The wonderfully talented Michael Perry is back with an update on his recent travels to Japan, which inspired him to put together a quick tour of gardening styles around the world. Read on for fantastic inspiration and don’t forget to follow him on Facebook and Instagram.
How are you all doing? It’s been a few weeks since I’ve seen you, but I’ve been working away in Japan, lecturing at an English gardening school. The Japanese love to learn about our gardening styles, and the Barakura gardening school is great, they even serve fish and chips for lunch! I posted a whole album of Japan photos to my Facebook page recently , and my followers loved seeing what Japan is really like. It is most of what you might imagine, and a bit more…!
When the gardening and plant show season dies down in the autumn and winter, I usually have a little more time available in my schedule. That’s when I go off and do my favourite hobby: discovering plants and gardens in other countries! Talk about a busman’s holiday! This autumn, I’m set to spend quite a bit of time in Asia and have a few cool plans. Anyway, in celebration of my ‘plant hunter’ tendencies, this month I’m going to show you a few pictures from some of my travels. I hope you enjoy seeing how people in other countries do their gardens!
Despite wanting to learn about English gardening styles, I’ve learnt so much from the Japanese over the years and how they grow so creatively in containers. The Japanese have a preference for delicate-looking plants with intricate details.
When planting up their containers, they really over-plant them. The intention is that the container looks A-class straight away, it’s almost like flower arranging with real plants. There isn’t an expectation for the container to last months and months either, as they’ll replace the contents every 4-5 weeks anyways. It really allows you a lot of freedom with the plants that you choose and how you mix shrubs with annuals with perennials.
Here’s a few photos of some creations we have made together:
But, what about Japanese gardens? Are they how we imagine, all bonsai and raked gravel? The answer is ‘some, but not all’. You’ll indeed often see coiffeured trees and shrubs around larger family houses, but remember there isn’t much space in the city and those gardens are often doorstep collections of potted plants. That said, they are often laid out neatly and well cared for, I call them ‘little plant families’! Another popular method of planting is ‘screening’, which isn’t just for privacy, but also to keep homes cool during hot summer months!
Like in Tokyo, Chinese homes often struggle for space, so plants aren’t a common sight. However, you will see communal plants in many alleyways, often the plants we’d regard as houseplants.
However, ‘urban greeting’ is certainly going well in China, with many cities clothing many structural surfaces with plants. Living walls, planted columns, plant beds in the central reservations on motorways. They really put the UK to shame with the amount of greenery being planted into city centres, and even inside railway stations. In the South, the climate is of course more favourable, allowing a range of colourful tropical plants, such as Bougainvillea and Hibiscus. Tapestry planting schemes are popular too, and may often include Marigolds, against more avant-garde choices such as Gomphrena or Coleus (which are growing in popularity here in the UK again)
3. New York
I’ve also been lucky enough to spend quite a bit of time in New York, and know my way around pretty well. Although, as anyone knows, The High Line has been a godsend for the city, neatly shoehorned horticulture amongst the busy streets. The disused tram way snakes along the West side of Manhattan, and gives visitors a few kilometres of traffic-free, serene New York. It is extremely popular and well-designed so it looks ace in every season!
New York is actually well-planted in municipal areas too, with the plant of choice often being the humble Begonia. The humid streets are a natural fit for leafy Begonias, Coleus and Canna. Most street trees have small flower beds around them, stuffed with colour.
I actually trekked four days across the mountains in India, and saw some unique little gardens, as well as tea and coffee plantations. The climate is so favourable to grow tropical plants, although you’ll see an English rose or two as well! People are also growing a lot of vegetables for their own use, and herbs and spices such as cardamom and ginger.
I had one particular ‘fan-girl’ moment when we stopped at a fuel station and I spotted one of my favourite plants in their flower border, Etlingera!
Switching US states to the deep South, let’s talk about Floridian gardening for our last country. You guys may know that I was presenting on HSN in the USA for a couple of seasons, and loved being in the Tampa area. I was so ENVIOUS of the climate and plants that every day gardeners could grow in their own yards. Imagine all those plants you admire on your holidays… well, if you’re living in Florida, they’re in your back garden, and growing like weeds!
The streets of Florida are often shaded by the magnificent Banyan Trees too, complete with their dangling aerial roots. You’ll also see plenty of Spanish Moss (a type of air plant) dangling from trees and telecom wires! Some other regular sights in Tampa are Stag Horn Ferns in hanging baskets, huge Frangipani trees and sheets of Trachelospermum lining avenues! Oh, what a climate to garden in, although monsoon season must be tough to deal with!
Keep following my travels by following me on Instagram too!