Spring has Sprung // Harugakita 春が来た

Conservatory Changeover // Pot or No Pot? // Girls Day // Cherry Blossom is Starting

Spring has come! At least inside Kiseki no Hoshi it has. Last week it suddenly got really warm and lovely: I turned my heating off, put my hot water bottle away and even looked up the Japanese for suncream. Yesterday, however, the temperature dropped and we had the most torrential rain all day. I felt like I was back in North Wales! Except if I was at Bodnant, I would be standing out in it all day, as the rain slowly soaked its way through my gloves, under my waterproof, into my National Trust fleece and up to my elbows. Don’t you just love that?

Well, whatever the weather’s doing, display changes must go on and this week we have been busy ripping out orchids to make way for the spring display. The conservatory was closed to visitors on Monday and Tuesday whilst major, messy work happened but the main show space was only finished this evening (Thursday) and we will be doing more alterations to the other rooms next week. So far, hard landscaping has been ripped up and re-laid, turf was removed and later re-laid, diggers have been in, and forklifts have brought in huge root-balled cherry trees, all over 15ft tall. A massive wall of moss has also been put up. I helped to make this wall, although not to put it in place!

The main show space is designed in a Japanese style for Spring but it doesn’t look like a traditional Japanese garden, since all of Tomoko-san’s designs are her own modern re-interpretations. Most obviously, the display (and all of the conservatory, actually), looks quite un-Japanese because it’s full of flowers! However, her inspiration stills comes from traditional Japanese culture. For example, we have planted strips and blocks of flowers in a design inspired by the patterns on traditional japanese fabrics. A lot of these are geometric patterns that look modern, but are actually really ancient. Fabrics made with shashiko 刺し子 embroidery and shibori dying, for example, look like they could have come straight from Ikea! I have spent most of this week watering, planting, adorning a HUGE kokedama and assisting Tomoko-san with the moss wall. Here are some pictures, although none from a totally finished state, I’m afraid…

In other news, I have finally discovered the answer to the question: pot, or no pot? This dilemma has been troubling me greatly. Often, plants are planted into the ground straight in their pots but they’re also often planted not in their pots. I could not figure out the system. Why is that Primula obconica in a pot over there, and why is this one planted straight in the ground? Why is this Epicattleya planted in a pot, but the Oncidium right next to it not? WHAT’S THE LOGIC?! Well, eventually it occurred to me to ask, and the answer is disappointingly banal and also insufficient to help me make pot-related decisions in the future. Bum. We plunge pots for the following reasons: the plant will be used again somewhere else later; the plant has to be slightly raised out of the ground in order to get the right height for the display; the plant is going to have to be changed regularly. And I think also sometimes when it’s just quicker and easier. So now I can make some educated guesses in my planting but I’m probably still going to have to check a lot.

*****

Last week it was a celebration day called Hina-matsuri // 雛祭り// Girls’ Day // Dolls Day. It is the 3rd March every year and it is a day to celebrate and pray for the health of daughters. It’s not a national holiday and it doesn’t seem to be a massive festival event (I was at work anyway) but it’s when you display your hina ningyo 雛人形. Most families with daughters have a set of these beautiful dolls which are traditionally displayed on a three-tiered stand, usually covered in a red cloth. The dolls represent an Emperor and Empress, a few courtesans and usually a range of accessories. We have a (non-traditional) display at Kiseki no Hoshi, which I helped to make a few weeks ago:

I saw a particularly nice collection of hina ningyo at the excellent Koyano Museum, which Tomoko-san took me to visit on Saturday. It was really good, you should definitely go, next time you happen to be in Hyogo (!). Although, I’m not sure how easy it is to get to by public transport because we drove: with me following Tomoko-san’s directions and occasionally reading them off the iPad on her lap when she fell asleep! It’s a private museum, belonging to an obsessive collector of general stuff. I love museums full of random stuff! If it was in the UK, it would be like one of those dark and dusty museums with faded interpretation panels from the 1980s and a little old lady accepting your entrance fee to see loads of old spinning wheels and tins and aprons and copper basins (I’m thinking of the Bodmin Town Museum, the Museum of Islay Life and the Ceredigion Museum to name a few of my favourites). Of course this is Japan so this collection is housed in a beautifully restored rich farmer’s house from the Edo Period, with the unusual features of a western-style wing and loads of secret rooms to escape from attackers. Currently, the display includes rooms of combs, hair pins, kimono, labels from sake bottles, toys, tools, kitchen equipment, books, artworks, furniture and most bizarrely: the shoes of a famous wrestler. Brilliant. Here are a few pictures…

Last but not least… BIG ANNOUNCEMENT: cherry blossom is starting to come out! Well, a little bit. Last week I went to have a walk around Akashi Kaiko Park, which is right next to Kiseki no Hoshi, part of the Yumebatai complex. They have a load of early flowering cherries, mostly Prunus lanessiana ‘Kawazu-zakura.’ Lovely. I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to photograph the birds that were filling the trees, darting around and snatching the nectar out of the blossom. I am not very good at birds in the UK, let alone Japanese birds, so I asked what they were called, wrote it down to tell SC… and now I can’t find the piece of paper. Sorry!

 

 

 

 

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