Saturday, October 22, 2011

Mired In, but...

Research. That is what it comes down to. I have ideas for new topics but sometimes they go nowhere. It is like I am mired in tiny pieces of information and none of them fit together. They sit in piles on the floor and shift themselves about but never seem to coalesce. This is my present state. 
However. I can see that proverbial light. I have noticed that a few pieces of information stick together  haphazardly. It is just going to take a bit more time.
Thanks to Elephant's Eye who inquired into the lack of posts. To me it was like hearing Oliver Twist say "Can I have some more please". It is coming.




Thursday, July 7, 2011

Tea Gardens – a not so romantic story

Camellia sinensis

Tea estates or plantations have been known by another name for hundreds if not thousands of years as Tea Gardens. Imagine if you will rows of lush greenery rolling along the hillsides of mountains perhaps with a cool mist in the air due to the elevation. This lovely picture you have conjured is found in only certain countries in the world. The countries where the best tea is grown are in China, Japan, Taiwan (Formosa), and Sri Lanka (Ceylon). It has to do with their geography. Tea grows best in mountainous areas of elevations up to 6,000 feet, where there is a wet yet temperate climate, warm sunny days, and cool breezy nights. It is under these conditions that the Chinese tea plant Camellia sinensis flourishes.

Camellia sinensis is native to China, Japan, India and part of Russia. It has three main varieties: China, Assam and Indochine. There are also a number of hybrids. In the wild, a China tea plant may reach a height of nine feet and live approximately 100 years. It prefers a cool temperature and grows in altitudes over 6000 feet.  In contrast, the Assam tea plant reaches 60 feet in height and lives 50 years. It requires more rainfall and grows in more southerly climes to 1000 feet in altitude.
Plants of Camellia sinensis are grown in nurseries before being planted out in the garden. Tea is planted in rows spaced 30 inches apart and the bushes are maintained at a height of four feet. Tea is planted on those rolling hillsides on terraces at an incline of 45 degrees where no machine can go, thereby requiring the harvesting of tea to be done by hand-the hands of women.
 
Tea cultivation and preparation has a very long history. No one knows with any certainty when the drink of tea was discovered and many legends abound with stories to tantalize. One such legend tells of the divine Chinese Emperor Shen Nung (2737-2697 BC), the ‘father of agriculture’, who by his experiments with hundreds of herbs discovered the drink of tea. Recent Chinese research discovered that tea was used as early as the twelfth century BC. , which was mentioned in a book written in 347 AD called the Treatise on the Kingdom of Huayang by Chang Ju. At that time tea leaves were boiled with water to make a drink. It was from the third century AD onwards that the plant underwent drying and processing. Since then very little has changed. 

The Chinese introduced tea to Japan via Korea. Tea was introduced to Europe around 1610 by the Dutch and Portuguese who had dealings with the Japanese. By 1658 the British knew of tea and within one hundred years it became their most popular drink. In order to fill their appetite for tea the British attempted to trade for tea with China, which ended disastrously for China with the Opium Wars of the 1800s (a fascinating history with a residue that changed Chinese life and culture forever). With no trade agreement, the British East India Company began cultivating tea in Northern India in the Assam region and by 1870 in Sri Lanka (Ceylon).

Women pickers or pluckers
Whether it is in the tea gardens of China, Japan, India or elsewhere, the methods of cultivation and harvesting have changed little over the centuries. Tea Gardens may be as large as 1000 acres and are called such “because the tea is grown here, harvested according to traditional methods, and bears its name.” In India the gardens or estates have names like Castleton, Jungpana, Tukver and Badamtam. Depending in which country the estate lies, most tea is picked from April to September. The best tea or premium quality teas are picked with the ‘first flush’ or growth of first spring leaves. The removal of these leaves without ruining the quality is a delicate matter and has been carried out by women for hundreds if not a thousand years. Women move between rows of tea bushes picking leaves in both hands, tossing them into large baskets on their backs. This first flush involves removing the downy terminal bud on the stem and the first two leaves below it. This is also referred to as ‘fine plucking’. During the rest of the season a ‘coarse plucking’ is performed which includes the bud and three to five of the leaves below it. These leaves are used in more common teas. 

