Un­lock­ing the mys­tery of Japan

Gardens Illustrated Magazine - - Contents -

Ev­ery­thing about this Ja­panese-style gar­den is shrouded in mys­tery, and for decades it was hid­den away with only one key holder

Clas­sic Ja­panese gar­dens are cre­ated within the con­fines of strict rules. In Japan, it is the cre­ativ­ity with which the gar­dener in­ter­prets those rules that earns praise and ad­mi­ra­tion. By these strict rules the Ja­panese Gar­den in the pub­lic park of Clin­gen­dael near The Hague is not strictly speak­ing a true Ja­panese gar­den. In­stead it is a gar­den à la Japon­aise, or gar­den in the Ja­panese style – and a beau­ti­ful one at that.

We don’t know ex­actly when Mar­guérite Mary baroness van Brienen van de Groote Lindt (1871-1939) – bet­ter known as ‘Lady Daisy’ (the English trans­la­tion of her name) – turned part of the wood­land on her fam­ily es­tate into a Ja­panese gar­den. What we do know is that she in­her­ited the es­tate in 1903, and that she trav­elled to Japan in 1895, and again in 1911, ap­par­ently ship­ping back lanterns, stat­ues, bridges and pos­si­bly even the pav­il­ion, but what she planted and when or who was in­volved in the gar­den’s de­sign are all shrouded in mys­tery. Ar­chives from the es­tate did not sur­vive the Ger­man oc­cu­pa­tion dur­ing the Sec­ond World War, and all in­for­ma­tion about the cre­ation of the gar­den was lost. By the time the es­tate was ac­quired by the city of The Hague in 1954 and people started to won­der about the gar­den’s his­tory, Lady Daisy had died, sin­gle and child­less.

Clues to the orig­i­nal gar­den can be found in a cou­ple of old blackand-white pho­to­graphs, a barely leg­i­ble pho­to­copy of a plant­ing list, prob­a­bly com­piled be­tween 1905 and 1915, and the gar­den we see to­day. And what we see is ut­terly de­light­ful, although markedly dif­fer­ent from the orig­i­nal gar­den if the old list is to be be­lieved. This shows more than 300 en­tries, with sur­pris­ingly lush and flo­ral plant­ing, in ac­cor­dance with the fash­ion of the day. Orig­i­nally, a sim­ple log bridge across a nar­row canal led to just one Ja­panese-style gate to which only Lady Daisy had the key. Most of the gar­den’s ma­ture trees are rem­nants of the (planted) wood­land that once oc­cu­pied, and

still sur­rounds, this space. To­day, with much of Lady Daisy’s un­der­plant­ing gone, you can see far more of the struc­ture of paths and wa­ter­ways that me­an­der through swathes of mosses. Beau­ti­ful, but the el­e­ment of surprise, typ­i­cal for a Ja­panese gar­den, has largely gone.

The style of the gar­den has some of the char­ac­ter­is­tics of a roji (a gar­den through which one passes to the chashitsu, or tea house), which is in essence a stylised ver­sion of ‘na­ture’, in­still­ing a sense of har­mony, hu­mil­ity and tran­quil­lity. It in­cludes many key el­e­ments (see fac­ing page), such as lanterns and wa­ter basins, and typ­i­cal Ja­panese plant­ing, in­clud­ing rhodo­den­drons, ac­ers, hi­noki cy­presses, bam­boo, ferns, cherry blos­soms, hostas, Ju­nipe­rus procum­bens and 40 types of moss.

Not ev­ery plant is strictly speak­ing Ja­panese. A gnarled Wis­te­ria sinen­sis (na­tive not to Japan but to China) is a cher­ished plant from Lady Daisy’s days, while one lonely Yucca fil­a­men­tosa (na­tive not to Japan but the USA) is the sole sur­vivor of an orig­i­nal six. Surely, hav­ing lived so long, they have both earned their place in this unique gar­den, which has mirac­u­lously sur­vived both war and chang­ing fash­ions?

USE­FUL IN­FOR­MA­TION Ad­dress Clin­gen­dael 6, 2597 VH The Hague, the Nether­lands. Open 29 April – 11 June and 14-29 October 2017.

The Ja­panese-style plot was carved out of a piece of wood­land on the Clin­gen­dael es­tate near The Hague. The pav­il­ion at the north end of the gar­den is thought to have been brought back from Japan by Lady Daisy.

Moss, seen here grow­ing along the banks of the stream, is a sig­na­ture plant of many Ja­panese gar­dens. To thrive, it needs semi-shade and damp soil. In Ja­panese gar­dens colour is of­ten in­tro­duced through flow­er­ing trees, shrubs and peren­nial forest flow­ers, such as these Prim­ula japon­ica, grow­ing through leafy ferns.

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