I feel a bit ashamed when I compare how many beautiful Japanese gardens, how many ingenious permaculture gardens I have visited , to how many I have created. Decades of visiting, of fantasizing, all over the planet.
Finally, with the help of Matt Shaw, my lush, charming mess of a front garden is now the bones, bare bones of a Japanese courtyard garden. Most plants have been removed, and the bushy umbrella of a weeping birch has been sensitively pruned to a shape that recalls the elegantly contorted poses of Japanese dancers. Matthew is an artist. Always choose artists.
Next step is creating a kind of masquerade party in plants: locating and planting edibles that will mimic the shape, evoke the spirit of traditional Japanese plants. Beautiful AND useful. Nobody has ever done this before, but somebody has to start. And with my epic capacity for failure (and getting up again), it may as well be me.
Please enjoy, and if possible, please add to this list of edible-beautifuls that can mimic Japanese traditional garden plants:
Replace Gunera (Monster fuki) with Rhubarb
Gunnera, or Onibuki gives instant structured greenery, and makes lovely cubbyhouses for small creatures. It could be replaced by delicious rhubarb. The fact that the burgundy stems of the rhubarb pick up the pretty colors of my paintwork and door is a fortunate coincidence. Japanese gardens strictly speaking should be green green green, revivifying and non-distracting.
The word Oni-buki is quite poetic. 'Oni' is 'ogre', suitable for this monster plant. Buki (Fuki) are the green stems that shoot up valiantly from the snow in early spring. If you want a resourceful, irrepressible little girl, you could name your daughter 'Fukiko'.
Replace clipped pine with clipped rosemary
Reasons for desiring pines are the Dr. Zeus's zaniness of the shapes they get clipped to, their comforting smell, and the green they bring to winter.
Rosemary will do the job, in miniature, just fine. I will just have to time the regular prunings to go with my Sunday roast lamb.
Edible Asparagus Asparagus Officinalis is a frothy misty plant that dies down in the autumn, and puts up its edible shoots from its underground home in the spring. Bulbs are expensive, but keep producing for about 20 years. Not to be confused with the dreaded Asparagus Fern,
Myrsiphyllum scandens, which is invasive, non productive and almost impossible to rid yourself of. Still I wonder, if asparagus are as wonderful as they sound, why isn't everyone growing them?
I will also have to fill in the blank spot they leave over winter, or have something behind it that's at its best then...ideas welcome.
Replace Moss with Chamomile
I could finally create this stepping-stone dream, maybe using low grape hyacynth, and garlic chives, with their pretty white flowers.
Or... Bamboo with Acacia
I've been calling it Green Sheep plant, but have finally found the real name of this Aussie native that would be a great replacement for the feathery low bamboo bushes: Acacia Cognata. No, it doesn't give you much to eat, but it does something better: the microbes on its roots turn air-nitrogen into plant-absorbable nitrogen, for the nearby veggies to profit from. Self-assembling fertilizer factories in my very own garden, with raw materials pulled out of the air. Amazing.
Useful Japanese Herbs
shungiku with sesame sauce & kimchee recipie
This wonderfully fragrant green is good for salads, hotpots, or in anything
Its particually good with sesame sauce (tahini, soy& mirin)
nira in flower from azore blog
nira with mushrooms, egg, cutlets and rice recipie from Gurume
I'm going to add some more photos and plants to this post, but for now, here it is. If you have any plant ideas or resources, I'd love to hear them.