Japanese Gardens, by John Baker

John very kindly stood in at short notice for our scheduled speaker who was unwell.  Out of a long list of topics upon which John lectures we chose “Gardens of Japan”.

John Baker (right) with our Chairman John Price

John told us about himself and his partner June Colley.  John was an engineer who designed and built furnaces used for making optical fibres. June, who has a Masters Degree in Botany, is a renowned expert in perfumes.  Their common interests are plants, particularly Hostas, and travel, particularly to the Far East, so John’s topic of “Gardens of Japan” was extremely apt. And although Jonn and June now have about 1700 types of Hosta in their garden, “Hanging Hostas of Hampshire” at Lindford, Hostas hardly had a mention.

John related how Japanese gardens were brought to the West through Josiah Conder in the late 1800s, but pointed out that our Japanese gardens are but a caricature of those in Japan, some of which date back 500 years.

John took us carefully through the three main types of Japanese garden: the Hill and Pond Garden, Zen Garden and Stroll Gardens, built by the rich and famous to impress their friends, the great and the good.

Japanese gardens originated in China, but under the influence of Buddhism, developed from gardens with plants, to places for contemplation with stones and raked gravel.

We were taken on a journey from gardens of Tokyo south, to the old capital of Japan, Kyoto, then on to Okoyama and finally to Hiroshima, with photographs of the very moving “Peace Park”.

This talk was not just about gardens, azaleas, cherry blossom, Hostas, moss and gravel. John also peppered his talk with a pot-pourri of history , geography , religion, social history and food. He was delighted to find Hosta shoots for sale as a vegetable in the supermarket, but was annoyed when he got thrown out trying to photograph them!

He concluded by showing how your own corner of Japan might be created from rocks, stepping stones, water , bamboos, hostas , ferns, moss and lanterns. A fascinating talk from a knowledgeable and accomplished speaker.

John very kindly donated his lecture fee to the Perennial charity.

Report by Gordon Rae