The Nitobe Memorial Garden — one of the top five most authentic Japanese gardens outside of Japan — is best explored in a counter-clockwise fashion that follows the way of the moon, rather than the sun. It is said that one can walk through it as if making a symbolic journey through life — as life is experienced in the span of a day, or a week, or a year or a lifetime: beginning, growing, changing and ending. Photos: GRM
Our resident hummingbird (or so I hope) seduced by the “devil” itself, Crocosmia Lucifer, a fallen angel of a perennial with scarlet blooms on arching branches that bring an unmistakable tropical flair to the summer garden and tall, sword-shaped leaves that recalls the iris, one of the very few flowering plants that are raised as such in a Japanese garden. In fact, a famous garden in Kyoto, the Heian Jingu Shrine, is legendary for its profusion of irises in June. It’s a long story that began with a poem from back in 10th century Japan.
The crocosmia’s blossoms are equally breathtaking in summer bouquets. The hummingbirds’ loss can be your dining room or foyer vase’s gain (Just make sure to have a broom handy nearby. Those tiny red angel blossoms do fall off with some regularity.) And by themselves, the clumps of striking upright leaves can provide great textural contrast to a variegated green landscape of small-leafed shrubs, miniature trees and grasses. In a mixed perennial setting, the flowers in bloom look good with coreopsis, yarrow or coneflowers.
“Gardens are a representation of our material world at its best, in contrast to the invisible, ideological worlds of nirvana, heaven, hell or cyberspace….We participate in more than just a pleasant garden scene; we participate in our own immortality.”- Foreword, Japanese Garden Design (Marc Peter Keane)
The banner image for this website, a panorama of the strolling pond garden at Vancouver BC’s Nitobe Memorial Garden, captures this very same sentiment through the prism of the Japanese as well as the Chinese gardening traditions. For it was the Taoists in China who first started seeking after immortality of the body while on earth (as opposed to the Christian idea of winning immortality for the soul in another dimension).
The turtle-shaped island in the garden refers to the turtle as a symbol of immortality, (It is said to live 10,000 years) and to the mystical idea of the Horai or the Land of the Immortals purportedly to be found somewhere in the Eastern seas. Banner image photo: GRM