The Japanese Garden in Cornwall combines the beauty of nature with an artistic refinement using shaping & styling of plants & natural elements. Japanese Gardens traditionally strive for perfection & balance, using a combination of man-made & natural elements. A garden that is over sculpted & styled loses it’s natural beauty & becomes uncomfortably artificial; by contrast a garden left to run wild becomes over-grown, losing the beauty of form & shape. There is a fine-line between these concepts & it requires a great deal of contemplation & attention to detail to achieve the correct balance; a little to far either side & something very special may be lost.
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When would you like to see the garden? Check out pictures from each season:
Viewing Points are a significant feature of the Japanese Garden and Robert planned each of these with meticulous care. Whether obvious or subtle in form they elicit a response in the viewer that is at once personal and universal. The careful placement of plants, trees, rocks and ornaments to attract ones attention and provoke reflection, or to obscure a view and excite ones curiosity and desire to see what lies beyond, demonstrate the skill and artistry of the design. Twists and turns in the pathways are employed to make one pause and view an area, tree, rock or ornament from a particular angle and yet, like the water garden which may be viewed and enjoyed from a variety of situations, feel natural rather than contrived.
Many of the features commonly associated with traditional Japanese gardens are to be found in and around the water garden area, including the shishi-odoshi [deer scarer], stone lanterns, tsukubai [water basin], bonsai and, of course, the waterfalls, ponds, bridges, islands and Teahouse. The bonsai, a Japanese Larch forest planted on a large slate slab, can be glimpsed through an archway formed by the interlaced branches of a pair of blossoming cherries [Mount Fuji] near the exit from the garden.
Rocks, plants and water are the unifying elements in Nature and are therefore of paramount importance. Rock reflects strength, stability and endurance. The placement of these and other stones in the garden enhances the feeling of safety and security one needs in order to relax. One of these huge stones lies at the base of the waterfall, others were placed close to the edges of the pond or were used in the formation of the maple-topped mountain, whilst a select few were chosen for the Zen garden.
Water reflects the sky and the sound of running water stimulates our awareness of being alive, of being connected to the universe. In this calm yet vital environment we are able to examine our inner feelings and understand them. Our senses offer a gateway to our inner being. As the pathways interconnect so the streams flow above and below ground, disappearing in one place to reappear further along, and the dry riverbeds of summer glisten and run during the wetter periods.
Waterfalls have long been revered in Japan; according to the 11th century Sakuteiki scrolls the Buddhist deity Acala declared that any waterfall over one metre high represented his body. Our main waterfall tumbles down beside the balcony of the Teahouse, which does not serve refreshments but was built to represent the traditional Cha-Seki wherein the Chanoyu [tea ceremony] would be performed in Japan.
The diversity of plants that we are able to grow in this sheltered valley bottom offers a rich visual experience: perhaps the most stunning of these are the Japanese maples with their graceful forms and spectacular colour changes from spring to autumns end. Planted singly, as seen gently overhanging the waters edge, or in forest groups, as on the central mountain and beside the Zen garden, the sight of these trees invariably provokes a sudden intake of breath. They are to us truly awe-inspiring in their beauty and to date we have planted over 120 named varieties of Acer palmatum, plus others chosen for their forms and coloration.
Azaleas and rhododendrons are frequently found in Japanese gardens, and given our rich peaty soil were a natural choice for us. We were thrilled to acquire a large number of mature specimens, aged between 30 and 50 years old, including early and late-flowering varieties giving wonderful splashes of vibrant colour to the garden over an extended period. Together with the existing old trees, which were incorporated into the design, these plants foster an atmosphere one usually experiences in an old established garden. One particular variety, Rhododendron luteum, selected for its highly perfumed bright-yellow flowers, is planted in abundance on either side of a narrow, stepped path leading to a viewing spot. Taking this path during its brief but powerfully fragrant flowering period provides an experience guaranteed to linger in the memory long after.
In contrast, dark, sharp-needled pines, glossy leaved camellias, prostrate conifers and elegant fastigiate yew trees are planted in accordance with the concept of wholeness- In and Yo. In Japanese garden design the harmony and unity of positive [male] energy with negative [female] energy is demonstrated through the balance of asymmetry exemplified in Nature, as opposed to the symmetrical concept of balance generally held in the West. Observation provokes reflection, hence the juxtaposition of opposites to create harmony not conflict; hard and soft [rock & foliage], dark and light, horizontal and vertical lines, and the use of complementary textures [pine needles & delicate maple leaves].
Fences marking the edge of the garden or separating areas within are another important feature in the Japanese garden and several examples can be seen here. The Itabei [plank wall] employed to face the boundary wall at the front of the garden, composed of solid wood and bamboo, and the Yotsume-Gake [lattice or four-eyed fence] on the left as one enters the garden, a popular type of bamboo fence with spaces between the poles bound together with black cord knotted in one of the numerous traditional Japanese styles.
The Torii Gate, a sacred Shinto structure and traditional symbol of Japan, was chosen for the entrance to the garden as it denotes that the space beyond is both pure and revered. On the ground a pace inside the gateway we have placed the Chiriana [dust hole], where one may dispose of mental dust/rubbish, such as selfish desires, before embarking on ones journey round the garden. Winding paths lead from the entrance past the water garden to other hidden areas, and the element of mystery created reflects the mystery of the universe which we may contemplate whilst walking or sitting in one of the seating areas placed around the garden. This journey is a physical and sensory experience. Our eyes follow the stone paths, our ears hear the sound of our footsteps on the gravel and we feel connected to the earth. The canopy provided by the old willows creates an enclosed, sheltered, protected space in which we feel comfortable and relaxed.
Every garden reflects the individual artistic style, taste and temperament of the designer, and we are content to let the visitor decide whether or not we have remained true to the essential spirit of the Japanese garden: an artistic expression of the essence of Nature wherein the tranquil beauty of the natural world is drawn upon to create an oasis of special calm and serenity.