August 9, 2006

GARDEN TRENDS: Hello Japan 1

The Samurai Orchid, Neofinetia falcata

Gardening and collecting plants is an experiencce which is so deeply personal to each of us, often rooted just between you, and the plant, it's an intimate experience which others gererally don't understand. As an American who both travels and gardens far more than the average Yankee green thumb, I find the combination of other cultures and thier gardening enthusiasm stimulating, not only because it is new to me, but because it appears to be unexploited by others and have been overlooked by garden writers.

Asia continues to lead the trend in Gardening as it does with other trends like desig, no culture has both affected the art of gardening and at the same time be as un exploited as the Japanese have.

Think about it. When you think of Japan and gardening, what do you think of? Most likely, bonsai, followed closely bt Japanese gardens with thier minimalist design and raked sand pools. A few may add Japanese maples and the wealth of plant material that originated from the horticulturally rich island of Japan. But what if I told you that this represents, what I believe, might be just 10$ of what Japan can contribute to the rest of the world? Seriously, within the shores of this island , is an amazing undicovered hprtifulturall secret just waiting to be exploited by someone.

Dendrobium moniliforme
This secret is more of a phenomenon that has been kept within the borders of Japan simply because no other culture could, or perhaps woudl ever understand it. Which still may unfortunately be the case since the relationship between Japan and its plants involves a complex blend of religion (Shinto and its reverence of nature), political history (the inflluence of the Edo period) and modern factors (crowded cities). Combine this with the fact that the over-all culture of Japan defies most western definitions with it's oxymoronic reality of a language and culture which alienates others and keeps the country an exotic anomooy, along with unmatched modernity and technology that leads others on our planet.

I think alot about why the gardening world has avoided this world of Japan, its people and the plants that they grow. My guess is that it might be too difficult to explain. Overwhelming, really. I'm not kidding, here's an example. This is a culture that can take a single plant, like Morning Glories, a planat that Amaricans plant on lightposts and on chainlink fences as a fast growing summer annual. What do you think of when someome tells you that they have planted morning glories? Most gardeners think of sky blue. That color that only morning glories can deliver, others might remember nostagic memories of thier grandmothers, and others might think of weeds, since the genus also can be terribly pesty in some areas.

OK, to be fair to even us plant geeks, Morning Glories might bring connections between other collectable rare plants in the genus.

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