So Japan. Many things to tell, but i will start with Kiseki no Hoshi. The gardens that will be my home for the next 4 months. Created on the site of land moved to form the man made island of the new Kansei international airport. There are many projects of land reclamation in Japan. In nearby kobe, Rokku island is one example of this. This is the second major artificial island in the Higashinada-ku area of kobe. The island was constructed from reclaimed land between 1973 and 1992 covering over 5.80 km². Viewing these islands from the mountains which overlook Kobe was staggering. The perfect geometry gives them away as man made. The scale is extraordinary, and the logistics of their creation baffling.
Above the conservatory, gardens begin with a patchwork tapestry of squares of individual plantings in a series of terraces. Then one moves into a promenade garden which mini gardens created within. The garden does have lovely views overlooking the coastline. The gardens are fairly dormant at the moment, so i look forward to seeing these as the spring brings them back to life later in the season.
Kiseki no hoshi represents a collection of the modern and traditional. Ikebana, bonsai, and a respect for nature through the Japanese belief of gods residing within nature itself are strong traditions with which to guide the modern plantings. The conservatory has strong principles of connecting people with nature. The conservatory does this well, thinking how the space can be used to these ends. The conservatory becomes a venue for wedding ceremonies, parties, and concerts. It is a showcase of ideas, particularly for the creation of green spaces in towns and urban areas. The garden has a strong team all working together to create a beautiful place, including the contribution of many volunteers.
The conservatory changes through the seasons. Currently the team is creating the special orchid exhibition focusing on fragrance and form. Showcasing a range of beautiful orchids including a ‘samurai’ exhibition, epiphytes, dracula species, and other very specialist plants. The Japan orchid society hold a contest here, and there is an orchid auction,
photography contest and banquet. This display follows the christmas flower show, decorated with 20000 plants, majoritively white. In autumn the awaji garden renaissance showcases traditional japanese culture and crafts and industries. A convention of sorts is held gathering landscape architects, bonsai masters, and plant breeders. Traditional garden plants are displayed amongst traditional artisan art and crafts.
The tropical flower show holds exhibitions and lectures to educate about the plants of the tropics, and has tours about night blooming and fragrance, tropical fruits, insectivores, and the gardens of the south islands. Summer welcomes a wedding flower show where white flowers and variegated plants are displayed.
The rose festival follows with 3000 roses selected from 300 varieties, introducing the origin, breeding, and culture of rose cultivation to the public. Spring hosts the hanami garden: a modern japanese garden, with lectures on wall planting, green art, and planting design. The conservatory has wonderful energy with the changing displays throughout the year. Focusing on how new plant materials and cultivation techniques that can be used in the future of landscape architecture, with particular emphasis on the increasing role of urban environments in the way people live, and how nature resides within these spaces.
So it has been a busy few weeks already. We arrive in the beginnings of the changeover to the orchid display. The place bustles with energy and this style of show gardening is a wonderful thing to learn. Many things have struck me about the place. The pace of the change is phenomenal. Teamworking is strong and the luxuriance of the planting is stunning but cannot be achieved without a collective drive, and strong leadership from Tomoko herself. She laughs when called sensei, but she is undoubtedly a master at her craft.
Tomoko is a force of nature, and along with all members of the team, has been supportive, caring, and hospitable to name just a few virtues. Watching the team work is an education. The planting is stunning and although rigorously planned evolves organically and fluidly as the display moves from imagination to reality. The detail and precision is stunning, and very intensive, but watching it take shape makes one understand that this time is undoubtedly well spent for the result. The conservatory itself is a beautiful space in which to exhibit plants and gardens. For me the atrium is a wonder, looking down on the display with its glass backdrop from which the hillsides and ocean can be glimpsed is glorious.
The plants sourced are stunning. Seeing and smelling such wondrous orchids is amazing. With almost 30000 species, and over 100000 cultivated species allegedly, they are a varied group of plants, majoritively found in tropical environments, but have also colonised many other climates. The variety of form, colours and fragrance is astonishing, and they invite curiosity. Many are epiphytic, some lithophytic, and some terrestrial. The planting combinations are exquisite, and the sculptural and hard landscaping features are modern and showcase the plants in original ways. Plants are planted in many different places, making use of their epiphytic natures to layer plantings, and manipulate plants to suspend them in imaginative ways.
I was not sure where to start and i’m not sure where to end, but this seems a good place for now. Thank you again to all at the conservatory for such a warm welcome. I look forward to the coming months.