It is customary for a proper Japanese garden to have a name, and ours at the Botanical Garden is called Gan Ryuu Tei (Rock Stream Garden). David Slawson designed the Japanese Garden to be a blend of two traditional garden styles, roji and karesansui. Roji means ‘dewy path’ but is used to describe the path and surrounding garden one travels through on their way to the tea ceremony. Karesansui is a dry landscape garden which uses stones of all shapes and sizes in conjunction with plants to paint a symbolic picture. In our garden the small stones represent water, the large stones symbolize mountains and the shrubs are shaped to look cloud-like.
This past May, Gan Ryuu Tei turned 46 years old. And some of our shrubs are nearly that age themselves. Now, we do trim and prune many of our plants annually, but they still end up with some net growth in the end of the year. Over time they have really begun to encroach on the neighboring stones and lanterns. So my project this year is to do some big cuts and harsh trimming to reveal the lost rocks. With it still being a bit too early to start on the maples and resinous conifers, we’re focusing on the azaleas and taxus first. Certain Taxus specimens can have whole branches removed and be pruned to show off the rocks and lanterns. But other specimens would have their shape too affected by such hard pruning, so instead I will take a couple years of softer trimming down to slowly shrink the shrubs down.
The azaleas have also spread and grown out of their shape. Instead of a small tight shrub they’ve begun to range the hillside. After their flowers finished the entire Botanical Garden horticulture team came out to help, not only by deadheading all of the spent flowers, but by shaping and pruning these shrubs down a bit.
As I get started on this project I am just thrilled by the impact of a few cuts. And now, as we get into the mid-summer season when growth has slowed, we will have the opportunity to prune our pines, maples, and hollies. I’m most excited to get into this Mugo Pine (Pinus mugo).
I mean look at that rock getting swallowed up! So, come check in on our pruning progress in Gan Ryuu Tei throughout the summer!
Caroline Paul, horticulturist, has been practicing her craft at the Garden for three years. She comes to us with a biology degree from Ohio Wesleyan University and plenty experience as a floral designer. Her skills are on beautiful display throughout the Terrace, Restorative and Japanese Gardens. And Caroline’s special interest is in the intricate traditional pruning methods she applies to the Japanese Garden. That sounds like enough to keep her busy—but she’s never too busy to talk gardening with you!