I have never been to Japan, but have spent almost a year of my life roaming around the traditional landscape gardens of England, Scotland and Wales. I moved from one paradise on to another, again and again. The United Kingdom government is interested in accruing money for the National welfare, and know full well, the art of the Landscape Garden is the Kingdom’s most cherished art form…..financially, in numbers of visitors to these Edens, and historically the most cherished art form in nearly every non polar culture throughout recorded history.
Swipe a look or two at the Japanes version of their Edens…..their landscape garden art. The pictures I have reviewed are breath taking in their incredible displays and spiritual expressions……often in the simplest combinations of forms.
These two island ‘kingdoms’ have ideal climates for the best of the best of all art forms….the one most cherished…….the one closest to the ideal of paradise, the perfect harmony of the Earth, it’s Maker, and the human animal.
Both geographies can grow with ease the most beautiful of all delicate woody trees and shrubs…..above all the countless numbers of the laceleaf Japanese maples.
I wrote the following review of the art and craft of the landscape garden about 25 years ago, before my treks through the great gardens and countyside settings of this northern kingdom.
Please read the following essay. If you agree that no other art form is held in such esteem as the landscape garden art, WHY ARE AMERICANS SO DISDAINFUL TOWARD LANDSCAPING AS AN INDUSTRY?
Why are in our own Twin City area nearly no worthy grounds to visit at home or in public, where this art is developed to breath-taking perfection. There are occasional burps and blips, such as at the University’s Landscape Arboretum, but the primary purpose there is to raise funding, not to create beauty.
A long time ago I taught a course for many years through the University of Minnesota Extension Service called “Landscaping the Minnesota Home Grounds” which included a bus tour with each session. An assignment during the bus tours of various ‘landcaped’ neighborhoods, I asked students to record whether they thought the homeowner or a professional landscaper designed the home’s “Garden of Eden”. I selected the sites.
I won’t pass on to you the results….the same year after year after years. But travel for yourself through some of the more exemplary neighborhoods and draw your own conclusions. Be sure to do it NOW….as soon as possible, before we pass onto our landscape season called Spring.
Winter is Minnesota’s longest landscape season. It is as long a season as all three of the others combined……..
Please do read my essay about the art of the landscape garden:
“What is a Landscape Garden?
“The garden has long been perceived as the highest, most perfect form of all art creations, the one closest to God and bearing the imagery of paradise itself. Indeed, the timeless quote, “One is closest to God in the garden,” has been the splendid pleasure driving countless generations to transform the land into garden. No matter how pleasurable, how physically and spiritually rewarding working the vegetable garden and nurturing the home orchard may be, however, the paradise of gardening is the creation and maintenance of a landscape garden. This is the garden of art, the garden of soul.
A landscape garden is a plot of ground made beautiful by the arrangement and careful cultivation of plants. The art is called landscape gardening and its artist and cultivator a landscape gardener. Landscaping one’s home ground is the means by which most Minnesotans become acquainted with at least the fringes of the art of landscape gardening. When they dream of home it is a house in a setting, a setting of lovely trees and shrubs civilized with a carpet of lawn and an arrangement of beautiful flowers.
Landscape gardening is primarily a visual art form. Its beauty is first to be seen, but its purpose is to stimulate thought, to cause to dream, to effect memory, to inspire. The landscape garden is classically to be a place of quiet where the visitor, upon entering, finds a closer communion with the thoughts and feelings of all who have ever gardened this Earth than with the time and troubles of the day.
Although picturesque, the landscape garden is not a painting, it is a performance. Its artist is not a painter but a choreographer arranging not fixed colors and forms on a canvas, but directing exits and entrances of living members of Earth’s realm, plants bearing color and form, lines and textures which, especially in our northland, are constantly changing. Yesterday’s garden as yesterday’s ballet will never again be performed. Yet the skilled landscaper garden artist, by tailoring shrubs and trees to a particular style or by using annual flowers for sweeps of color, can slow change in the garden to give the impression of permanence.
The landscape garden is to be entered, as one enters a cathedral or library. In English literature one “retires” to or “withdraws” into the library, presumably to consult or escape with some thought, some dream, some memory, some inspiration in print. To aid withdrawal there must be border. The gardened place must be defined so the eye and mind cannot wander; so thoughts and dreams cannot be interrupted. With no borders the landscape garden is no garden at all, but a field.
The arrangement of plants is to the landscape gardener what the arrangement of chords is to the pianist. Although it is possible for a novice pianist to find a pleasing chord, one chord does not make a composition. Likewise, a novice gardener may plant a pleasing combination of flowers and shrubbery, but a landscape garden this does not make. “Composers” of the successful landscape garden know their plants. They know plants’ shapes and sizes and how these can be tailored to style. They know plant colors and textures and when and how they change. Garden artists know the sun and shadow of the garden and how to introduce or exclude either. They know plant preferences for shade, soil, and moisture. They gain their knowledge primarily from the experience of working with plants, from years of planting and replacing until the right combination suits the eye.
Not only must the successful landscape garden be designed and planted, it must be given time to mature. Gardens, like people, gain character with age. It may take years, decades before a landscape garden performs its best. Trees cannot yet be manufactured. And the garden must be groomed, regularly tended by caring, experienced hands, the hands of an artist, the hands of a worker. And even when all this is done well, what is achieved is an arrangement of living plants each and all subject to Nature’s mood and dictate, to stand or fall as Nature sees fit. A garden as planned is a garden never achieved.”
I wrote the above essay over twenty years ago when I was Executive Secretary of the Minnesota State Horticultural Society. It is also printed in the Home Page here at our website.