This section is from the book "The Gardener V3", by William Thomson. Also available from Amazon: The New Organic Grower: A Master's Manual of Tools and Techniques for the Home and Market Gardener.
Tokio, Nov. 14, 1872. Sir, - According to promise, I will continue my description of Su-mae-Yah. On entering the gateway of one of the gardens you generally come on a pretty little winding path leading up to the gardener's house, which is usually situated near the centre of the garden. On both sides of the walk specimens of the hardy ornamental trees of the country are planted, many of which are dwarfed or clipped into round table forms. The Yew (Taxus cuspidata) is one of the principal; but there are different species of Thujas, Petinosporas, and Pines duly represented. Plants cultivated in pots are usually placed near the gardener's house, or put under a shed of bamboo-work. He protects his tender plants in rooms, which are fitted with shelves, in the winter months. Glass-houses have not yet been built. Among these plants you will find the Cacti, Aloes, Fuchsia, etc.
Dwarf plants are greatly esteemed by the Japanese, and they are wonderfully clever in making miniature gardens. I have seen a porcelain flower-pot, 7 inches square by 3 inches in length, in which was actually growing two fir-trees, a fruit-tree, and a bamboo. The trees and plants generally chosen for dwarfing are Bamboos, Plum, Cherry, Pines, Junipers, and Thujas. I will endeavour to give your readers a description of the art of dwarfing trees, which I have learnt. It is one I always had a great interest in when in England; and finding the Japanese plan quite different from our English one, it will no doubt concern your readers. In the East the art of dwarfing trees is based upon one of the commonest principles of vegetable physiology. Their practice is perfectly correct, and would astonish some of our cleverest horticulturists. If they can, by the means they adopt, check or retard the flow of the sap in the trees, they prove that the formation of wood and leaves is likewise retarded. This they do by confining the roots in a small pot, withholding water, and training the branches into any design they wish. They generally bend the main stem into a zigzag form, which checks the flow of the sap, and forces the side branches out of the stem, where they are most required.
The pots in which they are planted are narrow and shallow, holding a very small quantity of soil, and only sufficient water is given to keep the plant alive. "When the new branches shoot they are tied down in various ways, and twisted into any design the gardener wishes. All the strong ones are cut off, and every means is adopted to discourage any young shoots possessing any degree of vigour. Nature, as a consequence, struggles against this mode of treatment for a time, until she quietly yields to the power of the gardener. Care is taken to prevent the roots getting through the pot into the ground, and also the supply of too much moisture; as, if it received moisture, the plant would recover its original vigour, and the endeavour of the gardener be frustrated. Plum-trees generally flower quickly by this treatment. I have in my drawing-room two specimens of Orange-trees, with at least forty oranges on, although neither of them is above two feet high. On a future occasion I will give your readers some account of the silk manufacture. - Yours truly, J. Tasker Foster.