Picking or plucking is the most crucial operation in obtaining the finest quality of tea leaf. It has always been said that women are the best at this type of work due to their smaller hands and fine dexterous skills. Only in legend are there better pickers, those being monkeys. The legend goes that centuries ago a monkey saw his master picking tea leaves and imitated him. It climbed up the tea plants and collected the tea leaves for its master. This tea had so distinct a flavour that people thought it was the result of the tea being picked by a monkey instead of humans. They too started training their monkeys to pick tea for them. There are claims in China of monkeys that pick tea but I would not believe it if I were you.  An experienced picker is able to quickly determine the tender leaves from the mature ones. She must leave the buds, harvest the tender leaves and pick and discard the mature leaves. These are split second decisions that only come with experience, for she must move on, fill her basket and then take it to an assembly and weighing area before beginning again. Pickers who are capable of picking quantities of the finest leaves are considered an asset to the company and would therefore receive better wages than those with lesser skills or those in training. Unskilled pickers may have an adverse effect on the quality of the tea as well as on the yield harvested.

 The work is strenuous; making their way from a central camp or perhaps from a nearby village to begin work at light, moving between bushes with intertwining branches through steep terrain, carrying heavy full baskets. The women are usually poorly dressed, although it is not uncommon to see them in colourful sarees, their head covered with a hat or wrap against the sun. Often they wear plastic aprons to keep the branches from tearing or catching their clothes. When the day is done sometime around 4 PM, they return home to their children and husbands and continue their day like all working mothers after a full day’s work. 

Darjeeling estate 

I am unable to tell you if these women are better off today than they were hundreds of years ago. Colonialization created tremendous problems that I will not get into here. It appears some estates provide childcare and education to the children of tea workers, and maternity wards with midwifes are on site for those who live on the estate. Trade Unions are also involved in some cases. However my impression is this is in the minority. The majority of female workers I believe are still underpaid, and left to look after themselves. Alcoholism is high for the men workers on the estate and therefore wife abuse follows. Needless to say, or is it, like Weeders (see my post on Women’s Work ) the female is once again performing the work no man wants to do. The argument that women’s hands are small and dexterous and therefore better suited to picking, or that they do not have any suitable skills does not hold water.  Three million women are pickers worldwide. They provide the cheapest labour for the most important role in the tea industry. Despite this, the world of tea is changing. Fair Trade communities are increasing and have set their sights on the tea industry. In India’s Darjeeling area the Makaibari Tea Garden is one of the pioneers in fair trade. They offer an education program for children, scholarship funds to study horticulture, microcredit is available to their workers and an ‘organic union’ program which supports 200 organic farmers in 8 communities outside the estate. 

The history of the Tea Garden and tea is enormous and much information has been omitted as I endeavor as always to focus on the women who play a part in this history. In this case, the line between history and current affairs is blurred when determining women’s role in the Tea Garden as her role has in fact changed little in hundreds of years.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Canadian Gardening, eh?

Canadian gardens are in many ways a new idea. Our history is a short one spanning 400 years or so and those who arrived before us certainly did not garden in today’s sense of the word. For those early settlers and the indigenous people already on the land, gardening meant agriculture. It meant survival. Today a Canadian garden is no longer an oxymoron. Canadians have now lived in this beautiful country long enough to have thrown off the cultural ties that bound their gardening style to parts of Europe and instead have integrated these ways into something inherently Canadian. 



