"How the Chinese Make Dwarf Trees" from Scientific American


      "How the Chinese Make Dwarf Trees" (1862):

       The following method of making dwarf trees is taken from the Scottish Farmer: --
       We have all known from childhood how the Chinese cramp their women's feet, and so manage to make them "keepers at home," but how they contrive to grow miniature pines and oaks in flower pots for half a century has always been much of a secret.  It is the product chiefly of skillful, long-continued root pruning.  They begin at the beginning.  Taking a young plant (say a seedling or cutting of a cedar), when only two or three inches high, they cut off its tap as soon as it has other rootlets enough to live upon, and replant it in a shallow earthen pot or pan.  The end of the tap root is generally made to rest on the bottom of the pan, or on a flat stone within it.  Alluvial clay is then put into the pot, much of it in bits the size of beans, and just enough in kind and quantity to furnish a scanty nourishment to the plant.  Water enough is given to keep it in growth, but not enough is given to excite a vigorous habit.  So, likewise, in the application of light and heat.  As the Chinese pride themselve [sic] also on the shape of their miniature trees, they use strings, wires and pegs, and various other mechanical contrivances, to promote symmetry of habit, or to fashion their pets into odd fancy figures.  Then, by the use of very shallow pots, the growth of the tap roots is out of the question; by the use of poor soil, and little of it, and little water, strong growth is prevented.  Then, too, the top and roots, being within easy reach of the gardener, are shortened by his pruning knife, or seared with his hot iron.  So the little tree, finding itself headed on every side, gives up the idea of a strong growth, asking only for life, and just growth enough to live and look well.  Accordingly, each new set of leaves become more and more stunted, the buds and rootlets are diminished in proportion, and at length a balance is established between every part of the tree, making it a dwarf in all respects.  In some kinds of trees this end is reached in three or four years; in others ten or fifteen years are necessary.  Such is fancy horticulture among the Celestials.


NOTES

1    Scientific American, New Series, Vol. 6, Issue 16, April 19, 1862, pg. 243.  Compare with the 1864 article.  What other journals or newspapers was this story reproduced in?



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