10(?) Gardens in 18 months // Where Have I been? // Multiple House Moves // A New Job // Back to Japan
Adventuring again makes it sound a little like I haven’t been doing any adventuring since my last post. I have- in fact, I’ve been doing A LOT of adventuring- but like all lapsed bloggers, I have intended and failed to write about it every day until suddenly it’s more than a year since my last post. At some point in the hot, sticky Pennsylvania summer of 2016, the pressures on my day, my brain and many other things got rather too much, and writing had to fall by the wayside. There are many stories to tell about the intervening period but time (and public decency) won’t allow it, so here is a short summary of my key movements:
Since July last year, I spent a further month working at Longwood until I finished my time as a TRIAD fellow, then returned to the UK and to my job at beautiful Bodnant. A few weeks after that I was temporarily seconded to Sissinghurst to fill in for the Assistant Head Gardener whilst she was away, before returning to Bodnant after Christmas. I was there a few more months before being offered a new job as a Senior Gardener back at Hidcote. I started at Hidcote in the spring, where I will stay still for the foreseeable future (or at least until my feet get itchy again). I’m sure you can imagine all of that involved rather a lot of house-moving, packing, unpacking and related tedious activities, but those are the bits that are quickly forgotten. It has been an incredible journey to land where I am now: tough at times, but never boring and always a delicious challenge. It’s hard to focus on how much I’ve learnt, where I’ve been and all the wonderful people I’ve met in the last two years: I only know that managed to work in over 10 gardens across three countries in less than 18 months! I’m very grateful for all I’ve been given, and only need now to remember how to stay still for a little bit.
Actually, I’m not staying still at all: I’m heading back to Japan next Thursday! Which is what has given me the required kick up the arse to start blogging again. I have been lucky enough to have been awarded funding from the Merlin Trust, the RHS, the NT and the Japanese Garden Society to travel back to Japan to attend the Japanese Garden Intensive Seminar. This is a two week programme run by Kyoto University of Art and Design’s Research Centre for Japanese Garden Art and Historical Heritage. The schedule is packed and very varied, but it is essentially an in-depth introduction to the traditional Japanese Garden, including history, design theory, landscape ecology, and practical elements. Whilst I’m out in Japan, I’m also taking the opportunity to visit Kiseki no Hoshi, see lots of gardens and travel to Nikko National Park to see some wild plants and the autumn colour. I will try to take the time to blog and instagram about it all!
I am super excited to go back to Japan, as anyone that has read my previous blogs or has seen me for more than a second in the last year will easily guess. My time in Japan as a TRIAD Fellow did nothing but increase my interest in the Japanese garden from curious to obsessive and I’m now focused on learning as much as I can. I’d like to gain knowledge, gain technique and incorporate the skills and techniques of Japanese garden arts into my Western horticultural practice. I hope it’ll make me a better gardener and might lead to some exciting new ideas… Or even, one day, a job in Japan… But one thing at a time: I’ll have to sort out my atrocious Japanese language skills first! So: this trip might be the first step towards a new destination but whatever happens, it’ll certainly be an adventure.