Posted in garden design

It’s All in A Name

“The East is wiser than the West, for it finds the essence of all things grounded in the psyche.” Carl Jung

July 2021 and the potted garden has now moved from its Yorkshire courtyard to more permanent Derbyshire roots. Other than locale, it looks almost the same since all the plants are being temporarily housed on a front raised platform. Many will abide here until some progress has been made with the back garden restructure. This will take several weeks (with the eventual design completed many, many months later).

The Front Garden in a Pot!

This frontage has room for a herb potagerie by the entrance door whilst the dais will house an Occidental plant collection. It will be much more colourful than the muted Japanese style of the back garden, and will give a pleasing contrast when passing through the garden gate.

Set within a woodland garden clearing, the back garden is a blank canvas, awaiting a major design transformation. Easy to say, but doing it is quite another matter! For this area has been neglected and deserted long enough for a wilding to take hold.

There is a small glasshouse that needs mending whilst the raised lawn area has turned into a meadow (now strimmed to an untidy haircut.)

Wild back garden rockery!

Beyond the lawn, a Heath Robinson sloping rockery is home to nettle, bramble and bracken with some past plantings putting in a vague reminder of more cultivated times.

Why do you want a Japanese garden?” asked my daughter the other day and the answer is simply that with age, I’ve come to like best that aesthetic sense of Serenity, Grace and Beauty in one harmonious design.

On my one and only trip to the Chelsea Flower Show many moons ago, I aimed straight for the English courtyard garden designed by a Japanese woman. Alas, I cannot recall her name but the simplicity she brought to the design has stuck with me. I’m effectively doing the same as her, but in reverse. Sort of re-orienting the Orient.

I don’t believe that Westerners can fully grasp the Japanese zeitgeist but we can emulate. Hence, by using the adjectival suffix ‘esque’, I’m aiming for something reminiscent. Thus my old style ‘Garden in a Pot’ is morphing into ‘My Japanesque Garden’. Watch this space!

Posted in plant pieces

Hydrangeas – the ‘Change Roses’.

Sunny June, the month most closely associated with the garden’s sunbathing divas and just as our English roses are budding, not far behind them are those plants that prefer quite different conditions. They are of course the hydrangeas, (from the Greek water vessel or ‘hydria’ which seemingly resembles the seed pods). Whatever the derived association, hydrangeas are renowned water guzzlers and abide in semi- shade. (And this latter part of June has provided such conditions!)

Plant hunted from China and Japan in the 17th century, their needs are well met there for June-July is the rainy season

“Many Japanese consider Ajisai (紫陽花, or hydrangea) to be the quintessential flower of this season, as they look just right when wet, and enshrouded in mistTsukublog

Since the Japanese name derives from ‘a gathering of blues’, the native soils must be acidic as well as rich in aluminium ions, the magic combination that turns most of the common varieties of pink/red hydrangeas to the blue spectrum. Whereas in my previous London garden of alkaline soil, all the H. macrophyllas, including the tiny florets of ‘White Wave’, were pinkalicious!

Potted in JI#3, H. macrophylla ‘apple blossom’ 2nd generation 07/20

Since I had previously gardened in shade, hydrangeas were an obvious plant choice, although the London soil was rather too well-drained and they quite often gasped in summer. However, the wet/dryish care they received is probably better than constant superficial watering as it encouraged the roots to reach further down, which is beneficial to these large, top-heavy shrubs.

I brought two cuttings with me from that garden in 2019 and both have flourished. The H. macrophylla I’d first picked up from a roadside plant sale as a cutting which the gardener had labelled ‘apple blossom‘ though no such name officially exists. It was no bigger then than this third generation one (striving to flower now despite its diminutive size) but the large leaf is a clue to its eventual size!

H. macrophylla ‘apple blossom’ cutting

The other cutting that I brought is actually a faux hydrangea – Schizophragma hydrangeoides ‘Moonlight‘, a climbing liana from the woodlands of Japan with bracts and infertile flowers similar to a lacecap hydrangea. It is a slow grower initially, but will eventually reach over 30 feet. For now it is a potted juvenile and flowering for the first time.

My current favourite hydrangea is a bi-coloured serrata – ‘Kiyosumi. More compact, hardier and with remarkable leaf colour in both Spring and Autumn. Serratas inhabit the mountain regions of Japan, and I’d like to collect more for my next garden in the Derbyshire heights. These hydrangeas have the added benefit of being edible as the leaves make a sweet tea called ama-cha, 甘茶.

I am forever grateful to the plant hunters who brought us these wonderful plants, and their history is entwined with romance too.

For Westerners, hydrangea can be seen as a symbol of silent devotion, as its scientific name, otaksa, appears to refer to Otaki-San, a woman from Nagasaki’s pleasure quarter, who was the mistress of the German naturalist P.F. von Siebold, who went on to introduce ajisai to Europe“. Tsukublog

Further Reading:
History of Hydrangeas in Europe
Hydrangea Colour & PH