Traditional snow protection in The Richard & Helen DeVos Japanese Garden

Dave Rettig, Horticulture Lead

As the snow blooms across the branches of the pines in Michigan, the winter beauty is matched by the threatening weight placed on the branches. This winter, we built our first Yukitsuri in The Richard & Helen DeVos Japanese Garden. The purpose of the Yukitsuri or “snow protection” is to hold up the branches of aesthetically pruned pines to prevent cracking and breaking under snow load.

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A Yukitsuri protecting the delicate branches of one of the pine trees in The Richard & Helen DeVos Japanese Garden.

In order to pay homage to the tradition, and create the marriage between form and  function, we reached out for some expert advice from Naoaki Donuma of Yoshoen Corporation in Niigata, Japan. We first met during the 2016 NAJGA conference at the Morikami Japanese Gardens and Museum. After spending the day touring the art museums and gardens of the area, we became fast friends and have been able to have an exchange on winter techniques in the Japanese garden. This project grew into a
culmination of the international and the local.

The bamboo pole was locally harvested at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park from the Lena Meijer Tropical Conservatory during the winter of 2018 and then dried for one year. Intricate and ornate ropework binds the bamboo to the pine. Together, the rope and bamboo function to protect the branches through the winter season and add a graceful signifier to the season of the garden. The respect paid to the natural materials of the Yukitsuri express not just a reverence for the materials used, but also a reverence for the nature and cycle of the season of the garden.

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