. I'm giving it till next spring & if there's no sign of recovery, out it goes to be replaced by one of its offspring.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2004 at 7:35PM
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Gorfram(7b W Oregon)

When I read Jando's: "you should also start your pruning at the base and not curve at ground level and when re-shaping start with new growth and prune hard and let the bottom expand", I read into it that she meant "base" as "reference point/temba" as in my summary of the JOJG article, not in the strictly base-supporting-a-shape sense (we can be so gravitation-centric here on this planet sometimes, don't you think? :)
(Jando, I wouldn't even mention it except I'd love to know whether that's what you were thinking.:)

I'm very intrigued by the idea of varying the leaf size, color and reflectivity with placement in the garden. If you're able to type with one hand while holding onto your 10-gauge coffee mug with the other :), would you be able to give us some more detailed thoughts about that?
(Big, light, bright leaves closer in; small, dark, dull leaves further away?)

Also thoughts on how size is chosen and used in the garden would be very interesting.
(I'd love to get something better than "how far the garder can reach". Do we hire Shaquille O'Neal to trim these tamamono, and (that famous jockey whose name I can't remember) to trim those? :)

- Evelyn

    Bookmark   October 6, 2004 at 1:59AM
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ScottReil_GD(z5 CT)

Niwashisan, the Japanese hollies are probably a better bet in those soft English winters; here they can be a little more tempermental. Box and some of the azaleas are better bets for the pruning technique under discussion for Zone 5 or colder...

Edzard, is the concept of a pruning template (as used in topiary) too heretical to contemplate? Seems as when you have the shape you want it might well serve to preserve it that way. But somehow that thought strikes me as... not very Japanese (lacking sabi, I guess).

Interesting thread and an even more interesting concept in the FAQ's. Should we jest dive in where we can help?

    Bookmark   October 6, 2004 at 12:06PM
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edzard(3b Canada)

Scott, others, dive in, please.

a pruning template for the garden objectives is always done, has been for centuries, this is the 'Author's Intent'.
For individual shrubs -trees, this is where the skill comes in, and knowing when to let it go, to begin reshaping it again. IE: why the 'current' pine pruning techniques do not work, there being no back bud to continue with for a 'generations' tree. Different thought process = different outcome/look.

Evelyn,.. most of the dark light/reflection + human response information is somewhere in archives from last year and then 2 years back. However, when in moments of balancing the 30 ot 6 and sipping from my cap as gravity tubed coffee mug, I'll see what can be done.
Though preferably there are people that remember the posts and have their own thoughts + references on this that might contribute & could start a new thread.

On heights chosen for the tamamono, the guidelines are by what the desired need is for the function of the design piece. It is erroneous to think that all shrubs are grown to the height of whatever the gardener of the time is.

Essentially this 'use' is guided by the Author's Intent which delivers the 'authenic = finished = ready to restart' appellation (which has precious little to do with Japanese 'principles').

    Bookmark   October 6, 2004 at 3:23PM
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The leaf size issue is problematic as the larger the foliage the more obvious the damage. Evergreens show dessication on sheared foliage, the larger the leaf surface the more unsightly the scarring. The dense growth habit of small leaved evergreens allows for precise outlines which could not be achieved with larger leaved species.

The size issue of course is generally dictated by the physical proportions of the gardener though I have seen scaffolding erected over large tamamono for pruning, here the larger proportions can compensate for slightly more course lines created by larger leaved plants.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2004 at 3:37PM
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ScottReil_GD(z5 CT)

Strikes me that the semi-globe shape is a matter of necessity, as any tendency towards globular shapes shades (and thereby denudes) lower branches... It also seems an extenuation of the rock setting rule that the widest part of the rock should be at the jiban...

    Bookmark   October 6, 2004 at 6:08PM
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yama(7b Ga)

Hi All

Pruning tamamo is apprentice work. when we visit customer garden, without say much of word who takes what task. elder worker head to pine tree, yamamomo,mochi , mokkoku or any tree require skill. apprentice work on hedge, tamamono and helping elder workers,clean up , bring in supply, prepair tea( when customer is not home or constraction site ).

June :
we normaly start to prune tamamono from top. some time
prune side of over grown tamamono as referrence line . but rule of thum is prune from top .

