Saturday, September 29, 2012

Postcard from Japan: Medals Day at the Gardening World Cup

Sometimes I can't quite believe my luck. This week I get to spend in Nagasaki, Japan, visiting the Japanese version of the Chelsea Flower Show.

A peek into the little paradise that is 'Eye to Eye', the winning garden by Lim in Chong
The Gardening World Cup, held in the slightly incongruous setting of a Dutch theme park (of which I hope more later: it is bizarreness in a class of its own) takes place over 10 days and as the name would suggest it's a competition, between eleven garden designers invited from all over the world.

You enter the garden through a barren space stabbed with shards of rusted metal like shrapnel
Among them this year are our very own Jo Thompson, of Doris the Chelsea caravan fame, and Richard Miers, usually to be seen designing the likes of 15-acre gardens in Surrey and landscaping the grounds of Grade I listed houses and the like but this year dabbling in the show gardens game for a change.
 
The journey ends when you step through the last eye gate and into a tranquil haven of bubbling water and gentle flowers
The standard is incredibly high. There are leading designers here from the US, New Zealand, South Africa, Malaysia, Korea and of course Japan, all at the top of their game. Today we found out the medals, and also the winner of the coveted title of 'Best in Show' (that particular gong comes with a 1 million yen prize cheque - over £8000).
One day I would like the kind of garden you can pave with blue-and-white Islamic tiles
(and the climate to go with it, please)
The winning garden, Eye to Eye' by Lim in Chong from Malaysia (known to everyone as 'Inch'), took the theme of 'World Peace' to heart.

It's a garden of two halves, in which you make a journey through 'eye' gates across a barren space filled with monumental rocks like gravestones. Everything here is sharp and uncomfortable: the colours are black and white and grey, and the path is of jagged rusted metal shards, raised unevenly so you pick your way gingerly across them. Two stone 'Tourou' lanterns are Malaysian symbols of death, lighting the way for the spirits of the dead.

This was a garden of all the senses: the bubbling star pool in the centre is a gentle backdrop of sound
There's a mirrored sliding door set into the framework of the second eye gate. Closed, you're trapped, shut into the harsh, conflict-ridden world of war. But it opens to reveal the second part of the garden: a classic Islamic enclosed courtyard full of flowers and running water.
The planting was charming, but very English to my eye... but look at that strappy pandanus behind
This is as much of a contrast with what went before as it's possible to have. It's a moving, beautiful space where I just wanted to sit for hours. A raised star-shaped pool at the centre bubbles quietly: the floor is tiled with white-and-blue ceramic, and there are exquisite little touches like the pool of floating rose-madder flowers off to one side. Latticework windows allow you to look in from outside.
Other corners were unmistakeably oriental
The cool shade inside is a welcome refuge from the searing Japanese sun (it's 25°C and humid here, and the sunlight is dazzling: sorry, I realise this won't go down well with British readers, but if it makes you feel better there's a typhoon forecast for Sunday). The planting is in soft pastels, and oddly English in feel: cosmos and roses are everywhere. They're unusual exotics here, of course: you have to 'read' gardens differently on the other side of the world.
And this was a particular favouite: the buds, set along the length of the stems, are claret-red, too
It's saved from cottage garden twee-ness by a cluster of gingers in the corner, a sumptuous cream abutilon with a blood-red eye, and what looked to me like variegated pandanus grass (we have no indication of plant names here so you're stuck with my hit-and-miss plant identification skills, I'm afraid). I thought it a breathtaking garden, thoughtfully constructed and lovingly planted. It's about time we saw more of Inch in the UK, I'd say. This is the kind of garden design excellence we can all learn from.

4 comments:

Diana of Elephants Eye said...

went to Google South Africa's entry.

The Constant Gardener said...

it's one of the best ones here Diana - I'm hoping to post some photos in the next day or two. Really spectacular planting and so detailed: David Davidson has done a fabulous job!

Diana of Elephants Eye said...

thanks, I'll be back! Could only find the project sketch, not any actual photos of the completed version, on Google.

Arabella Sock said...

I can't believe I have only just read all your Japanese posts. A marvellous tour around the Gardening World Cup!

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