Japanese gardens can teach us small-space gardeners a lot of things, topiary, sizing bushes, using maximum impact in a small space. And yet, I cannot bring myself to love Japanese-style gardens: they are too rigorous. Too perfect. They are lovely to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live with one. The moss must be perfect. The hedge trimmed in a perfect wave. I just want to lie down when I think about it.
Nonetheless, I have visited a good number of Japanese-style gardens in my time- oddly, even though I have been to Japan twice (briefly) I never visited a native Japanese garden.
My favorite things about these gardens are the use of everyday materials in unusual ways.
I have never seen bamboo pruned like this. It was very cool. I am certain that I wouldn’t/couldn’t do this for my hedge problem- but if I did! (This was also in the San Francisco Japanese Tea Garden- worth a visit, even at $5 a person.)
I also admire the use of color- that isn’t in flowers: leaves, bark, groundcovers. Don’t get me wrong, I love flowers, but purple-leaved maples, perfectly pruned silvery evergreens, bright chartreuse bushes (was that an evergreen? I don’t remember.)
I also respect the pruning. Neat. Thoughtful. Clearly done frequently.
The Tea Garden in San Francisco is a great example of this. But it is not the only one. Chicago Botanic Garden has a great one too: my favorite part, the island.
Oh- my hand aches to look at this.
Back in San Francisco, I couldn’t resist the azaleas (another no-no in my limey soil):
As overly fussy as these gardens can be, understanding them may be akin to modern artists learning how to paint portraits and still lifes: once you know the technique, then you can be wild and crazy Picasso/flamboyant English Garden style. Although it certainly wouldn’t hurt for me to be a bit more disciplined in the garden, it is probably the least disciplined part of my life, I think I’ll keep it that way.