A little piece of Ishiwari-zakura

Hooray – it was a dry weekend – at last. The ground has dried out a little and I managed to get out and do some gardening in pleasant weather. Ironically, some of the weekend was spent writing a feature on waterlilies for Landscape magazine, which was a reminder that, at some time, I need to tackle the ponds I dug 18 months ago and make a home for my waterlilies that are still waiting for their permanent home.

But it meant that the grass got its first cut of the year, I starting planting the hostas in the hazel garden and I planted the two replacement apple trees, and gave the others a prune to get better branching. I planted a short griselinia hedge and some of the roses got a prune but that has to be the next job – it is all-go!

But the most satisfying job was sorting and planting my trough. A friend generously gave me an old granite trough last year. It was a major job rolling it out of the trailer and it has perched on some timber ever since. As ever, it is not a complete job because it will stand in a paved area – which will not be paved for a while. But we managed to manoeuvre it, with the aid of a scaffold pole as a lever, and perch it on rocks so it will be a feature, raised well above the ground. Then I just had to plant it.

My idea is an homage to the Ishiwari-zakura, or Stone-Splitting Cherry Tree in Morioka, Japan. I am always hesitant of trying to do anything Japanese because everything is so symbolic and carefully done. Most Western attempts at Japanese gardening are poor imitations at best, simply because we do not understand. So, with necessary apologies, my idea was to plant a cherry among rocks. I found some rather angular rocks that I could place together to give the effect of the cherry tree splitting them and bought a Prunus incisa ‘Kojo-no-mai’ to plant. I would never be without one of these in the garden; it is such a wonderful plant, and it can be grown in a pot so it has a chance of surviving even though it is going to be tortured.

I covered the drainage hole with a piece of zinc gauze to prevent the soil running out and put in some bricks to support the rocks with a few other submerged rocks to support the upper rocks. I worked some soil into all the lower gaps and put the rocks in place. When I was ready I knocked the prunus out of the pot and started to shake and pick off the soil. I needed the smallest rootball possible and it became apparent that there were two cuttings in the pot. I managed to separate the two which gave me the potential to plant differently to my original plan.

With the rocks in place I squeezed the two plants into their places and then worked more compost in around them. I used John Innes No 3 compost, eeked out with some sand and recycled compost. Then it was watered and I will water every day for a while till I am sure the prunus has settled in because it has had some significant root damage. As soon as it leafs up I will remove a few branches and I will wire some too to try to shape it. I will not try to bonsai it but I do want to move it away from the rather upright stance it has at the moment.

Then I will pop in some saxifrages I have propagated for the purpose to cover the soil in the cracks and find something to go into the soil in the trough – I am thinking miniature hostas  but I am not sure yet.


The Ishiwari-zakura, or Stone-Splitting Cherry Tree, apparently took root in a small crack in a boulder and eventually split the boulder in half. It is still there and is said to be 400 years old which is a long life for a cherry tree.



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8 Comments on “A little piece of Ishiwari-zakura”

  1. Meriel
    March 23, 2020 at 6:37 pm #

    Long live Kojo-na-mai – and all of us at this awful time. Thank goodness for our gardens.

    • thebikinggardener
      March 24, 2020 at 2:31 pm #

      Indeed – and what a relief that the weather has improved at last so we can actually get out if we are lucky enough to have a garden

  2. digwithdorris
    March 23, 2020 at 8:00 pm #

    If it survives the split it will be glorious

  3. Paddy Tobin
    March 23, 2020 at 11:14 pm #

    Great trough!

    • thebikinggardener
      March 24, 2020 at 2:30 pm #

      Thank you – high praise indeed 🙂 I needed to do something special with it – a load of petunias would have been disprespectful

  4. tonytomeo
    March 25, 2020 at 7:13 pm #

    Goodness! My two elderly cherries that need to be cut down this year because they are so rotten are only about sixty years old. Most do not last that long here.

    • thebikinggardener
      March 28, 2020 at 8:58 am #

      I was surprised too – sixty years is a good life for a cherry

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