This section is from the book "Commercial Gardening Vol1", by John Weathers (the Editor). Also available from Amazon: Commercial Gardening, A Practical & Scientific Treatise For Market Gardeners.
Of much interest is Iris Koempferi, which was introduced to this country from Japan in 1857, and attracted much attention when the large handsome and richly coloured flowers were first presented to public notice at the exhibitions, and began to make their appearance here and there in private gardens. For a time they failed to make the headway that was anticipated, and this was in a large measure due to the cultural details being then imperfectly understood. Many of those who planted this Iris in its varied forms failed to recognize the fact that to achieve success the roots must have the run of a rich and moist soil, an abundance of moisture being especially necessary during the season of growth. Hence large numbers were planted in beds or the mixed border, without reference to their special requirements in the matter of food or moisture. The growth was consequently unsatisfactory, and in course of time their cultivation was greatly reduced. Within the past few years there has been a great revival in the interest evinced in this and other of the Japanese Irises.
The lessons that the Japanese growers have been able to teach us have been taken to heart, and moist positions are selected for the moisture-loving Irises, and, if these cannot be provided, care is taken to maintain the soil in a thoroughly moist state throughout the whole period when the plants are in an actively growing state. The influence of the Iris gardens of Japan has been felt in many gardens of this country, and in not a few, large plantings have been made on the lake side and along the margin of pools, and constitute delightful features. These examples are of interest as showing that if we cannot have displays of Irises equal to those which have made the gardens of Hori-kiri famous, we can with their aid have in this country floral pictures of wondrous beauty.
Among the Japanese trees and shrubs that have been introduced but have not as yet been planted largely, mention may be made of Magnolia hypoleuca, which attains noble proportions, but does not produce its handsome flowers freely until it has attained a large size; the Japanese Horse-chestnut (aescuIus turbinata); the elegant Styrax japonicum; Betula Maximowiczi, a handsome Beech remarkable for its large leaves and yellow bark; Quercus acuta, Q. glabra latifolia, two Evergreen Oaks of merit. Then there is Daphniphyllum glaucescens, one of the most handsome of evergreen shrubs, and Vitis Thunbergi, which surpasses in brilliancy of colouring V. Coignetice, long so popular for clothing trellises, wall spaces, and tall pillars.
With a fuller knowledge of the distinctive characteristics of the many beautiful trees, shrubs, etc, that had been introduced from Japan, and the increased facilities for becoming acquainted with the various phases of garden design that had long found favour in that country, it is not surprising that a strong desire should have been felt by many owners of gardens within the British Isles to create gardens more or less in accordance with Japanese ideas. Practical expression has in numerous instances been given to this desire, and, as might have been expected, with varying results. Where the principles governing the making of gardens on the lines followed by the Japanese landscape gardeners have been acted upon as closely as circumstances would permit, the result has been a distinct, interesting, and pleasing addition to the pleasure grounds. On the other hand, where but scant attention was given to principles, the results have not been altogether satisfactory.
The Japanese garden, as we understand the term, is not a swamp, as suggested by some of the gardens that have come under our notice. Neither is it a lake surrounded by an irregular belt of trees and shrubs and a winding walk, with, it may be, a bridge or stepping stones to cross it at the narrowest part. The Japanese garden does not consist of one or two features, but of many, and one of the distinguishing characteristics of the Japanese landscape gardener is the skill with which he combines the features of, it may be, a whole countryside, in an area of quite moderate dimensions. Another attribute of his skill is the success that is achieved in maintaining the relative proportions of the several features, and also of the trees and shrubs with which the garden is embellished. In accomplishing this important object he has in many instances to use trees, ornaments, etc, of so small a size as to suggest to the Western mind that the garden is intended as a model on a reduced scale rather than for the enjoyment of the owner.
TWO VIEWS OF JAPANESE GARDENS ERECTED AT LONDON EXHIBITIONS.
(Jas. Carter & Co.).
The garden in Japan is regarded from a somewhat different standpoint from that which we consider it in this country. Here, to state the case generally, we provide a garden adapted to the requirements of the plants in which the owner is specially interested, with such embellishments as may be considered necessary; to the Japanese, plants primarily exist for the assistance they are able to render in the production of artistic effects, and are utilized accordingly. One of the principal rules governing the work of the landscape gardener in Japan is to follow nature as far as is practicable, and to arrange the arborescent and other forms of plant life in their natural associations. That is to say, plants which in a state of nature have their home on the mountain side are not to be brought down to those parts of the garden which represent the lowlands, and, it may be, used in the formation of a flowery fringe to running stream or silent pool. In like manner the plants that luxuriate in the moist conditions that obtain at the lakeside are not used in the clothing of the side of a hill or mimic mountain. The Japanese garden artist would appear to give ready adherence to this rule, for he can readily include in any given design the characteristic features of any given portion of the native landscape.