"Dwarf Trees" from The Ladies' Repository: a monthly periodical, devoted to literature,
arts, and religion

       "Visit to the Fati Gardens" by Rev. H. Hickok (1849) includes these four paragraphs on the second page: 

       The dwarfed fruit and other trees constitute much of the attraction of Chinese gardens.  This is an art of the florist which is much practiced, and is highly esteemed.  These present to the stranger a great novelty.  Here are growing, in jars, forest trees not more than two feet high, which have all the appearance of most venerable age.  When it is desired to have a dwarf fruit tree, a branch full of blossoms is girdled, and rich loam is then bound about the branch on the naked wood; this is kept moist, and when the radicles have shot out into the soil, and the fruit is ripe, the branch is severed from the tree and placed in a shallow pot; and then, with trimming, it becomes a miniature tree, laden with fruit.
       Ancient forest trees, in miniature, however, display the most ingenuity.  The elm is generally used for this purpose, though not always.  After the limb is girdled, and the bare wood covered with earth, which is bound on with matting, and kept always moist, the twigs are then made to grow to answer their design by fastening them in proper positions with bits of twine.  After the branch is severed from the tree, and planted to become the trunk of the little tree, its branches are then prepared by bending, cutting, burning [sic], and grafting, to resemble the old tree of the forest.  The bark is smeared with some sweet substance, which attracts the ants, so that a bark is produced, which looks as if it had stood the sun and storms of a century.  To assist the dwarfing, a scant supply of earth and water is given to the roots, which also causes the leaves soon to assume a small size.  To complete the illusion, miniature rocks, covered with moss, lie scattered about the roots of the ancient trees.
        The small, artificial precipices, with the water falling over them, also aid in setting off the scene.  These are made of angular pieces of granite, cemented together in imitation of Nature's most extensive cataracts.  With the little old trees artfully arranged about them, these cascades make a pleasing part of the garden scenery.
         Another curiosity to us was the numerous "vegetable animals" which were everywhere presented to view.  The Chinese gardener has great skill in training certain species of shrubs to resemble deer, elephants, oxen, fish, pagodas, and other objects of nature and art.  These, to the stranger, are interesting objects, found in all Chinese gardens.  They are not mere thick shrubs, sheared off to certain patterns, like a border of box, or a hedge row; but they are hollow, and the vine-like branches and tendrils are taught to grow so as to picture to the eye, in fine proportions, the design of the artist.


1      Hickok, Rev. H.  "Visit to the Fati Gardens" (The Ladies' Repository: a monthly periodical, devoted to literature, arts, and religion, Volume 9, Issue: 4, Apr 1849), pg. 111

See also Abel, Livingstone, Tiffany, and Sirr.

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