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Mondo grass discovery


Dear All,

It’s been ages since I managed to update you on proceedings at Shadowlands – for which I apologise profusely. We have been having extensive building work done on the downstairs, and a hot spring stone bath upstairs.

It is now deep winter of course, and little is happening in the garden really, but there have been a few interesting developments. The first is that my wife kindly bought me a thermostatically controlled propagator, which I have set up with special lights in the old boiler room (which has now had the boiler removed). It will be a great boon for getting a head start on the spring planting.

The second thing is that with daytime temperatures between 2 degrees and -2 degrees, the lawn I painstakingly started from scratch has now – how should I put it – gone ‘weird’. Basically like an ill-fitting toupee, the grass has frozen solid, but then been lifted about 8 inches by great constellations of ice bars (a very interesting phenomenon). So the lawn is a pitted Martian landscape. As well as the temperature, I imagine it is also to do with the release of gases deep underground which create air pockets which then fill with moisture and freeze. Whether it will return to something resembling a lawn in the spring will be interesting to see. I forecast a lot of flattening work and re-seeding with Japanese grass (remember I seeded it with Western grass). You live and learn.

On the plant front, some tree clearing and pruning work I did in mid-summer is bearing fruit because several of the tree Camellias (generally Japonica – some wild) are offering up some flowers (for the first time since we have had the property). As soon as the buds open I will photograph them for you all, which I hope will be of some interest. I am currently propagating some wild Camellias I found in the woods from cuttings. Yesterday, I entered an area of the garden I don’t usually poke around in, and to my delight found several clumps of what I presume is wild, and very black, ‘Mondo’ like grass (though seemingly with a narrower leaf). It’s a delightful discovery, on a par with the Gentians, Hostas, and Indian Pipe plants that I have found growing wild. Of course it is much too cold to move them or anything, but in the spring I will attempt to divide and multiple the small colony. Again, wonderfully native. I hope seeing it in its natural growing environment might be of some interest to growers of the plant in the alien climes of the UK and America.

I was going to take a snap of it for you all yesterday, but all has suddenly changed. About 12 inches of snow fell yesterday, and with us being so high up it is likely that we are now snowed in (garden wise) until it thaws in the spring, unless we have an unseasonably warm weather.

All the delicates have been winterised (the Rhodos have been wrapped in hessian), the Rosemary dug up and potted, the strawberries potted and darkened. A few weeks ago I was visiting relatives in Chiba and it so happened that there is a very large and famous rose nursery there. While not an ideal purchasing time, I bought two splendid (I hope) climbers: a fine peach coloured one (you will have to excuse me not naming it as the label is in Japanese and my horticultural Japanese is still limited) and a superb deep red single. Of course I’ve had to wrap them, keep them in their pots and store them in the pump room at about freezing, watering occasionally). In the spring they will come out and be put into two huge pots by the studio to ‘do their’ thing.

Before the snow I also started to outline the woodland path at the back with tree limbs left over from a rigorous pruning session. Next year will be a real turning point for the garden. Much of the stuff I put in this year will hopefully have a good foothold, and start to push on. One of the greatest challenges with gardening here, on the edge of the Volcano as I like to put it – has been scale. All the existing mature trees are so large, and the back drop of the mountains so majestic, that anything I plant seems to be dwarfed and insignificant. It is a problem that I think will only be solved by patience, careful planting, and visual tricks. My attempts to gradually lower the tree canopy have been successful at the back with that regard, but of course the rest of the forest behind which is not on my property still dominates a little too much (although it is a haven for very fascinating bird life).

When I get back from a trip to Tokyo I will upload all the most recent photos, which I hope you will all enjoy.

Kind regards,


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A most interesting blog. We all look forward to see your photographs. Its amazing the wide range of gardens the members have to deal with, their enthusiasm is most infectious.
Every encouragement to all.

15 Jan, 2013


Hi Ptaro, nice to hear from you, fascinating as usual....

But I have a deep envy of the hot springs sounds wonderful!

Looking forwards to the photo's

15 Jan, 2013


Thank you both for your kind comments. The hot springs are wonderful, but are so hot - 80c - that we either have to wait about 2 hours to cool, or else dilute with cold water. Actually, they use the hot 'onsen' water to melt the snow on the roads here, which is very effective. A few days ago, I watched fascinated from the window, as the leaf litter in the woods at the back kept moving. At first I thought it was a mole, then became convinced it was a mouse or something similar (we do have mole shrews here). I dashed out with a stick and poked around, but nothing. Eventually I realised it is the gases locked in the earth being released! Best, ptarotuos

15 Jan, 2013


What an incredible place to you say wonder what the grass will be like in the spring?

15 Jan, 2013


Look forward to your photos Ptaro, cannot imagine what twelve " of snow looks like, it must be winter wonderland. Although I think the snow sometimes is a blanket for some plants and keeps them tucked away from severe cold, have missed your blogs but this one is great and full of very exciting news. Take care now.

17 Jan, 2013

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