Trillium
The indigenous peoples of North America are known for their great medicinal success with the local flora. Lobelia, Gillenia, Sassafras are only some of the thousands of plants known to have curative properties that are still in use today. Their diet was as varied as the country; it comprised of nuts, berries, crabapples, ferns, roots, mushrooms, various rhizomes, roots, rice (zizania aquatica), seaweed and corn (maize). By 1600 they had developed 150 different kinds of corn. Women and children were the actual gardeners or farmers, and either collected these food items from the wild or cultivated them near their camp. The men concentrated on growing tobacco which was used in tribal rituals and was eventually traded to the Europeans. By the 1600’s, and European contact, the indigenous peoples were also growing beans, squash and corn (the Three Sisters) sunflowers and Jerusalem artichoke. 

Samuel de Chaplain was the first to bring new French settlers to Quebec in 1605. This turned out to be a false start, and so he tried again in 1617. It was then that Louis Hebert and his wife Marie Rollet came to Canada. They are considered Canada’s first gardeners. They must have felt like babes in the woods. Even I cannot fathom what it must have been like arriving in the New World which must have seemed like a never ending forest. Difficult terrain, difficult weather conditions, and nothing familiar to the eye was what laid in store for them. They faced starvation, sickness, and threats of Indian attack. Yet they succeeded. By 1626 they had cleared eight hectares and were cultivating grain fields. They had a vegetable garden and an orchard of apple trees from Normandy, France. They managed all this with only hand tools.

Throughout the 1600’s the basis of economy of the settlements was agriculture and food production. Wheat, corn and potatoes were the major crops. Other crops included onions, leeks, cabbage, melons, lettuce, peas, carrots, beets, turnips, cucumbers, thyme, marjoram and tobacco. The women of the house had a jardin potager, an enclosed garden where they grew the vegetables and fruit for the household. Anything more than the family could use would be taken to the market or village square to be sold. An ornamental garden was not even a practical thought.


Early Settler

By 1760 the face of early settlers was changing. New colonists were arriving from England, Germany, Scotland and Ireland. The English brought hemp with them as a crop in order to supply the British Navy with rope. The American Revolution brought 50,000 Loyalists to Ontario and the Maritimes. Mennonites moved to Canada in search of fertile land. The Mennonites called their search “the trail of the Black Walnut” and settled where they found stands of black walnut, cherry, beech and maple trees. They revolutionized Canadian farming by introducing crop rotation, the use of animal manures and lime as soil fertilizers and the planting of legumes to enrich the soil. Any semblance of ornamental gardening may have been occasionally seen as a clump of flowers in an unplanned garden.

However the early 1800’s brought stability and a measure of wealth. Merchant families would have carefully arranged flower beds and fruit trees around the house. The wealthiest built greenhouses and hired gardeners from England or Scotland. The public park emerged. All were based on the current styles from home, wherever home may have once been. By mid-19th century a new generation was born. This new generation never had to clear land, nor was it tied to old customs that did not apply to them. This generation would create botanical parks, experimental farms, railway gardens, horticultural clubs, and war gardens. The Canadian gardener was born.



Thursday, April 28, 2011

Mary Granville Pendarves Delany 1700-1788


“I have invented a new way of imitating flowers”
(Mary Delany)



I have come across the name Mary Delany twice in my research, usually in the field of botanical art.  I thought her art interesting but perhaps not worth commenting on. Then I changed my mind. A new book on her life came into bookstores last year and that is where I stumbled upon The Paper Garden, Mrs. Delany {begins her life’s work} at 72, by Molly Peacock. Her life is simply fascinating. This book is well written and full of interesting tidbits; well worth reading. Along with The Paper Garden and other sources, I will tell you about Mrs. Mary Delany of London and hope that it tempts you to learn more.


Mary Delany made quite a stir within the nobility and the various famous botanists, musicians and artists who were part of her circle in the late 1700’s. At the grand age of 72 Mary Delany began the new form of paper collage creating fine crepe-like floral art pieces all set on a black paper background. The voyage to this new type of creation was conceived and nurtured slowly by a life of riches and poverty, marriages and deaths, and flower gardens that inspired. 

