The ladder that gives you a step up!

It’s not often you hear someone saying a ladder has changed their life but in my case it’s true.

The Niwaki is described as the original Japanese tripod ladder and is recommended by gardening legend Cleve West as offering ‘incredible stability’.

It is a formidable beast of a ladder with its three legs and lightweight carry ability – making it a force to be reckoned with by any out of control shrub especially at one of my regular maintenance jobs.

One of which is Elderwood Place, a mature communal garden set in the grounds of a grade II listed former children’s home which dates back to 1810.

With its fantastic planting scheme Elderwood looks good in all seasons though it does have its challenges, mainly weeds and ivy (more to come on this later!).

Most importantly my new tripod ladder makes me feel safe and invincible as I scale the heights of the Georgian frontage at Elderwood to tackle the two seven metre high Garrya ellipticas (the silk tassel bush) when it requires a much needed haircut.

I have also used my new friend to shape a six metre high striking but spiky orange glowing Pyracantha or firethorn as it is also known which dominates The Green at Elderwood.

Back to the topic in hand – ladders. My eyes were opened to opportunities of the tripod ladder by topiary specialist James Crebbin-Bailey.

I met James on one of his topiary workshops, booking it after seeing his stand at the Chelsea Flower show.

This is where I got my first introduction to the ladder and the world of topiary which I believe is a must for any garden. It adds a touch of class as well as a being a lot of fun. I was the youngest on the all-women attended course led by James, whose cutting technique was developed in his early days as a hairdresser.

I didn’t know what to expect but it was very much like stepping on to a set of Tea with Mussolini complete with two eccentric well-heeled ladies- one with the mandatory foreign diplomatic service background and a German garden designer who ate so much I thought she was hollow!

I loved the course as I learned so much about topiary designs and the use of parterres.

Within a few days I had already brought up several ill shaped examples of buxus sempervirens which I have managed to craft in to a variety of designs though all bear a striking resembles to a range of thin and fat chickens!

Soon after my return from the course I acquired the Niwaki Tripod Ladder which has been a real success and only downside is that it is on the large size which makes it difficult to transport.

Niwaki means garden tree and is also a descriptive word for highly ‘sculpting trees’.  It’s also the name of the company where you can buy the Kyatatsu tripod ladders, fine pruning tools and other great gardening related stuff from Japan.

The tripod ladders range in price from £159 for a 1.2metre size to £319 to a 3.6metre size.

Niwaki Tripod Ladder:

James Crebbin-Bailey of Topiary Arts: