VISITORS to Shoyoen at the Dubbo Regional Botanic Garden are often intrigued by the bamboo poles and black ropes constraining the limbs of the Japanese Black Pines ("Kuromatsu" in Japanese).
The trees are being sculpted into idealised shapes using the Japanese horticultural art form "niwaki". Niwaki ("garden tree" in Japanese) are asymmetric and yet beautifully balanced.
The final shape will depend upon the individuality or "essence" of the tree and the ambience desired for that part of the garden.
To recreate a "tranquil wilderness" within the Japanese garden, niwaki are sometimes fashioned into miniature caricatures of the windswept pine trees found on the Japanese coast.
Niwaki shares some characteristics with bonsai. Both art forms use a combination of techniques including specialised pruning to create trees which have the appearance of much older, venerable specimens.
The foliage is encouraged by careful pruning to become artificially dense. This gives greater definition to the final shape of the tree.
Japanese gardens use many different tree shapes but the most common are the tamamono shape and the moyogi shape.
The low, simple, rounded tamamono shape occurs throughout Shoyoen.
The Japanese Black Pine is often sculpted into the moyogi shape which is characterised by an S-shaped trunk, cascading branches and an open, upright form.
It takes many years to learn how to sculpt a Japanese Black Pine and many more to create a beautiful tree which fulfils its purpose in the garden. Pruning skill and knowledge of the underlying principles are interdependent.
When the Japanese Garden designer, Katsuoki Kawahara was asked how long it takes to produce a pine tree that appears to be 100 years old, he replied, "One hundred years!"
Council staff use niwaki techniques to sculpt the Japanese Black Pines in Shoyoen under the guidance of expert Japanese gardeners.
Three Japanese gardeners are currently visiting Shoyoen from Minokamo to share their horticultural knowledge with council staff and the Friends of the Dubbo Regional Botanic Garden.