Mary Granville was born into a British noble family in 1700, Coulston, Wiltshire, England. Her great, great, great grandfather was a member in the royal court of Elizabeth 1. The Granville’s were loyal to the crown of King George the second and his Queen Caroline (who we know from the Kew Gardens (link) post). Mary was the second child, Bernard her older brother and Bevil and Anne who followed. It was with Anne for whom she held strong affection and was her lifelong confidante.
A child of a noble family meant that Mary was well educated. She learned English, French, history, music, needlework and dancing. It was expected and hoped that Mary would gain a place in the English court as a lady in waiting for Queen Anne. When this failed to happen, the family took the advice of Mary’s uncle Lord Lansdowne and married her to Alexander Pendarves at the age of 18. 

Winter Cherry

Alexander Pendarves was a man of 60 years and known to drink. He kept a house called Castle Roscrow in Buckland which was close to the sea. This was an unhappy and difficult marriage for Mary. She was a young woman living with an aging alcoholic who was jealous of any male who called. Mary would find some freedom there when Alexander was away on business, as she took to riding along the beach and collecting seashells. During their second year of marriage Alexander’s gout conditioned worsened and they returned to London. She was alone with no friends or family during the first year of the marriage and then his nursemaid for the next 6 years. Upon his death in 1724, it was discovered that Alexander had not provided for his young bride apart from a widows pension. Perhaps it was good fortune that Mary never got pregnant.

For the next twenty years Mary lived with various friends and relatives. She spent much time at the court still hoping for a placement. She remained the single widow but kept herself quite busy with painting and drawing (taught by Louis Goupy) and was friends with many interesting people such as Captain Cook, Handel, Jonathan Swift, painter William Hogarth and botanist Joseph Banks . Mary also met her future husband Dean Patrick Delany, an Irish clergyman, who was engaged to be married at the time.  She was very close friends with the Duchess Dowager of Portland (you can find my post on her here). The two women shared a common interest in botany and flowers. It was the Duchess who encouraged Mary to continue with her collages.

How does a noble woman come to create her “flower mosaicks” as she called them? According to Molly Peacock, it was in part due to her collaboration with the Duchess in the creation of the shell grotto at Bulstrode, in part her interest in beautiful court gowns made of fine layers of fabric, but most importantly her marriage to Patrick Delany a garden enthusiast. 

Passion Flower

The Delany’s were married in June 1743 and divided their time between England and Ireland where Patrick had his congregation. Patrick already owned a home in Ireland called Delville and was very involved with the gardens and the property. Theirs was no small house in town. Delville was very large even by today’s standards (but not for one of noble birth). A circular road ran around the house and was wide enough for a coach and six horses. The property’s plantings followed the contours of the land, and included “a bowling green, a high bank, a circular terrace, flowers walks, and fruit trees”.  There was a kitchen garden and two fruit gardens near the house, and beyond were fields “planted in a wild way”. Mary was no stranger to gardens and is known to have enjoyed those at Bulstrode with the Duchess, as well as gardens of other acquaintances. At Delville Mary had built an orangery and a grotto. The Delany’s spent much time in their gardens and the love of gardens solidified a happy marriage of 25 years. Patrick’s “ encouragement of her gardening, painting, shell-work and needlework resulted in a surge of activity in a variety of media in all of which the basic theme was the flower, whether in stocking the Delville garden, painting garden landscapes, decorating interiors with shells, or working embroideries." After a long illness, Patrick Delany died at 84. Mary was 67 years. 

