花鳥風月 (Kachou Fuugetsu) Literally: Flower, Bird, Wind, Moon. Meaning: Experience the beauties of nature, and in doing so learn about yourself.
This Japanese idiom is one I can personally relate to since starting my studies. In November, just over a month after my horticultural adventures led me to Tatton Park, a Royal Horticultural Society partner garden in rural Cheshire East. I have roamed this 1000-acre historic parkland for over a decade together with my family and two dogs (Tilly and Wilby). A deer park since 1290, rutting season delivers so much drama how could we resist, and the dogs LOVE it too.
It was Wednesday and lashing down with rain! Both the baby and I were going stir crazy. I grabbed my coat, pulled on my red Dr Martens and selfishly decided to head to Tatton Park Gardens (leaving the dogs in the kitchen).
Map in hand, I felt like a kid in a sweet shop: walled garden, pleasure grounds, glasshouse and Japanese garden (the must see). The idea of the baby waking up for a feed, outside, in the rain jolted me forwards through the huge red entrance door and straight into the walled orchard.
Wishing I would have visited in October during harvest for ‘apple day’, I pushed on past plum, cherry and pear trees in their numbers: Laxtons Satisfaction, Easter Beurre, Doyenne d’Ete to name but a few.
Desperately trying to recall the name given to trees that are trained to grow this way, I had reached the Wisteria tunnel.
Its stems twined artfully around the brick structure on which it is supported. Wisteria Floribunda ‘Lavender Lace’ and ‘Lipstick’ seems to have stuck to memory. I didn’t realise I had a streak of cottage gardener in me, I desperately wanted to steal the pods.
And there it came, eventually … espalier!
The herb beds and salad borders that tie this garden together were full of radish and sprouts, but were outshone by HUGE pumpkins! And chalkboard recipes of how to use all these wonderful veggies. What a good idea! I usually just throw my pumpkin in the pink bin afterwards (guilty as charged).
Stop the pram! Keswick has an apple tree – Keswick Codlin. Having got engaged in Keswick, Cumbria, I stood for a while getting lost in the view of Wallacrag. A visit is long overdue.
Mindful of the dark cloud looming and the amount of time I had already lingered, I pushed on past the rose garden, built for Lady Egerton (Alan de Tatton’s Egerton Wife). I wonder if the late David Austin visited this garden?! His work is ample here. I will be back when the sun is at its peak!
I couldn’t help but follow the giant yew topiary.
I had seen the plant name Taxus Baccata (yew) in my study books, but little did I know that it could be used to make a peacock!
Something of the Victorian times apparently. The topiary brought the little girl out in me, once again, having never seen anything like this before! My baby boy was awake now, and his little eyes were just as entranced as mine.
After all of that, there was more. The Broad Walk. A long gravel path connecting the bird, where I stood, to the Japanese gardens and the town of Knutsford, beyond that, a century ago.
Lined with Fagus sylvatica (Common Beech) in their autumnal coats.
Specimens from China such as Metasequoia glyptostroboides (Goldrush) appeared. Try saying that after a few sherbets!
Deep red species, Dawn Redwood. I wonder how they got these to the UK back then?
I had veered right following the tree labels as they switched from China to Japan … Must be getting closer.
And to my amusement, the palmate tree leaves began to match my coat.
The Japanese Garden.
I was expecting raked gravel but instead I was greeted by this informal tea garden!
The Japanese Garden Society (JGS) were quietly working away and so I walked around the garden perimeter, clearly identified by a bamboo fence (I am totally stealing this fence design for surrounding my home allotment) and hung around the high viewing platform.
It was strikingly evident that trees, artefacts and the placement of stone and natural resources were of the utmost importance. It was far from strict and disciplined, that I had naively expected. I began to mentally scribe my future garden, as opposed to looking back and reflecting, which is what this garden was actually intended for.
Well Done Alan de Tatton, you trendsetter you! The Japanese Garden Society, and the public, can relish in your creations for years to come!
All the essential elements of a Japanese garden came together creating this enchanting wonder. My heart felt as full as a box of Quality Street after Christmas (we only eat the green triangle and strawberry chocs).
The ‘you are here’ board thankfully described each of the elements and their meaning. I was able to begin to place where I was.
The plans for my own garden changed right there and then.
Since my adventure to Tatton gardens, I feel less anxious about transforming my garden instantly and I am satisfied that progress is slow. It gives me time to think and contemplate what I want from it: a place of tranquillity and to be at one with nature. Annnnnnd then I woke up! And realised I have two children, one of which loves to bellow while running around the garden utterly starkers, playing football. And also, two dogs that love bulldozing through the garden with birds and squirrels as their end goal! So that’s that one out of the window! Honestly though, I have genuinely changed my perception of gardening since my visit.
Shakkei – The journal of The Japanese Garden Society (available to JGS members only) was received in the post not long after my visit to Tatton Gardens. The society welcomes garden lovers, and the Chair of the North West regional group, did just that. The aim of the society is “to advance the education of the public in the conservation, cultivation and propagation of Japanese gardens through study, meetings, publications, lectures, shows, displays and visits to gardens.”
It won’t be long before February, when Monty Don OBE airs his two TV programmes from his third trip to Japan (thanks Gardeners World for the heads up). I am more aware now, in the winter of 2019,of the shape and shadows cast within my garden than before my trip to Tatton Park.
Happy New Year!
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