Botan :
you have keen eye. scale of tamamono is also used to create eye illusion for "Depth" of garden, use large tamamono where view garden and place smaller tamamono of dark green , dence texured .Japanese garden use technic of create eye illusion and mental illusion very efectively.
what you saw feild like palce is most likely nusery ground.
not likely garden.

Evelyn :
term of tenba is " top of " top of stone is tenba, top of shaped pine tree is tenba, top of hedge is also tenba.

azalea : we have satuski azalea and tsutsuji azalea , botanicalt it is same. tamamono use most time use satsuki type azalea . Satsuki is normaly have smaller leaf and evergreen, tsutsuji type azalea have larger leaf ,flower and some of the tsutsuji are deciduous. we use azalea/satsuki sellectively , not all azlea are used as tamamono.

I do not have chance to check engish/botanical name of plants we normaly use as tamamono . this is list of tamamono you can see in Tokyo, Saitama area.

Inu tusge.mame tsuge,satuski type azleas, tama ibuki,kaizuka ibuki, maruba sharinbai,beni kanamemochi,
few enkiunthus some time.

Scott :
what christian wrote about tamamono may not clear to every one here.
color of tamamo like mame tsuge inu tsuge and texture give you visualy heavey look and compact than lighter color coures textured tamamono. planting dark green and fine texured tamamono next to stone bridge make stone bridge looks more stable,
make pine tree planted slantly some time makes make you feel the tree is not stable look. planting proper size of dark, fine textured tamamono(s) right place which create visualy balanced , and give "weight " like > illusion to your mind. those technic is art part of gardening.

Louis Willam :
I do not weigh Edard Morse book as related to gardeing.
he discovered an archaeologicalm site in Japan and preserveved Japanese art with Tenshin Okakura( Kakuzo Okakura), when meiji emporor try to destory Buddhism .

Many years befor Kobori Enshu was born , ji shu monks( ji shu is line of pur land Buddhism sect which founded by Ippen shonin)designed Japanese garden which useing okarikomi and hedge like plantings as back ground of garden. it is historical fact.

Evelyn :

you wrote : I'm very intrigued by the idea of varying the leaf size, color and reflectivity with placement in the garden. If you're able to type with one hand while holding onto your 10-gauge coffee mug with the other :), would you be able to give us some more detailed thoughts about that?

you have asked to Edzard but I answer your question :):) :)

dark green color, density texture give you visualy hevey, setteled feeling. to create balance and harmony in garden, or give eye illusion to make/give shollow garden depth,
color and textur dectate our mind and view.
give deepth to shallow garden , use smaller tamamono, dense, dark color far end. planting loose textured or varigated large leaf small tree front/near of you , aslo give shallow garden depth , place Objcts front of your eye which make you to miss culculated exact mesurement of distance.

pink, white, yellow, red , orenge pale green.. those color indicate /feels of expantion,, danceing, growing ,re juveile, sence of enegy,movement.
other hand dark green make sence of weight, settlement stability.

Befor you think, brain reacted and give you waring when you step on steping stone which moved slightly. since brain gave you waring, "wacth out ! steping stone is not stable and may not very safe to walk " then you are alarmed , no longer you have peace,or/and tranquilty in your mind.
stone setting, placement of shurbs trees, hard scape of Japanese garden are well culclated human mind. use eye illusion and mind illusion . In Japanese garden design, any thing you feel unstable, unsecure, unbalance are removed from garden design.
setting stones side of bridge, setting stone deep. make tenba level those thing make you feel safe . leveled horizonal line give strong, stable feeling. also vertical line. when you see slunt line you will feel unstable un balanced. when slunted tree is used in the garden, you will find stone(s) or dark green tamamono next to slunted trees.( not always)

instead of coffe mug, I had to have Japanese/English and English/Japanese dictionary side of me. Could not have Engish grammer book . ;) ;) ;).


    Bookmark   October 7, 2004 at 9:37AM
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That was an exceptional post,Mike Yama.
Thank you.

    Bookmark   October 7, 2004 at 11:28AM
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yama(7b Ga)

Hi Ajico
yama is part of my familly name, childhood friend called me "yama", Mike is my nick name in USA.
when I was trying to find some Sunskrit word, I discover that Yama in sunskrit means "king of 21 hell" :) :):)
I don't want to be king of hell ! .............mike

    Bookmark   October 8, 2004 at 3:21AM
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Hi All,

Just thought a nice photo of a japanese garden showing a number of nicely pruned tamamono shrubs would be in order.


