The Dwarfed Trees of Japan

The Springfield Republican

THE Japanese do many interesting and beautiful things with their hands, and one of their most interesting arts is the dwarfing of trees and plants. The method of doing this was a secret for centureis, but it is now known that it is done by a skilful and long course of pruning and regulation of nutrition. The Revue Scientifique says it is well known that the art of dwarfing the largest trees is part of the education of the Japanese upper classes—that it has its schools and celebrities. Young persons of fortune devote to it the time that our young women give to the piano, which shows a comprehension of the things of the artistic life quite different from ours. For the Japanese, in fact, the garden is the outside parlor; the parlor, the inside garden.

The skill of their gardeners consists not in making beautiful flowers simply grow and flourish. Their ambition is greater; trees grown in pots should recall by their appearance those that grow on the mountain-sides, on the edges of ravines, and, while remaining small, their majestic forms and original outlines must be preserved. The cultivation of these trees is a work both of time and patience. This dwarfing or, to speak more exactly, this atrophy of plants is the result of physiological causes which are themselves the consequence either of the processes of culture employed or of the environment of the plants. We must take account of these two influences at once in the formation of the lilliputian trees of Japan, for the Japanese climate plays a preponderant part in predisposing vegetation to remain dwarfed. Great altitude, dry heat, persistent cold, insufficiency of nourishment, cramping of the roots, lack of food in the youth of the plants, winds that bend or break the stem—these are some of the elements that determine the arrest of development of the plants that every one has observed in excursions to the mountains, among the rocks of the coast, and in arid places in general. "A conifer whose top is cut off is arrested for a time; if this operation is performed anew every time the tree begins to recover, the time of arrest will become longer and longer, and the tree will remain knotty, deformed, and dwarfed.'

The Lectures
May 9, 1903

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