Mary was forced to sell the properties and their coach to pay debts to lawyers for a law suit that had plagued the Delany’s years ago. Without sufficient funds to live on her own, again, she was fortunate in her friendship with the Duchess of Portand who gave her a room at Bulstrode.  It was here, at the age of 72, that Mary began cutting pieces of paper with a knife, arranging, layering and gluing them on a black paper background. Her flower mosaicks became a project called the hortus siccus (dry garden) and then later renamed the Flora Delanicus. The Duchess of Portland was the one that encouraged Mary in her work and supported her talents by spreading the word around her circle of friends. Through the Duchess Mary met two prominent botanists Joseph Banks and Daniel Solander, who in their way encouraged her fascination in the details of plant structure. Even King George the 3rd heard and viewed Mary Delany’s mosaicks. 

Eventually Mary was unable to continue her flower collages due to failing eyesight. She had hoped to create a round number of 1000 and nearly achieved it, needing to stop at number 985. Today her flowers can be seen at the British Museum. They also house most if not all of the surviving letters, including her correspondence with Anne.

Asphodil Lily  Crinum zeylanicum
 Flower Mosaicks courtesy of the British Museum

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Presentation

One of the reasons there has not been a post here for a while is that I have been working on a presentation for Women and the Garden. On April 2, I was invited to speak at a small fundraiser for the Stephen Lewis Foundation (Aids) for the Burlington Ubuntu Grandmothers. As I have never presented anything before I devoted quite a lot of time choosing my subject and creating a PowerPoint creation. As an initiate to PowerPoint I found I could waste lots of time getting little done- that is mostly because I am technically challenged.
I chose to look at two 17th century women I have already posted about, Sister Maria Celeste and Maria Sibylla Merian. My reasons were that they were both from wealthy families, both well educated and both lived in the early Renaissance when a shift was taking place. Despite their similarities they lived starling different lives. This societal shift was in some ways regarding the new trends of landscape gardening but women were also starting to have some freedoms they did not have earlier nor would they have later.
The presentation went smoothly, my 'ums' were kept to a minimum and the slides looked pretty good on the screen. A few kind comments were received and appreciated and then it was all over. Quite the feeling of vacuum afterwards. 
I am not yet sure where the research is going next, but I will have something up in the next two weeks.


by M.S. Merian

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Jane Colden, botanist, New York

The story of Jane Colden is short. Yet, by the late 20th century her name and place in American history began to emerge.  Today she is considered the first female American botanist, or as Asa Gray himself said in 1843, the “first botanist of her sex in her country”. 

Jane may never have become a botanist without the urging of her father, Cadwallader Colden, himself a physician and practicing botanist. Originally from Scotland, Cadwallader married Alice Chryste in 1715. They moved to the USA and had a farm in Newburgh-on-Hudson, New York when Jane was born in 1724. Cadwallader had by then built a successful political career and was the surveyor general of New York.
Newburgh-on-Hudson was a remote area in the 1700’s. The American outdoors was still wild and life for the early colonist out of doors was not entirely safe.  Jane and her siblings (10 in all) were given a basic education at home by her mother, while her father provided Jane with knowledge in science, particularly, botany. She was taught the Linnaeus system by her father who translated it from Latin to English in order to make it easier for her to understand. 

Jane embarked on her own study of the flora around the Newburgh-on-Hudson area. She took impressions of leaves on paper with printer’s ink to distinguish the various species. Jane eventually compiled a collection of some 300-odd impressions with written descriptions of the surrounding native flora. The descriptions showed that Jane was interested in the plants common names and possible medicinal benefits. It is noted by the writer James Britton that she “went among the country folk and noted their names and rustic remedies. Thus of Pedicularis tuberosa (No.41) she says; “The Pedicularis is called by the country people Betony: they make Thee of the Leaves, and use it for the Fever and Ague.” Obviously, she is a woman following in her father’s footsteps.

Remaining nature print by Jane at the British Museum

Jane benefitted from her father’s contacts and is known to have corresponded with many leading botanists of the time. Their impressions of the young woman seem to have been quite positive. Collinson wrote to Linnaeus in 1756 saying she “is perhaps the first lady that has so perfectly studied your system. She ought to be celebrated.” Another correspondent, John Bartram replies to Jane “I read it several times with agreeable satisfaction; indeed, I am very careful of it, and it keeps company with the choicest correspondence.” Jane was in contact with Alexander Garden regarding the plant Hypericum virginicum, a plant she first discovered and named Gardenia in his honour.  It is somewhat ironic that Jane Colden never had a plant named in her honour. 

