East meets West
Thursday, 31 January 2019 | Alison
East meets West
Japan … a land far, far away. Serene, controlled, precise, rich in colour and organised are all words that I think of when it comes to thoughts of gardens in Japan as well as bonsai, pillar-box red humped bridges spanning reflective pools, colourful Koi-carp, pagodas, raked gravel and azaleas.
We all probably have a different image that springs to mind and encapsulates how we imagine a Japanese garden to be. It could be on a rather grand scale of the remote looking and much photographed beautiful snow-capped Mount Fuji. Others may think of the extraordinary fluffy pink spring blossom cherry trees of Kyoto. Some may think of a contemplative sculpted Zen garden consisting of a rock and a topiary plant with gravel raked into a precision design.
Well, there is much more to Japanese gardens than meets the eye and a new two-part series Japanese Gardens with Monty Don, to be shown in February on BBC2, will give a more in depth look at the traditions and minute details of Japanese gardens.
Japan may be almost 6000 miles away from the UK, but its plant influences in our gardens are everywhere to be seen, much more than we may realise. Many shrubs, trees and perennials that we have in our gardens today, originated from Japan when plant hunters were exploring the globe in the 16th and 17th p, centuries and returning with exotic looking plants but it wasn’t until the great Japan-British Exhibition in 1910 that we as a nation became enthralled with anything and everything Japanese: - furnishings, art, and of course, gardens.
Take a look in your own garden and I bet that you have a plant or two that have their origins in Japan. Azalea, Acer, Japanese Anemone, Camellia, Wisteria are some which spring to mind and which domestic garden or municipal park hasn’t got at least one wonderful, enduring Hydrangea?
However, we do not all have space for neatly raked gravelled areas with a carefully placed rock, an immaculate topiary tree and a small lake! Actually, I rather wish I did, but the next best thing is to visit gardens open to the public that have a Japanese inspired garden. These Japanese gardens can give inspiration if you are thinking of creating your own stone and gravel Zen area or you can just admire the aesthetically pleasing and relaxing areas that have been created, some many years ago, originally for the wealthy owners and their guests but that we can all experience and enjoy today. Don’t forget to make sure you take the time for a cup of tea (a very Japanese pastime) and a piece of cake (a very English pastime).
Gardens in the UK to visit that have beautiful Japanese inspired areas incorporated into their gardens are Tatton Park, Cheshire, Biddulph Grange, Staffordshire, Compton Acres, Dorset, The Japanese Garden, St Mawgan, Cornwall, The Japanese Garden at Cowden Castle, Scotland and The National Botanic Garden of Wales, Carmarthenshire. Look online for RHS (Royal Horticultural Society) or National Trust to find further gardens that are open in your area.
Some gardens are open all year round, others from the spring onwards so in the meantime get your cup of tea ready to watch the Japanese Gardens with Monty on the telly soon and ……… relax, breathe, contemplate and enjoy.