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I studied sculpture at the Slade in London, and from there won a travel award to Japan where I got interested in gardens, and how they were linked to their surrounding landscape. A month long trip ‘to see the cherry blossom’ ended up as 2 years, working first as an English teacher in Saitama, then at a traditional tree nursery in Osaka. It was here that I was introduced to the formative training and pruning of trees, as well as traditional rootballing techniques, and the foul local dialect, kawachi-ben. You can see some of the work I made while at the Slade over on the left. There may not seem much connection between what I did then and what I do now, but needless to say there were many steps along the way.
Niwaki: the business
Back in England, married to Keiko, I worked at Architectural Plants in Sussex, where my creative enthusiasm was harnessed by Angus White, introducing Japanese attitudes to pruning and maintenance. During this time I realised how much better the tools I had used in Japan were to those on offer in England, so with the help of brother-in-law Haruyasu (a gardener in Osaka) the very first Japanese tripod ladders and secateurs were shipped over. People began to notice and soon a business grew: Niwaki. Over the years I've developed a bit of a thing for sharp shiny stuff - we've travelled all over Japan looking for it, meeting specialist makers, from up North in Yamagata and Niigata, to down near Hiroshima. It goes without saying that our boy Digby is already a keen ladder climber.
Niwaki: the book
On leaving Architectural Plants I secured a publishing deal with Timber Press. My first book, Niwaki, Pruning Training and Shaping Trees the Japanese Way, which had spent eight years fermenting inside my head, is the only one of its kind available in the English language. It deals with the practical side of Japanese pruning, and my experiences in Osaka. Luckily, people seem to like it and it's now in its third run. Book No.2 , The Art of Creative Pruning was released in 2011. It's something to do with...pruning.
Lectures, Workshops and Topiary Courses
I lecture and give demos and workshops on Japanese pruning and cloud pruning. Previous groups have included the English Gardening School, The Garden History Society, The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society and the Horticultural Alliance of the Hamptons. I also offer a specialist consultation and pruning service.
Dreaming of Japan
I live in Dorset, and spend my spare time tending to my field of Japanese style trees, teaching our boy Digby tree names, and dreaming of Japan.
....Hobson--a triple-threat who photographs beautifully as well as gardens and writes.... (http://www.gardenrant.com/my_weblog/2012/01/a-pair-of-felcos-and-a-dream.html)
Niwaki, Pruning Training and Shaping Trees the Japanese Way (Timber Press 2007)
Now in its fourth run, and translated into French and German, this book deals with the nitty gritty of Japanese pruning. Based on my time in Osaka, and years of experience back in England, it looks at traditional Japanese techniques and suggests suitable alternatives in western gardens. Lots of color pics and technical illustrations
Read reviews here
Buy signed copies from niwaki.com
The Art of Creative Pruning (Timber Press 2011)
Hot off the press: a look at imaginative, creative and funky pruning, in all shapes and sizes, all over the world, with technical instructions and illustrations.
Buy signed copies from niwaki.com
Other Published Writing
Articles for the EBTS (European Boxwood & Topiary Society) magazine Topiarus and the JGS (Japanese Garden Society) publication Shakkei.
Worldwide Pruning & Consultation Service
Cloud Pruning & Organic Topiary
My speciality lies in the grey area of what I call organic topiary: the fusion of cloud pruning and more deliberate Japanese niwaki-style pruning, inspired as much by local landscapes and organic forms as by Japan. I can source authentic Japanese niwaki but find it is more fun to work with what is close to hand - old yew and box hedges offer the most potential, but by no means exclusively. Past projects have involved holly, holm oak, phillyrea, osmanthus, pines, privet, thuja...you name it.
Consultation & Design
Japanese Gardens, Topiary projects, planting designs, restoration and sourcing. I offer one-off days, giving advice, getting projects started, and mapping out future work. I also work with designers and landscapers to fullfill projects.
Clients include Rosemary Alexander, Carol Klein, Amazing Retreats, The Lost Gardens of Heligan and Knepp Castle.
Lecture & Workshops
Workshops Lectures & Demos: 2014
8th February: GLDA, Dublin. February 8th 2014. Lecture. “Strip” Exposing Layers and Meaning in 21st Century Garden Design.
1st March: V&A, London. Introducing Japanese Gardens, lecture.
18th March: RHS Wisley. The Art of Creative Pruning and Niwaki, workshop.
26th April: West Dean, Chichester. The Art of Creative Pruning, workshop.
3rd June: Box Clipping workshop, Harvard Farm. Book here:http://www.niwaki.com/store/box-clipping-workshop/
17th June: Niwaki workshop, Harvard Farm. Book here http://www.niwaki.com/store/niwaki-workshop/
16th September: Niwaki workshop, Harvard Farm. Book here http://www.niwaki.com/store/niwaki-workshop/
11th October: Pruning workshop, Waterperry Gardens.
14th October: Rootballing workshop, Harvard Farm. Book here: http://www.niwaki.com/store/rootballing-workshop/
I give half and full day courses on cloud pruning and Japanese style niwaki pruning, involving digital presentations, practical demos and workshop 'have a go' sessions, depending on season, venue and audience numbers. Previous venues in the UK include a private garden in Edinburgh, the Japanese garden at Kingston Lacy, Japanese Garden Society regional meetings and the Tendercare nursery, as well as at Harvard Farm. Further from home, I've given and participated in workshops in Canada, Greece, Norway, France and Germany.
See details of previous workshop at Harvard Farm
BOOK COURSES HERE
If people are interested, I can talk for hours on the following subjects:
Niwaki: Pruning, Training and Shaping Trees the Japanese Way. Based on my book, I look at the crucial role trees and pruning play in the Japanese garden, and how Japanese techniques can be applied in western gardens on a wide range of plants.
Creative Topiary: An imaginative look at pruning and topiary around the world, taking inspiration from agriculture, the landscape, classical topiary, Asia, fruit trees - just about anywhere.
Pine Pruning: A detailed look at Japanese pine pruning techniques. Strictly for nutters.
I have given talks in the UK to the English Gardening School, The Society of Garden Designers, The Garden History Society, The Dorset gardens Trust and The Caledonian Society, as well as numerous horticultural societies and groups. In the US I have talked to The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society and the Horticultural Alliance of the Hamptons,
Tripod Ladders & Pruning Tools
Niwaki: Japanese Tripod Ladders & Fine Pruning Tools
Keiko and I started the business in 2005, mainly because of the interest my tripod ladders were causing when I was out and about a'pruning. One tentative order of ladders and one lucky break with an article in the Saturday Telegraph later, and we were off. With a home made website and a brochure consisting of one piece of folded A4 card, it was a fairly basic start, but now, five years on, people seem to like the brochure, we've got a proper website and a range of products that has left the 'Tripod Ladders & Fine Pruning Tools' title behind: domestic steps, kitchen knives, tailor's shears and all sorts of other sharp and whacky stuff from Japan. In 2012 the business moved into new premises in Shaftesbury.
Peruse the website here