Jane’s botanical research seems to have ended with her marriage to William Farquar. She died sometime after giving birth to a baby that also died. The date of her death is in dispute, and is either March 10, 1760 or 1766.

Her collection, however, still had a life of its own. It appears it remained in her father’s possession until his death in 1776. Then during the American Revolution the collection somehow ended up in the hands of a German officer, F. von Wangenheim. Sometime later it became the property of Godfrey Baldinger and then most remarkably became the possession of Joseph Banks, the British botanist of great renown. Banks bequeathed the collection to the British Natural History Museum on his death and that is where it is today.

According to the British Museum the bound manuscript is titled Flora Nov-Eboracensis:: Plantas in solo natali collegit, descripsit, delineavit, Coldenia C. Coldens filia &c. Only one of Jane’s nature prints has survived. The rest is comprised of 340 line drawings that have a light wash.
  

Line drawings by Jane at the British Museum

Jane Colden lived to receive some accolades from her peers, male peers, which I feel is worthy of note especially in consideration of her time. She is the only woman botanist whose work was included in Linnaeus’s botanical Species Plantarum.
In 1963, the Garden Club of Orange and Dutchess Counties published fifty-seven of Jane's descriptions of species native to North America in commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the Garden Club of America. More recently, The Jane Colden Native Plant Sanctuary was named in her honor at the Knox's Headquarters State Historic Site in Vails Gate, New York.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Plum Blossoms and dew drops, the ladies of Japan



 
The reverence of nature in the Japanese garden has not changed since ancient times. Tied to the religious beliefs of Shinto, kami, spirits in rocks, plants, animals and the departed ancestors, played a role in the process of garden design that we have today. Gardens became symbolic and minimalist in their layout due to the confines of the geography of Japan. 

When considering the garden and women of Japan the most interesting time is the Heian period (794-1185 AD). The Heian period is considered Japan’s Golden Age and for many reasons. It was a time when the Japanese withdrew themselves from contact with the Chinese. China was the big brother to Japan and had always been an enormous influence on the Japanese way of life. The Chinese did everything first and they did it extremely well. However at this time the Japanese edited and enhanced what they learned from China and made it their own. Buddhism, which had come to Japan through China and Korea, was adapted to allow it to coexist with the traditional Shinto religion. In painting, the emaki picture scrolls were at their artistic height at the end of the Heian period. Kanabungaku, a phonetic writing form based on spoken Japanese, was used to create some of the greatest literature of the Far East.  This form of writing was known as ‘woman’s writing’. While both men and women were taught this phonetic language the men still preferred to write in the more prestigious Chinese.  This gave women an advantage and the Heian period produced some of Japans greatest women writers. It is thanks to these writers that we have some understanding of Japanese Imperial Court life and an insight to how Japanese women were involved in the garden.


Women’s life in Japan was a constant throughout the centuries. The social strata was simply the very poor or the very rich. The peasant was simply trying to survive. Most women worked long hours in the rice paddies and much later in the textile industry. The nobles or aristocrats had large homes with large gardens. Life was better still for the ladies who lived and worked in the palace at Kyoto and partook in court life. They comprised primarily of ladies- in -waiting to the empress, and came from aristocratic families. While the female was in every way subordinate to the male, the Heian period did allow the woman to inherit and keep property. This did not last.

