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Return to Shadowlands


Dear All,

After several busy weeks (and weekends) in Tokyo, including an interesting conference on Romanticism, I was able to finally get back to my beloved Shadowlands and see how everything is progressing.

Rather foolishly, like a labrador chasing a ball, I pranced out the front door at dawn and began strimming the undergrowth in short sleeves: paying the price with a rather nasty black fly bite that took its course, swelled alarmingly, required antihistamine’s and is now in a liminal state between recovery and relapse! But that’s small beer…

The important stuff is how the garden is gradually taking shape. It is still a constant battle between the life force that throes up a huge biomass seemingly daily, and the desire for the structural pieces to push on (which are, in a delicious irony, the slowest things to grow). I’ve decided to have a sort of wilderness area behind the beech hedge, in which I allow the hundreds of different wild flowers to grow on their own (with a few choice interventions), just mowing a path through it from time to time. Here the thistles (several of them beautiful variegated specimens) have, by seasonal succession, begun to replace the foxgloves, and by about September should cast their stately stems skywards and offer up their beautiful pink and purple blooms. I took my cue from the ‘Wild Garden’ in William Robinson’s The English Flower Garden, and the effect is quite pleasing. Here my wild gentians also abound in October. The beech hedge is still only a foot high, but pushing on well. Next year I hope it will be about 2 foot high and the following year, be a true screen for the fruit trees (which continue to frustrate).

Though I have not been at Shadowlands enough this year to make vegetable gardening in any great quantity possible, the peas have been a great success (see photo below), and I am anticipating a truly bumper crop next weekend. I managed to get about a dozen chrysanthemums in a few weeks ago, and they have also taken. I guess late September they will offer some sort of show. It is easy to procure the most extraordinary and extraordinary rare specimens here (the home of the chrysanthemum), but being a symbol of the dead (used for funerals and family shrines) it took some persuading to convince my wife that they enhance the gardener’s palette (and she could use them for the mini family shrine any time she wanted). Interestingly, here in Japan, several plants that have long fallen out of popularity in the UK are garden stalwarts, such as cineraria and salsify.

It is rainy season here, so the much needed weeding of the beds has had to wait (my little helpers, keen to earn a yen or two, wait not-so-patiently for the down pours to end!) But last Sunday it cleared enough to allow a small survey by the kids of the ferns growing over the massive rock boulders that define our garden. I’ve been doing some research on rock gardens in the UK (popularized by the Pulhams), and it is only very recently that the penny (or yen) dropped – I have rock-work on a scale that would rival any stately home in scale, and I ought, therefore, to be making better use of it! It all abounds with a cornucopia of different ferns and alpines, but I now I have plans to augment this by planting other fine hardy specimens. Please see my photos page for some fern snaps taken by the kids. Not shown, right in the furthest corner of the garden so wild that I seldom venture up there there is a massive patch of beautiful painted ferns. It seems ideal for a grotto, or some sort of Ruskinesque hovel.

A few weeks ago a friend visited from Australia, and I took her to the famous Edo garden at Koishikawa (Hongo, Tokyo). Although in the process of restoration the aquatic iris beds (think decorative paddy fields) were spectacular with all sorts of colorful tissues speared like marshmallows on great steeples of green. It made me realize that my own modest area of yellow irises is in dire need of work. The area, some 4 metres by two metres, is currently a mass of hundreds of corms, but this year only half a dozen have flowered. It is overcrowded. I have been thinking about digging them all out, sinking the low-lying area even more, and then planting it up with numerous different species. A pond is very tempting too, but the chrysanthemum victory is still too fresh to have any chance of pushing that one through! :)

Anyway, please see a few photos below, and many more added to my photos section.

May all your gardens continue to delight and flourish. ptarotuos

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Looks lovely.

25 Jun, 2014


How nice to hear from you again, after a long absence. Things seem to be coming along nicely in the garden. I can almost taste those garden peas, I love them raw, straight from the pod. As for Chrysanthemums I also grow one or two, just for variety in the garden, nothing more. Good luck with the grotto, I like the sound of that idea. :)

25 Jun, 2014


Hiya Ptaro, its so good to hear from you and know you and your family are all doing ok, your garden is looking good and I like the sound of your plans for the future, rock gardens, grotto's and fernery's are always popular and you are halfway there it seems, it did amuse me to hear you having to suggest your ideas in easy stages, often the best way, I know Chrysanths are used a lot in wreaths but I personally think they are gorgeous, so many to choose from and the blooms do last such a long time.
Its good to hear your children are still interested in sharing some of the gardening with you, even if they are doing it to earn some money, I always think they apppreciate it far more if they have worked for it themselves..
Off to look at your photo's Ptaro, take care and enjoy your gardening...

25 Jun, 2014


Nice to hear your progress report. You are never going to be short of something to do! I would like to see your fern area - those Japanese painted ones are on my wish list.

25 Jun, 2014


Looking at your pictures of Shadowlands reminds me of a line from a work of literature in the Romantic era:Theodore Storm's Immensee- "Here in the shady valley the wind forgets to blow..." I remember that Reinhard's favorite flower was the Erica.

26 Jun, 2014

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