Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Turning Japanese

While I have always looked upon the many 'sister city' arrangements struck between municipal authorities around the world as being mostly a great excuse for taxpayer-paid overseas junkets for councillors, every now and then you come across some tangible benefits for the poor old folks back home who didn't get the free, all-expenses-paid holiday.

Since the good councillors of Gosford on the NSW Central Coast have become pals with the excellent folk from Edogawa in Japan, one very good result has been the beautiful Japanese-style gardens built by the Japanese as a mark of their friendship with us likeable Aussies. As Pam and I were in the area last weekend, for the Florafest Garden festival, we dropped in to the Japanese gardens not only to admire the gardens, but also to visit the local regional art gallery and have a lazy lunch at its very good cafe.

These gardens aren't especially large, probably no more than an acre or two, but within the space they've followed the Japanese garden design tradition of creating a miniature landscape. It just seems like another world, complete with mountains, rivers, lakes, islands and forests. Such a wonderful idea.

This is a Shinden-style pavilion, from which you can both see and feed the many colourful koi carp swimming by in the lake (you can buy special koi food at the information counter). The cypress bridge was an irresistible lure for virtually all who entered the garden – they all made a bee-line for it.

Neatly clipped balls of buxus and other foliage plants are scattered all through the garden.

Teamed with other, more informal, clipped shapes, they create a sense of constant movement.

I think these are black pines, but whatever they are they've been clipped and trimmed to look a lot more ancient than their actual, relatively young age.

Raked stones, pebbles and boulders represent seas and islands. Apparently, these stones are local rocks sourced from nearby Peat's Ridge.

This is the Dragon's Tail Falls, and the springtime accompaniment of azaleas is very pretty. The Louisiana irises in the foreground will bloom, no doubt also very prettily, later on.

Cherry blossoms say 'spring' more delightfully than almost any other plant, but at the moment the garden is also filled with the rich colours of azaleas and wisteria in full dazzle mode. In summer it's the turn of the water lilies in the pond and the crepe myrtles near the tea house to add colour, and the many camellias to provide blooms in autumn and winter, and of course all the deciduous plants to do their thing in autumn (fall).

In the distance, next to the still-bare crepe myrtle, is the tea house, where no tea or other refreshments are served, apart from cooling shade and the restful benches on this very, very warm (30°C, or 86°F) spring day.

Gorgeous stone lanterns such as this Kotoji lantern are dotted here and there. This one is said to bring good luck and good fortune to young couples in love. The name Kotoji comes from its resemblance to the Japanese harp, the 'koto', says my brochure.

While the crepe myrtles are bare of leaves or flowers, in their current state their bark is a lovely thing to admire.

Next door to the crepe myrtles, this birch adds bark beauty with a completely different pattern.

So, if you're an Aussie garden lover, or even a visitor from overseas who somehow has become seriously lost north of Sydney and finds yourself in the city of Gosford, these gardens are a great spot to enjoy a truly gorgeous garden while recuperating over a pleasingly good lunch. Here's a link to the Gallery's website, which includes info on the cafe, gallery and garden.

Another lovely Japanese garden well worth visiting if you're ever in the area is the one at Cowra, in central-western NSW. Here's a link to it.


prue said...

That looks amazing. I remember visiting the Japanese Tea Gardens in San Fran and being totally blown away. I think it is high time I ventured into the more local one! Great photography too.

Green thumb said...

I agree with you fully that 'such sister city' arrangements are mostly for the free trips which councilors and their pompous spouses can enjoy. Thank God at least in your place some good has come out of it. The Japanese garden looks innovative.