In Praise of Boldness / by William Cook

Portland Japanese Garden Seminar 1996

Years ago while attending a pine pruning seminar at the Portland Japanese Garden, the main presenter, a middle-aged man from Japan, took shears and saw in hand and began to remove large branches on a pine tree, often back to the main trunk. He used a translator to help explain his work during his live demonstration on several large balled and burlapped Japanese black pines.

Magic Fingers worked boldly

I remember thinking, “How does he know which branches to remove first?” and “What shape will the tree become?” Other group attendees were likewise struck by his expertise, confidence, and insight. There was no hesitation in his moves and he pruned until he was “complete” with that tree. Before our eyes he revealed an elegant beauty and grace from what initially appeared to be an unremarkable pine. As he finished, the group gasped at his boldness closely  followed by a communal sigh of pleasure! He amazed us all.

I wanted to be able to do that!

Beginning the process

Attending to details

What I’ve learned over my 40-some years of pine work is that what made that gardener great was his boldness. He knew how far to go, what the tree would tolerate, and that the reward was down the road in years to come. Being bold with the confidence I’ve received from years of practice, I find that each year I get better at reaching that goal.

As I get older I realize the time is now. I don’t have the time or energy to do work that isn’t necessary because I’m too timid. The point of aesthetic pruning is to remove all that isn’t necessary which unveils the tree's greatness. 

So, just get to the point!