Spring has arrived at last and there are finally signs of seasonal change in the landscape. However, despite a few passing remarks by newsreaders, weathermen and neighbours, the arrival of spring in the UK is not heralded with much fuss. The changing seasons are one of the joys of living in a temperate climate as they add a richness and rhythm to the year and there are always subtle changes to be spotted in nature. Noticing the first snowdrop or daffodil in the garden is always a sure sign that winter is, at last, nearly over.
In Japan, another temperate country, this time of year is marked with altogether much more sense of occasion. The season of hanami or ‘flower viewing’ (almost always referring to cherry blossom) is a national event and is eagerly anticipated. The progress of the sakura zensen or ‘cherry blossom front’ as it moves northwards across the archipelago is tracked by the Japanese Meteorological Agency and the public follow nightly forecasts allowing them to predict its arrival in their region.
The progress of the opening blossoms is plotted on this hotel lobby chart to enable visitors to find the best spots
The reason for all this anticipation is the centuries-old tradition of holding outdoor parties beneath trees laden with cherry blossom. Areas in parks are cordoned off and groups of friends and families claim the best spots by laying down groundsheets. Wrapped in coats and blankets (but with shoes politely removed) food and drink is served, no matter how cold and damp it may be. Paper lanterns are strung up in some parks to enable the parties to continue into the night whilst less hardy visitors flood parks, gardens and cemeteries to photograph and be photographed with the blossom.
Hamani parties beneath the trees in Tokyo
People eager to be photographed with the blossom in Kyoto
The practice of hanami dates back over a thousand years and was originally used to predict the forthcoming harvest and herald the rice-planting season. People believed in spirits living in the trees, left offerings and drank sake. The Japanese proverb ‘dumplings rather than flowers’ hints that for some the food and drink may be the most important part of hanami nowadays, although it is clear to see how much delight the Japanese people get from the simple act of viewing the blossom-laden boughs. Part of this pleasure is explained by the Japanese term mono no aware which is used to describe the transience of things and a gentle sadness at their passing.
Back at home in Hampshire, whilst there are no lanterns and no al-fresco parties (to my knowledge) the roadside blackthorn and the glimpsed view of a neighbour’s cherry tree that I can see from my sitting-room window have taken on an altogether greater significance knowing that on the other side of the world a whole nation holds them in such great esteem.
Anyone for a cherry blossom martini?
For those looking to hold their own British-style hanami, Batsford Arboretum , Gloucestershire http://www.batsarb.co.uk/ and Keele University, Staffordshire both have excellent collections of flowering cherries. If you want to go one step further and replicate this in your own garden two of the varieties most beloved of the Japanese are Prunus subhirtella ‘Pendula’ and Prunus x yedoensis.
Trees are great. Fact. They provide us with oxygen, shade, habitat for wildlife, timber for building, chemicals for medicines, screening, beauty, shade…the list really does go on. They have long been a symbol of permanence within the landscape, taking decades to grow to the lofty heights that we so admire. Yet it takes only an instant to cut them down and lose it all…
Therefore, safeguarding mature trees is an extremely important aspect of a Landscape Architects work and we’re helped by ‘BS 5837:2012 (see Bernie’s previous post!). 25-30cm girth replacements are great but they’re just not the same and feel like a meagre offering when you’ve lost a tree with a girth of several feet. The value of a large mature tree should have the potential to outweigh that of one extra house squeezed onto a development plot, since a pleasant and good quality landscape encourages us to pay a premium for property. What’s more, trees can really mean something to people and I’m always amazed by how attached we can get to a plant that we have no real link to, simply because it’s part of our daily scenery.
This tree is found on the A272 just outside Sheet. It hasn’t been felled, it’s just resting on its branches and has been for maybe 20 years now – as long as I can remember anyway. Consideration was given to cutting it down but people objected because it was so familiar and liked as a local landmark. The plucky tree that fell over but wouldn’t give up. What could be a better symbol that we shouldn’t be quick to cut down large trees? Trees inspire. Trees endure. Trees are great.
Posted in Future Landscape, green infrastructure, Historical landscapes, Landscape Architect, Landscape Architects, Landscape heritage, Landscape Management, Public open space, Residential landscape, Rural Landscapes, Soft landscape and planting design
Tagged Future landscapes, Green Infrastructure, Landscape Architect, Landscape Architects, landscape architecture, Planting, public open space, residential landscapes, soft landscape
I have just come back from the Netherlands where I visited Van Den Berk tree nurseries to choose and tag some semi-mature trees for a project we have in Hertfordshire. Something of a circulatory in all of this being one of the last projects I shall put on the ground for Terra Firma before returning to Lithuania (and more about that another time). When I first started here 8 years ago Lionel was keen I obtained some practical horticultural experience to compliment my architectural degree and referred me to Hilliers where I worked Part Time in their big tree nursery while also starting at Terra Firma. So I am very familiar with the large tree transplanting process and how very satisfying it is! Continue reading
Posted in Innovative planting, International Landscape Architecture, Landscape Architect, Soft landscape and planting design, Tree nursery
Tagged direct plant supply, Hilliers, Innovative planting, landscape architecture, planting design, soft landscape, Tree nursery, Van Den Berk nurseries
Who benefits the most from direct plant supply? Client, nursery, contractor or landscape architect?
We have been working as term landscape architecture consultants for over a year now for Churchill Retirement Living (CRL), one of the leading providers in the retirement sector. Since our involvement from September 2010, we have 5 projects already built, planted and occupied, and upwards of 25 projects on the books. We provide CRL with a consultancy service from pre-planning application, through landscape strategy and detailed planting design to overseeing implementation on site and into the establishment period.
Completed planting scheme for Elgar Lodge, Churchill's Malvern development
As you would imagine CRL run a tight ship, with customer satisfaction, smooth working processes and profitability all high on the agenda. With the latter two in mind, Terra Firma have suggested, and set up, a direct plant supply agreement with Hillier Nurseries.
Benefits? For the client; the obvious money saving without the implementing landscape contractor’s mark-up and the promise of a far better guarantee in consistency of quality of plant stock. Continue reading