Thursday, January 5, 2012

Karikomi in The Hill Garden

Karikomi is a form of  abstract topiary practiced in Japan.  The creation of these "blobs" by pruning shrubs is a staple of Japanese garden design.  Karikomi are sculpted, traditionally from azaleas, into asymmetrical, organic shapes, never into perfect spheres as would be more common in European topiary.  The azalea is native to Japan just as Box and Yew, the staples of European topiary,  are native to Europe.  These two great traditions of garden design have both arisen from the use of local species, these native plants being clipped into complex formal compositions which reflect the local landscape.

We have begun experimenting in The Hill Garden with this style of pruning using our local species, Bursaria spinosa, commonly known as Black Thorn.  Bursaria is currently unpopular in cultivation and can be very invasive in disturbed or degraded agricultural land,  forming dense impenetrable thickets. This has occurred here, where Bursaria rapidly colonized the hillside after the removal of blackberry infestations which had previously dominated the area.  We have decided that clipped Bursaria may well be our equivalent to the clipped box and azalea of the Northern hemisphere. Interestingly a nineteenth century name for Bursaria spinosa was "Australian Native Box".

Here Peter Marshal uses mechanical hedge clippers to begin pruning the Bursaria hillside.  It will be fascinating to see how this hill of clipped Bursaria, our local version of Karikomi, develops over the next few seasons.  To see more about our work in The Hill Garden click here

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