Japanese Gardens and the Japanese Garden at Tatton Park -
an illustrated talk by Sam Youd, Head of Gardens at Tatton Park, 11.11.2013
We were treated to a very entertaining and interesting talk about the origins of Japanese gardens, from China, through Korea, into Japan, then to Tatton, up to the present day.
A thousand years or more ago, the Chinese people began digging up trees that grew in the mountains, like the pines, left, and brought them down and planted them on trays. These were the first 'penjing' and were arranged in gardens as trees in a landscape. Rocks were important in the gardens as the mountains represented ancestors in Zen Buddhism, and the rocks and trees took on the same significance.
As the idea spread from China, across Korea and into Japan, during the rise of the shogun warriors, the gardens took on different features and trees in pots were called bonsai in Japan. At the end of the 19th century, Europeans and Americans were keen to trade with Japan, just as the Japanese came to realise that it would be beneficial for them to trade with the west.
By the turn of the 19th century, British people, such as the architect, Joseph Conder, were becoming interested in Japanese gardens. Conder wrote books and illustrated them with plans of gardens and features, such as the tea garden and lantern, right. Joseph Conder's architectural drawings were detailed. but it all came to life for the British public when they saw paintings and descriptions in books illustrated by Ella Du Cane and described by her sister Florence, with wisteria, azaleas, maples, pines and rocks, lanterns, waiting areas, tea houses, fish and cranes, see below. Cranes were important as they were considered to mate for life, a good attribute. Some of the features were Japanese, but others were Chinese or Korean.
The Japan-British Exhibition of 1910 at White City, London, featured gardens inside the building, with landscapes painted on the walls. These captured the imagination of British landowners. Alan de Tatton Egerton, the 3rd Earl, ordered a Japanese garden to be built at Tatton. A team came from Japan with all the materials to build the garden.
In later years, after Lord Egerton's death, the Japanese gardens were neglected and many features were removed. The National Trust took over Tatton Park, but was unable to fund major refurbishment until, by a stroke of luck in 2000, funding was found and refurbishment began, over the wettest winter in years - and then it snowed! A team of three, two men and a young woman, came from Japan to supervise the work.
The 4th Lord Egerton, who was unable to follow his passion for big game hunting in Africa during WW2, oversaw the gardens at Tatton and introduced many azalea plants.
The gardens were opened on time in spring 2001, after battling to get a gift of koi carp from Japan through red tape and safely into the water the night before!
Tatton through the seasons
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