Japanese Garden Cowden – Summer Festival 2018

A biennial visit to the Japanese Garden Cowden seems to be becoming a Shades of Green habit.

I first toured the overgrown and neglected site in 2012 and in 2013 was delighted to hear that fundraising was being put in place for a phased restoration project that would eventually bring this magnificent Japanese stroll garden back to it’s former glory. Click the date links to see what the garden looked like in the early stages of the project (2014)  and two years later (2016).  This year the garden has opened to the public for the first time, initially via the Scotland Garden Scheme in June, and then for five days a week until the end of October. On the first weekend in September the garden hosted a well-attended Summer Festival, and these are some photographs of this event.
I was delighted to meet up with Professor Fukohara of Osaka University once again – I worked with him on another project in 2012 and 2013.  The Professor and his team are overseeing the restoration of the Japanese Garden Cowden and their attention to detail and the authenticity of the restored features is evident in all aspects of the garden.

A great deal of construction work and planting has been achieved since I last visited the garden and the next set of photos is entitled ‘Bridges Over Water’:

Restored yatsuhashi – zig zag bridge – to island; a rebuilt curved bridge leads from island to the north lakeside

Construction detail of new arched bridge

Small bridge over one of the water inlets to the main lake

Construction detail, and reflections of the sky above

Bridge at the west end of the lake, looking towards the curved bridge leading to the small island

As a garden designer, I am often attracted to the details and unique features within a garden and these are just a few to the things that caught my eye on this visit:

This lucky racoon figurine on the small island was donated to the garden by Professor Fukohara. The hat signifies that you will always have safety and shelter, the fat tummy indicates that you will never go hungry, the sake bottle in the left hand shows that you will always have plenty to drink and the accounting book in the right hand indicates that you will have plenty of wealth. Lots of good omens in one appealing stone critter!

The original lantern stones were reclaimed from the lake – where pieces are missing, substitutes are used

Bamboo screens on each side of the main gate

Niwaki pruning – opening up the framework of mature shrubs and trees to reveal views – one of my favourite garden maintenance techniques

Natural water basin – one of the lovely details in the garden

In addition to the delights of the garden, this weekend’s festival had other examples of Japanese arts on display. Being a student of Japanese and Chinese martial arts,  I was particularly attracted to these displays, but other visitors enjoyed learning about Japanese Calligraphy, Kimono tying and Ikebana (the art of Japanese flower arranging). These are some of the extra memories I have from this memorable day in Sha Raku En:

Japanese ladies in traditional dress enjoying the garden

Kyudo – the art of Japanese archery

Taiko drumming – centuries old folk art from Japan

Iaido – the art of Japanese swordmanship

And my last photo? It has to be Junya-san’s soukaido (Japanese work shoes) – brilliant!


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