"Dwarfing Plants in Japan" from Garden and Forest

       At a meeting of the nurserymen’s section of the Horticultural Congress, recently held at Chicago, Mr. Henry Izawa, gardener of the Imperial Japanese Commission to the Columbian Exposition, read a paper on some Japanese nursery practice, from which we make the following extracts:
       The art of dwarfing plants is so little known in other lands that a short description of its process is not out of place here.  The successful Japanese nurseryman must not only be a good grower, but he must also be an artist, conversant with the general arts and customs of his country, which differ very materially with those of any other country.  The Pines may be considered the most important of all trees in Japan, and great care is taken in their cultivation and preservation.  The most popular ones are Pinus densiflora, Pinus parviflora, and Pinus Thunbergii.  They are generally grown from seed, and great care is taken to select the choicest quality of seed.  In the spring of the second year, when the seedlings are about eight inches in height, they are staked with Bamboo-canes and tied with rice straw, the plants being bent in different desirable shapes.  In the next fall they are transplanted to a richer soil and are well fertilized.  In the following spring the plants are restaked and twisted and tied in fanciful forms.  This mode of treatment is given until the seventh year, when the trees will have assumed fairly large proportions, the branches being trained in graceful forms, and the foliage like small clouds of dense green.  The plants are now taken up and placed in pots one and a half feet in diameter, and are kept well watered every succeeding year; great care must be taken to keep new shoots pinched back.  After another three years of this treatment, the trees are virtually dwarfed, there being no visible growth thereafter.
       The dwarfing of Bamboo is another important branch of the Japanese nursery business.  A few weeks after the shoots begin to grow, and when the trunks measure about three inches in circumference and five feet in height, the bark is removed, piece by piece, from the joint.  After five weeks, when the plants get somewhat stout, the stem is bent and tied in.  After three months, when the side-shoots grow strong enough, they are all cut off five or six inches from the main trunk; they are then dug up and potted in sand.  Care should be taken not to use any fertilizer, but plenty of water should be given.  Cut off the large shoots every year, in May or June, and after three years the twigs and leaves will present admirable yellow and green tints.
       Dwarfed Thujas are produced by grafting.  Let a Thuya Lobbi seedling grow in fertile soil until it becomes about five feet in height, then in the middle of spring we cut off all the branches, leaving the trunk and top branch,  With a quarter-inch chisel a cut is made in the thickest portion of the trunk, an inch deep, at distances of two or three inch space, so that the trunk can be bent more easily in the desired direction.  Rice straw is twisted around the trunk, which is bent in many curious forms and fanciful shapes.  In the spring of the second year of this treatment the plants are potted in rich soil; in two years more, when the plants have assumed permanent forms, Thuya obtusa is grafted on the stem of T. Lobbi.
       The process of grafting is, in brief, as follows:  We give plenty of fertilizer to the plant of Thuya Lobbi, and, in early spring, take two-inch shoots of Thuya obtusa, cut the ends slantwise and insert them in the smaller portions of the Thuya Lobbi trunk, using one graft to every inch on the trunk.  We then wrap the grafts with rice straw and take them to a shaded, windless room with the temperature of thirty-five degrees Fahrenheit.  For three weeks the temperature is raised one or two degrees daily, and by that time a little breeze may be admitted; the temperature of the room is kept at sixty degrees for two weeks, and at seventy degrees for two weeks, and then leaves will start from the grafted twigs.  In the latter part of spring, when the temperature in and out-of-doors becomes uniform, the plants can be safely transferred to some shady position out-of-doors.  In the fall, when all the grafts have taken good hold, all the remaining shoots of Thuya Lobbi are cut off.  Transplant every year in good rich soil; six years will be sufficient to produce handsome specimens of dwarfed Thuyas.  All kinds of Conifers are treated in a similar manner.  There is also a great demand for curiosities in mixed grafted Conifers, that is, six or seven kinds of Conifers on one plant.
       Maples form one of the best materials for the artistic fancies of the Japanese graftsman.  Many times a great many different varieties are grafted on one stem.  Seedling Maples are spliced and tied together when growing.  After they have formed a union the desired shoot is cut off – this is kept up until ten or twenty varieties are obtained.  Maples thus grafted form lovely features for lawns, their varying hues and types of foliage enhancing each other's beauty.
       The æsthetic idea shows itself in every line of Japanese industry, and especially is it the case with our nursery and landscape gardeners.  The most inexperienced need not fear any difficulty in our mode of gardening if he but uses his mind and efforts in the right direction.  The skillful artist introduces into his miniature garden not regular geometrical forms, but anything odd, irregular and artistic.  To us gardening is not mathematics, but an art; hills, dales, rivulets, waterfalls, bridges, etc., vie with each other in presenting their quaintest forms and fancies and harmonious symmetries.  Dwarfed plants of all descriptions deck the scene here and there in thousands of peculiarly artistic shapes.  We derive lessons from nature and strive to imitate her as much as is practicable, although on a smaller scale. 1


1    "Dwarfing Plants in Japan," Garden and Forest, September 6, 1893, pg. 373.

Excerpts from the above -- the second half of the second paragraph and the last two paragraphs -- are also found in Ornamental shrubs for garden, lawn, and park planting by Lucius Daniel Davis (NY and London: G.P. Putnam's Sons; The Knickerbocker Press; 1899), pp. 48-50, under "ACER--Japanese Maples."

Per pg. 27 of Report of the Commissioners of Lincoln Park from January 1, 1893 to March 31, 1894 (Chicago: Donohue & Hennebery; 1894), Henry Izawa was paid $45.00 for "Plants" (Voucher #9304, Check #367).

The World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago, 1893 by Trumbull White and William Igleheart (Boston: John K. Hastings; 1893), pg. 200 contains the lines:
"Japan shows a number of the wonderful dwarf trees, oaks, pines and others, perfect in every detail, hundreds of years old, yet growing in small flower-pots and extending but a few feet in height.  The trunks are gnarled and rough as those of forest giants, and the effect produced is as if one were looking through the small end of a spy-glass toward one of our own American monsters."

"Old Japanese Tree, Horticultural Building" (pg. 199)

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