From what I understand the garden was first established in the 1600’s. It was a private garden belonging to a Japanese Lord and was first opened to the public in 1874. However the garden was only designated as a National Site of Scenic Beauty as recently as 1922, and a National Site of Special Scenic Beauty as recently as 1985 which put it in the top 3 in Japan, and deservedly so.
I’ve been inspired in many ways by the Japanese approach to gardening which I first came to appreciate when I visited Japan for the first time back in 1990. The first thing you notice is that the Japanese are meticulous in their attention to detail and no effort is spared when it comes to maintaining things of beauty, even sweeping moss off the pebbles on the floor of a meandering stream (as pictured below).
I’ve tried to incorporate into my own garden the various ideas I’ve gleaned from my observations in Japan.
These are a few of the fundamental observations I’ve made of Japanese gardens:
1. They pay special attention to detail when trimming hedges and pruning trees. They’re not afraid of severe pruning where necessary. Even towering pine trees do not escape the attention of the meticulous Japanese gardener.
2. They make sure that all the gardens features are clearly defined including trees, shrubs, pathways, and other landscaping features, including water features and garden ornaments.
3. They make good use of a variety of materials including stone, brick, and timber - even bamboo and ceramic tiles.
4. They keep the design of any landscaping elements as simple as possible.
5. They make the best possible use of every last inch of space.
This is the second time I’ve visited the Kenrokuen garden. Last time I visited was springtime 18 years ago so there was a lot more colour and flowers to be seen compared to this Autumn visit. But even without the blooms and the colours there was beauty to be found in the rich tapestry of form, texture and the majestic vistas they produce, even if only in various shades of green.
Last time we came here my daughter was only 5 years old. She doesn’t remember our visit all those years ago so it was a completely new experience for her this time, which she thoroughly enjoyed. I’ve been hoping my love of gardening will rub off on her eventually.