Turning Japanese

“No rain, no flowers. ” ― Haruki Murakami

For the most part, April has, to date, more or less continued the cool and intermittent wet weather of its predecessor (see April weather log). Even so, there’s been time enough to plant all the Acer trees and a selection of shrubs, thus the character of the top garden is now becoming distinctly Japanesque.

Firstly though it was necessary to test the soil and given the notable seams of clay here, it was no surprise that the PH registered as neutral to moderate alkaline, with some traces of acidity towards the woodland.

Clay soils hold nutrients bound to the clay minerals and also a high proportion of water and so drain slowly as well as take longer to warm up in spring. The particles tend to clod together and hence create heavier soil.

For 20+ years, the Japanese maples grew up in pots of JI#2 and two of them now have their roots in the earth. However, they do prefer to be planted in slightly more acid soil and since Acer Seiryu is growing alongside other acid lovers (Pieris japonica, Azalea Irohayama) in the Japanese woodland bed, I shall have to start adding suitable soil acidifiers including elemental garden sulphur, as well as coffee grounds, organic mulches and leaf mould.

Acer Sei_ryu in the he Japanese woodland bed

A PH soil change is a slow process and meanwhile any reduced availability of phosphorus, iron and manganese in less acid soils will probably lead to lime-induced chlorosis (yellowing leaves) requiring a remedy of chelated iron. Feeding with an ericaceous plant tonic will also add these vital minerals.

I’m pleased to say that all three shrubbery beds (‘First‘, ‘Second‘ and ‘Far sight‘) of the top garden are now almost complete in terms of structure and include evergreens alongside deciduous plants that will provide flower, foliage and scent across the seasons.

A square lattice trellis now frames the ‘Far Sight‘ bed, screening it off from the greenhouse behind. I’m planning to grow a semi-evergreen Japanese clematis (Alba Plena) over it as companion for the Chinese jasmine nudiflorum just planted here.

Preparing the ‘Far Sight‘ bed for Acer Trompenburg

Into this bed I’ve placed a few large stones as backdrop for two deciduous Spirea japonicas (Halward’s Silver & Shirobana) as well as making a front edge to separate off the future gravelled surface. The red leaved Acer Trompenburg is the centre piece here.

A number of plants are to remain in containers – to be moved in and out of focus according to the seasons. Just putting their snouts above the soil, the Japanese hostas; ‘Katsuragawa Beni’, longipes f. hypoglauca, Hosta ‘Ki Ren Jyaku. are growing in the shadow of the Teahouse gazebo, adjacent to my qigong paved platform. The enormous Empress Wu hosta desperately required dividing (half given to Builder Buddy as token thanks for his further work on the Teahouse). That hosta is now sharing a large square container with the white forsythia.

Although still a work in progress, the garden is what I’d hoped for back in the Autumn of 2020 when I first considered this overgrown, dilapidated plot as somewhere for my plants (and me) to put down roots!

A scrolling view of the Japanese garden in April:

3 thoughts on “Turning Japanese

  1. I love all your careful planning and patience before putting in plants. I have less patience and planning in me.

    1. this is the first time I’ve really planned any planting Donna – perhaps because starting from scratch. And through the long dark days of winter I needed to do something so researching plants helped with the cabin fever

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