    Bookmark   October 9, 2004 at 9:08AM
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Greg - I take it that picture was computer generated. Did you use Photoshop?


    Bookmark   October 9, 2004 at 11:24AM
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Herb, this is a real garden. I scanned it off the cover of JOJG #35. The garden is located at the Adachi Art Museum in Japan.


    Bookmark   October 9, 2004 at 1:30PM
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Greg - Thanks for identifying it. I see that Tamao Goda, in that issue, draws attention to the waterfall, that I hadn't noticed. It's also interesting to note the comment, on page 8, in the piece about the Adachi Art Museum -".....if the Adachi Art Museum gardens have a fault, it is that they look TOO perfect!"

Dare I suggest (see the thread Johnson v. Warhol) that the garden (as seen in this picture) has a slightly disturbing Andy Warhol-esque character about it?

    Bookmark   October 9, 2004 at 2:24PM
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FranVAz7(Alexandria VA)

Herb, I've been afraid to mention that I think the Adachi Museum garden looks like a claymation set. I keep expecting the Thunderbirds or a model railroad to show up somewhere. It doesn't look filled with living things, and I find that a bit disturbing. And speaking of "cookie cutter" pines...


    Bookmark   October 9, 2004 at 3:25PM
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Jando_1(Zone 5 IL)

Sorry it took me so long to respond, the varigated euonymus I am pruning are about 25 years old and I have no idea what the name is just that they are varigated euonymus, green and white. Sorry.

And Mike thank you for your information on pruning. Just goes to show you can't believe everything you read or everyone has a different opinion on how it is done. I will go with your advice and know it will be the best way. THANKS>:)

Cheers Jando

    Bookmark   October 9, 2004 at 4:57PM
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Fran - I looked up 'claymation' and one thing led to another.
so click here to see where it led.....

    Bookmark   October 9, 2004 at 5:53PM
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yama(7b Ga)

Hi June
I just had hiar cut. this time done by male barber ,he told me he is kind new..... I told him I liked other young men's hair cut , he used longer blade, then ask me "short enough ? " it is ended as buz cut. but since I had good converstion with him I was happy .
if you start with a little loger than target line , you can make perfect triming , just like hair cut . you have done many years. even you trim a little too short, it will grow back without screaming nor complaine.

you can try both way and find the best way for you.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2004 at 8:41PM
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Gorfram(7b W Oregon)

Nice, Herb :)

Maybe I'll call up Will Vinton and see if he'll do a claymation of Hello Kitty, in traditional kimono, doing Japanese classical dance on this set... :)

I find the pines a little weird, too (I'd like this garden A Whole Heck of a Lot if it weren't for those pines out on the sand). They're a little too remeniscent of the plastic ones PetSmart sells to put in your lizard cages, but mostly, they shouldn't be out there one the sand:

They mess up the whole sand thing for me. It can't be empty "positive space" with those pine trees in it (it could be with rocks, wonder why they don't bug me?...), it can't a sea of sand or a cloud bank viewed from above... it could be a Louisiana-type cypress swamp, except that Louisiana isn't Japan, pines aren't cypress, and I didn't come to a Japanese garden to look at swamps (and Yikes! Aren't there water mocassins in Louisiana-type cypress swamps?)

But what the pines in the sand really make me think of is that some poor lunk (who might bear a striking resmebalance to Mike-san or Edzard :) has had to be out there early this morning picking up all the pine needles that had fallen overnight. Then I start to wonder whether doing that makes his back hurt, whether he makes enough to live on, whether he gets health insurance...
Again, if I wanted to think about stuff like that, I wouldn't look at a Japanese garden, I'd look at the newspaper.
[I realize, of course, that everything else in the garden must receive daily attention to look as good as in this picture. But the gardener's hand is evoked much too vividly for me by the pines-on-sand.]

