While my father was here earlier this year we visited an incredible private garden. The children had a day off at a field trip so I took the opportunity to take my mother there and unlike last time I went and unlike at the temple in the last post this time the highlight was being able to talk to the couple who have actually made the garden. My children often complain that I talk with complete strangers too much, but I always think that finding out about the reasons behind different things and asking questions about things makes it a much more meaningful experience and of course helps out when guiding people the next time!
The couple behind this garden are a really nice couple - the husband designed the garden while he was still working as a teacher and worked with the professionals to get the garden underway. He did the basic plans but left all the minor details to the professionals (he commented that you would insult them if you directed them too specifically!). All the rocks are sourced from within about a 400m radius and the garden was started about 40 years ago. Now that he is retired he spends 365 days in the garden and works his way around it trimming one variety of plant at a time. I asked him if he found it stressful to HAVE to do it everyday in order to make it work, but he commented that he saw it as a form of exercise and that if he got to the stage where it was a chore then he would not keep going. I commented on the fact that I really enjoy the garden as it starts off very formal, but then just seems to meld into the natural environment. It looks so effortless, but as he pointed out that is actually something that they have worked really hard to create and seemed to be grateful that we had picked up on this feeling.
My favorite tidbit of information that I gained about the garden was regarding the largest rock in the garden (I can't remember how many tonnes he said it was...) that is actually in the original position. There is a small pine "tree" growing out of the top of it and when I asked about it the gardener pointed to the large cedar trees at the back and told me that he planted them about 40 years ago. They are huge! He then came back to talking about the pine tree and said that it is probably over 100 years old. He remembers it when he used to play games in the garden when he was a small boy. It is never trimmed, never fertilized and somehow it survives - literally growing out of a huge slab of rock.
Talking with the owner gave me even more appreciation for the effort which has gone into this garden and made me want to go back again for another chat! The wife was apologetic about not bringing us tea - considering we were invading their private space I hardly think it was necessary, but she was a typical Japanese lady who had just harvested zillions of chillies and felt bad that she couldn't spend more time with us. Perhaps next time it will be her turn for a chat.