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HOMELawn Care Articles

Japanese Cloud Pruning ~ Niwaki Landscape Pruning
by Carole Schwalm Picture of a shrub in a container pruned to the shape of clouds.

Niwaki is the Japanese technique of pruning shrubs and trees into shapes resembling clouds. It is a highly prized art form, so imagine how great you’ll feel when you master it. It is said that all you need – a boatload of patience and sharp shears. And either early or late summer is the time to prune.

The best candidate has an interesting branch formation. The overall look doesn’t have to be perfect, in fact some of the best candidates are a bit unbalanced, which is what makes it interesting. If you have the opportunity, the pruning is best done when the tree is young, because the bark recovers.

Study the tree and choose which branches you want to keep. Envision what you want to accomplish before you start. The reason is that once the branches are removed, it is going to take time for them to grow back. They should be at least a couple of years old however.

Start by removing the branches from the center of the tree. If you want the tree to grow taller, avoid pruning the growing tips at the end of the branches. Remove the suckers as they surface.

Shape the side shoots into the cloud shapes.

You can use stakes and weights to manipulate the growth.

Evergreens are striking as well as providing all-year-round interest. The most popular candidates are:

• Box (Buxus sempervirens)
• Yew (Taxus baccata)
• Pine (Pinus)
• Japanese privet (Ligustrum japonicum)

Share your experience with Niwaki Cloud Pruning or if you'd like more information.