OTOH, the tamamono [in a cultured, refined, undersated wabi-sabi way, of course], like, way mondo seriously ROCK! :) :) :)

- Evelyn

    Bookmark   October 9, 2004 at 9:02PM
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But of course Evelyn there would not be pine needles that had fallen overnight. Annual autumn/fall maintenance regime - needle stripping - no dying/dead material - clean tree - clean garden

    Bookmark   October 10, 2004 at 4:38AM
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Periodically the question is asked, "What is a Japanese garden" and the replies usually refer to 'nature' or 'natural' even 'Nature'. Recently someone suggested that a Japanese garden is "a representation, or interpretation of the natural environment around the Japanese." I find the above picture decidedly unnatural although I concede that it may be someone's (Andy Warhol) interpretation. Herb's first reaction re Photoshop was on the money The green blobs could be squeezed from a tube of shaving cream mixed with boxwood leaves and the pines might just as well be plastic for the difference it would make. When I think of Evelyn's maintenance worries I break into a cold sweat, imagine following Niwashisan's regime and then standing back to see that you had missed a needle. You would have to fetch it and then rake out your footprints on the way back: nightmare.
In my opinion a garden can be either a picture or a place, a place can also be a picture but a picture cannot be a place. This is definitely a picture with no place for humans.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2004 at 9:40AM
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Though I posted the photo to show off the shrubs, I agree the pines are distracting. So with that in mind.................


    Bookmark   October 10, 2004 at 12:35PM
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FranVAz7(Alexandria VA)

To me, the three major elements, tamamono azaleas, rocks, and pine trees, seem to be in three different scales. The azaleas look too big next to the rocks, and the pine trees look like miniatures. They clash instead of working together. The gravel looks harsh instead of restful. I find this garden disturbing rather than peaceful.

On the subject of what makes good tamamono shrubs, I have azaleas, yews, Japanese holly, and little leaf boxwood like 'Kingsville' and 'Curly Locks'. In general, the smaller the leaf, the better it looks sheared. I also have some shrubs that have a natural low-mounding shape that I don't shear (I just selectively prune to keep the shape compact), like 'Globosa' Colorado blue spruce and variegated dahurian juniper.


    Bookmark   October 10, 2004 at 3:17PM
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There are clearly many things about the picure Greg posted that bother people! Another thing that bothered me was the colour of the rocks, but the camera may not have rendered then true to the original. I couldn't do much about that, but I have tried segregating the bottom half from the top half and inserting a different top half. I suspect that the designers of each half might have a fit over this 'marriage' but maybe it will provoke comment.....
Click here what I should perhaps call The Shogun Wedding.....(sorry)....

    Bookmark   October 10, 2004 at 3:58PM
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Gorfram(7b W Oregon)

Niwashisan, perhaps I am revealing my ignorance of proper pine care (and the reason that all of the pines I've tried to care for have gone on to that Great Big Japanese Garden in the Sky), but I thought that evergreens shed needles year-round, with an increase in shedding rate in the fall, so that autumnal needle-stripping would reduce, but not eliminate, subsequent needle fall?

Greg, thanks for the un-pined version of the Adachi garden photo. I do like that much better, but I would even do away with the one pine you "transplanted" to the grass.
On reflection, perhaps my problem with the pines are not so much that they are "Hello Kitty" and/or lizard-cage-decor, but that they are exaggeratedly "Japanesey", in the geisha-gazing-at-Fuji-san-through-falling-cherry-blossoms sort of way. Admittedly, the cliches may have been inspired by the trees at the Adachi or in similar gardens, not the other way around.
(Am I the only one who cringes at all the cliches in Shakespeare? "All that glisters is not gold.", "Neither a borrower nor a lender be.", "A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse." Sheesh, the greatest writer in the English language and he doesn't know that those have all been *done to death*? :) :) :)

I agree with Fran about the scale problem. IMHO, the tamamono are perfect as they are, but the rocks certainly could stand to grow a bit :)

Herb, I like the "Shogun's Wedding" garden :), but I personally would increase the magnification of the background to bring it further into scale with the foreground.

- Evelyn

    Bookmark   October 10, 2004 at 5:28PM
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Evelyn, pines only shed dead needles (severe weather conditions excepted) The brown needles which fall in late summer, (or other times again weather permitting)will be at least 2/3 years old. The annual pruning regime ensures there are no old needles in the tree to fall.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2004 at 12:16PM
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edzard(3b Canada)

Adachi? hmmm, sand trap with obstacles... a new version of golf course.
actually, is it not a composition of the garden through historic periods? in which case a disjointed perception would make sense or be allowable.

