Zen and the art of getting Leylandii into proportion

A FORMER Japanese monk has discovered the answer to true peace and harmony for warring neighbours across the land - the secret of Zen and the art of leylandii maintenance.

Buddha Maitreya, who gave up the monasteries of Tokyo for the English countryside 20 years ago, has proved that the right pruning can turn the scourge of the Home Counties into an attractive horticultural feature.

His discovery came by accident. Arriving in Britain, he decided a former pig farm would be perfect for meditation, and set about converting two acres. "I had no experience of gardening so I just planted everything because it was so bare," he said.

It was a couple of years before Maitreya discovered the irrepressible growing power of three of his trees - leylandii. He decided to do something about it and began hacking through the foliage to try to find the roots so he could cut them off. "I was exhausted so I went for a cup of tea. From a distance I looked back and I liked it."

What he saw were bare trunks stretching skyward with a clipped ornamental top. "It did not have a perfect round shape to start with - it took a few years. But now people like them," he said.

Maitreya, whose life work at the Pureland Meditation Centre and Japanese Garden at North Clifton, in Lincolnshire, is to teach peace of mind and self-awareness, may have inadvertently brought such harmony to Britain's warring neighbours. "There is a Zen saying, `Every day is a good day'. It means whatever the situation it can turn out to be good." But he warns that this can only be done with free- standing trees.

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