Local Gardening Inquiries for 2019 …

A few thoughts from reflecting upon
inquiries that were received last year …

My meishi – (business card) …

When thinking of a Japanese Garden,
the image that (evidently) comes to the minds
of “Western” people generally, is of a red footbridge
surmounting a stream, next to a stone statue
of some description.  That is a tragedy …

an ishidorou may supplement a garden –
but if that is the predominant feature
in a visitor’s memory,
then something is woefully wrong.

つぼにわ (tsuboniwa) … The Small Garden

The key principle to appreciating the intricacy
of Japanese gardens, is to recognise
that the Japanese Garden represents a section
of the natural world, depicted on a smaller scale.

Much of this is accomplished by using perspective
within a relatively small space:

placing several larger rocks in the front of a planting bed
with smaller rocks being positioned to the rear conveys
– to the artistically minded, the impression of distance
as it would be seen in a grand landscape.

Another illusion, is to create a sense of depth
by ‘hiding’ an object, path, plant, or sculpture
behind, perhaps, a shrub or hedge …

which piques the curiosity of the viewer,
and makes them want to venture forward
and around the immediate shrub or hedge,
to see what lies behind and beyond.

Items in the Japanese garden are arranged
asymmetrically. Rather than one dominant item
flanked by two others, an off-centre arrangement
creates a sense of movement (rather than static display)
which draws the attention of the garden visitor
to the entire group as a whole.

Attention to detail in the Japanese Garden
is such that it is planted and arranged
so as to be of visual interest in winter,
as well as summer.

Care is taken to ensure that rocks placed
in the garden are not just set down on the soil,
but are placed into carefully pre-dug ‘hollows’
whose bases are then filled and the soil pressed down
to give the feeling that the rock has lain in the ground
on that particular spot, for a very long time.

Again: attention to detail –

taking great care to make the artificial garden
look entirely ‘natural’.

Trees and shrubs are carefully trimmed ( niwaki )
to display the shape of the tree form itself:
it is not merely the foliage that is of interest,
but the shape of the trunk and branches
that actually form the tree.

Planting young trees, for instance, at a slight angle
will – due to geotropism – form an asymmetrical trunk
as the canted tree again begins to grow vertically,
towards the sky.

While placing odd-numbered groups of perennials
creates a pleasing appearance if done properly,
the Japanese garden offers more –
intriguing the thoughtful mind, as well as
pleasing the appreciative eye.

The Garden is a haven from a world that has discarded
every last trace of courtesy, consideration,
conscience, or moral discernment,
and whilst multitudes may have little interest
in a quiet, serene, and peaceful setting,

it is precisely this characteristic of the garden
that makes it appealing to an ever-dwindling remnant.

While the traditional Japanese garden
may not be awash with flowers,
that does not mean that yours must be likewise:

the use of perspective and meticulous attention to detail
may be equally employed into the Rose garden,
Perennial garden, or indeed, any bespoke garden.

The man who taught and inspired me:

friend, mentor, and grandpa, John Hall
at work in the Botanic Gardens, Belfast c.1960.

A kind and extremely gentle man,
I never once saw him leave the house
without his gold watch in his waistcoat pocket,
or New Testament in the inner pocket of his jacket.

He never ceased stressing the importance of
caring for soil, or showing kindness to any animal
that found its way into the garden.

Whilst I have no memories of his beginning
to teach me from the age of three,
I do remember my first “professional” garden work
at the age of 7, clearing any stones from the beds
outside the Tropical House …
for which the foreman paid me sixpence.

He taught me to compose the garden
with an artist’s eye: Foliage and Flowers –
deep shades of green from which the reds, oranges,
blues, and purples of carefully-placed flowers
stand out as though lit by a spotlight …

I think of him every time I smell the aroma
of rich, friable soil.

One aspect of inquiries that did recur last year,
is worth clarifying here:

I am a gardener: a man who makes homes for plants,
for people who genuinely admire plants,
and appreciate the various animals who are attracted to a garden.
If you consider the area around your house as a “yard”,
or want an outdoor “entertainment area”,
I am probably not the man for whom you seek.

I do Not use machines when working in gardens.

I neither own ‘technology’ in our home,
nor use it in my work. Wheelbarrow, spade, rake, and
a selection of Japanese hand-tools are the only equipment
to supplement eye, mind, hands, and feet.

I am simply a Traditional Man,
doing Traditional Work,
using Traditional Skills.

Whether forming a large garden, tea garden,
or a ‘pocket garden’ on a high-rise balcony,

This is the work that I love.

P Livingstone
March, 2019

Author: Mr Livingstone


One thought on “Local Gardening Inquiries for 2019 …”

  1. Glorious photos – thank you … Perhaps you, more than most, will appreciate the following – Lord willing.

    Songs 2:1

    I am The Rose of Sharon, and The Lily of the Valleys.

    Jesus calls Himself first, “the Rose of Sharon,” and then, “the Lily of the Valleys.” Let us consider what He means.

    I. THE ROSE OF SHARON. Of all the flowers that God has made, the Rose, take it all in all, is the loveliest and the sweetest. It has three things in perfection — shape, colour, and fragrance. Indeed, we may call it the queen of flowers. Now, it is in its sweetness especially that the rose reminds me of the Lord Jesus Christ. His character was marked not only by manliness, but also with what we may call “sweetness,” for he had all the firmness of a man and all the tenderness of a woman.

    I will give you another reason for the comparison of Christ to a rose. The rose is the most common as well as the most beautiful of all the flowers. You find it wherever you go, — in all countries and in all places. In fact, it is the universal flower: it belongs to everybody. And in this respect it resembles Christ, for Christ is the common property of all — of the peasant as well as of the prince; of poor as well as of rich; of the child as well as of the full-grown man. He belongs to all nations, too — to the dwellers in north and south and east and west; arid there is no one, whatever he may be, or wherever he lives, who cannot say, “The Lord Jesus Christ is my Saviour, and I claim Him as my own.”

    II. But the Saviour calls Himself in the text THE LILY OF THE VALLEYS, and we have now to consider what this second title is intended to teach us. Supposing that “the Lily of the Valleys” is the flower which we know by that name — you all remember how graceful it is, with pretty little white bells ranged in a row on a tapering stalk, and how it appears to hide itself modestly under the shade of its broad green leaves. Now, why is it thus chosen? Partly because the lily is of a beautiful white colour, and represents purity. And you know how pure the Lord Jesus Christ was. Never at any time did He think, or say, or do anything that was wrong. As a child, as a boy, as a man, He was absolutely free from fault. But the lily of the valley — because it has a drooping head, and retires behind the shade of its broad green leaves, instead of thrusting itself forward — may be taken as an emblem of lowliness or humility, and so will serve to remind us of the Lord Jesus Christ.

    III. We will try, in conclusion, to APPLY THE SUBJECT TO OURSELVES, So that we may be the better, by God’s blessing, for having talked about it and thought about it. We have the example of the Lord Jesus Christ proposed to us. He is perfect, and we can never hope to be perfect. But we may become, by the kind help of His Holy Spirit, more and more like Him every day.

    (G. Calthrop, M. A.)

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