And? was it not rated #1 in the JoJg listing of top gardens at sometime, somewhere? ...perhaps memory is playing tricks with me again.

in the end result though, whether I like it or not is immaterial. What is material would be that the Author is correct in having done what he designed, it is for us to go back to it as often as we need, until we understand it. In understanding it, we will have learned something. Which is a point of a garden.

and, while pruning tamamono in a garden i only have access to once a year, I realized that I do not always start at the top. I actually start at the side point where the greatest common line is so that it will grow up as evenly as possible. Locating that, I then move through the middle and connect the line in the curve that is needed for the setting.

back to Adachi, the 2 kugeln in the middle,.. would they not be reduced to a less ball-like shape to 'fit' better with the landscape? They do not match anything, unless... its not in the picture.
which brings to mind, how many photographers know where they should even be photographing from??
who thinks that this is the best 'view' that we are even critiqueing? what if it is entirely the wrong angle, since the kugeln don't match anything except a 'snowcone' commercial... (back to Andy Warhol) :))

    Bookmark   October 13, 2004 at 12:07AM
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LouisWilliam(Z5 MA)

Adachi looks completely different in the closer view on the most recent (#41) JOJG. I think the computer game landscape appearance of the distant view is in part due to the poor production values of that cover - some combination of printing and photography. Having not seen Adachi in person, I can only note how misleading single viewpoints can be.

Regarding Tamamono pruning - I find that snipping with hand shears allows me to move around the shrub, giving more flexibility in choosing the cut line (nodes instead of middle of the stem). Using large shears is faster, but gives a different appearance. Like the difference between a barber using scissors and fingers or one using electric shears. Maybe the faster methods devolve into apprentice work.

    Bookmark   October 13, 2004 at 10:17AM
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LW - I've just checked issue #41 & you're right. The view on the cover of issue #41 of JOJG is entirely different from the other one - and gives a a very pleasing impression of the garden.

    Bookmark   October 13, 2004 at 1:37PM
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LW - the pruning technique you describe would certainly be most appropriate for larger leaved, coarser specimens as discussed previously. Azalea, Ilex, Buxus etc are most appropriate for karikomi style pruning as they readily break from sheared stems. More new buds, and therefor more dense re-growth, are produced from sheared stems as opposed to pruning to a node. It is this growth habit that determines which shrubs are appropriate for this style of pruning.

    Bookmark   October 14, 2004 at 5:20AM
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Gorfram(7b W Oregon)

Mike said:
"I do not have chance to check engish/botanical name of plants we normaly use as tamamono. this is list of tamamono you can see in Tokyo, Saitama area.
Inu tusge, mame tsuge, satuski type azleas, tama ibuki, kaizuka ibuki, maruba sharinbai, beni kanamemochi, few enkiunthus some time."

After some fooling around, Ive come up with a few guesses at literal translations, English names, and botanical Latin names of the plants listed.
Mike-san, are any of these right? (or even close? :)

Inu tsuge:
(dog boxwood? Japanese holly: Ilex crenata?)

Mame tsuge:
(mame as in mame bonsai? littleleaf boxwood? Ilex crenata?)

Satsuki type azaleas:

Tama ibuki:
(globe?) Juniperus chinensus

Kaizuka ibuki:
Hollywood Juniper: Juniperus chinensus 'Kaizuka', aka J. c. 'Torulosa'

Maruba sharinbai:
(wheel?) Yeddo Hawthorn: Rhaphiolepis umbellata, also R. u. var. integerrima, R.u. ovata, R. ovata

Beni kanamemochi:
(rouge? Japanese photinia: Photinia glabra?)


Thanks :)
- Evelyn

    Bookmark   October 15, 2004 at 12:20AM
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We here a few I saw last spring. I'm not sure if this garden would be considered traditonal by the experts, but it definitely is Japanese. Such creations are common, at least here in the Fukuoka area.

    Bookmark   November 2, 2004 at 11:46PM
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yama(7b Ga)

Hi Evelyn

I will check botanical name and explain japanese term of plant names.
I have many priority things to take care now.
I will answer to your question after matters are takeng care of. ............. mike

    Bookmark   November 3, 2004 at 7:18AM
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