The style of house at this time was the shinden, a series of pavilions that ultimately formed the shape of a quadrangle. Each pavilion was connected to others by the use of covered corridors, walkways and bridges. Some pavilions had their own private gardens called the tsubo garden, intended primarily for the ladies of the manor. The complex would be enclosed by stone walls and with entrances to the east and west. There would be gates on the north, west and east sides which varied in height and ornamentation depending on the wealth of the owner. The gardens therefore were oriented southwards usually comprising of a lake (artificial) with a treed island in the middle. Also in the lake would be a line of interestingly formed rocks, carefully placed to represent ships anchored at night in the harbor on their way out to seek treasure. Two parallel streams wound their way under pavilions and around the gardens to the lake. The earth at the lake edge would be covered in fine white sand to reflect the beauty of the moon. 

Model of the Higashi Sanjō-dono, a typical shinden-zukuri architectural complex (no longer extant).
 The intent was to absorb and reflect on the natural world (despite its artificial creation) in as much a harmonious way as possible. The architecture of the manor allowed for this with its sliding screens and removable blinds. The manor could be open to such a degree it would seem that there was no real division between the indoors and out. Naturally this had its drawbacks in the winter months when the cold permeated the entire home, but was a relief during the hot and humid days of summer.



There is very little extant historical information regarding the day to day lives of the aristocracy. That is why the literature left to us from Sei Shonagon (The Pillow Book) and Murasaki Shikibu (The Tale of Genji), among others, is so important. Aristocratic ladies and ladies of the Imperial Court spent most of their lives indoors. They were raised to become wives of important men, ruling men (Japanese society was polygamous, and it was not unusual to be a second or third wife).  They were literate, played various instruments, wrote poetry, and excelled at calligraphy – they were required to hold their own among the men. Notes written on paper to lovers, poetry contests or poems alone tended to involve nature and were full of symbolism.  Despite a lack of context, as an example, the following two notes were sent between Her Majesty and Murasaki in The Tale of Genji.

“Though yours be a garden where only springtime is of price, suffer it that from my house autumn should blow a crimson leaf into your hand.”

“The light leaf scatters in the wind, and of the vaunted spring no tinge is left us, save where the pine-tree grips its ledge of stone.”

Ladies had plenty of leisure time and needed ways to keep themselves occupied. The garden provided a quiet place to reflect on nature. Shonagon talks of taking walks under the full bloom of the cherry trees, of ‘moon-viewing’ at night, admiring the fall blooms of chrysanthemums, and of building snow mountains in winter. It is known that the ladies delighted in rolling snowballs or piling snow in tubs or silver bowls. If the estate was large enough they would go out on the lake in boats and float around. They also enjoyed watching a form of boat racing called funakurabe.

Ume Blossom

 Gardens were a hub of activity throughout the year with a seemingly endless list of festivals or ceremonies (I counted 34). Festivals were looked forward to in great anticipation by all sectors of society as a relief from dull hard lives, and so the festivals brought people to city gardens, temple gardens, and palace gardens. 


The one festival that survives from Heian time is the Hanami or ‘flower viewing’ of the plum blossom or ume blossoms (Prunus mume or by common name Japanese apricot or Chinese plum). This festival was limited to the elite of the Court during the Heian period but eventually spread nationwide. Other festivals that are floral in symbolism included the Kamo Festival where Palace buildings, carriages, and private houses were decorated with hollyhock and the people wore hollyhock in their hair. There would be a large procession to the Kamo River followed later by sacred dances; The Iris Festival in which iris flowers were used for decoration and made into tea, horse racing and archery contests for the Guard; The Chrysanthemum Festival where the Emperor and his court inspected the chrysanthemums, drank tea infused with chrysanthemum, and followed by dancing. 

Such was the use of the garden for the Japanese lady.  Natural disasters and wars completely destroyed all of Heian architecture leaving only the natural surroundings.  In time tea drinking and the tea ceremony changed the face of the garden, strolling gardens were created, and even later the addition of dry Zen gardens. The intrinsic nature of the Japanese garden remains.



“If any one asks where is the heart of a true Japanese, point to the wild cherry blossom, where it grows upon the tree.”
(Old Japanese saying)