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13 May 2018

Sino-Japanese garden

A tradition far removed from the formal garden of the oasis had evolved in China and was already established during the Han dynasty (140-87 BC). One of his distant heirs was destined one day to fertilize the West in turn and to influence not only the English landscape gardens and the Jardins chinois-anglais, but also the modern gardens of Northern Europe and America. His most direct descendant was imported with many other things of Chinese culture in Japan in the eighth century. The base of the Sino-Japanese garden is a veneration of nature that took its roots from the mysticism-Taoist naturalism, subsequently reinforced by Zen Buddhism, with its cult of the hill, the grove and the lotus pond, and its love for the quiet meditation.

The Chinese garden is essentially a place to philosophize, leaving aside earthly conflicts. Nothing in it can be rushed or improvised or flashy. The paths are not made, as in the West, to access directly from one point to another; but rather to savor slowly and fully every view and every atmosphere of the scene that manifests itself along the way. For this reason, they are tortuous and even zig-zag, while the bridges, with their steep arches or with a sudden change of direction, invite a break to admire the reflections. The natural landscape that the Chinese most venerated was the grandiose; high mountains, waterfalls, foggy valleys, and lakes. Their gardens were creations of the mind to such an extent that a great landscape could be indicated by a few carefully placed irregular rocks; the rest of the painting was filled with imagination. In this, he showed his affinity with Chinese landscape painting, in all its economy of shadows and evocative lines. There was indeed a very close connection, and the garden through which one wandered slowly was a tinkering remake of the long scrolls of Chinese landscape painters. When the Chinese garden came to Japan, it underwent many changes, but the basic principles were never lost. It was drawn with more solid lines in a better-defined composition, perhaps losing in poetry what it gained in clarity. Only in the sixteenth century was the tea ceremony introduced, which in the eyes of the West was the essence of a Japanese garden. For Europeans, the careful setting of this ceremony may seem an excessive emphasis on a banal rite, but for the Japanese, it has a profound meaning: it is a deliberate seclusion from the conflicts and ambitions of the world and a recognition of the spiritual values of philosophy and aesthetics. There is a fundamental difference in the relationship with nature between the Eastern Buddhist and the Western philosopher.

The Westerner will say, “Here is where I will plant this tree”. The Zen Buddhist will say, “I am this tree, and that’s where I want to go”. This ability to travel with the mind is well illustrated in the garden of Ryoanji, in Kyoto. It can only be observed from the wooden platform of the temple, and no one enters except the monk who raises the sand meticulously forming traditional designs that encompass the rock islands with such perfection that the contemplative mind can travel through the garden to eternity. Most Japanese gardens are less austere but still deeply evocative. They all draw their roots from symbolism and tradition, but although philosophical and religious reasons can be found for design rules, they are actually precepts of good composition. The prescribed grouping of 3, 5 and 7, the dimensions of the hills and the carefully correlated forms, the partially veiled waterfall, the location of the high guardian stone in the foreground in the painting, all this has its own traditional meaning, but everything is based also on sound design principles. Two of the fundamental principles of the Japanese composition is the grouping of the vertical, the reclined and the lying, and the contrast between static and dynamic forms. To compose these groups, rocks with familiar shapes are used, such as the statue-shaped stone, the arch-shaped stone, and the reclined ox-shaped stone. The rocks also have a name depending on the specific location in the composition, to underline a view, a focal point or an atmosphere. Such are the stone wrapped in mist, the shadow of the full moon, the guardian stone and the waiting stone.

Three main forms of the garden eventually crystallized, although later they were also used together in a large “garden for strolling”. Each form can be executed in a variable degree of perfection, from the pure indication of a sketch to the completed picture in the round. The three types of the garden were the flat garden, the garden without water and the garden with lake and islands or with hills and water.
The flat garden is often used in smaller courtyards or even in a lane. The soil can be covered with sand, sometimes raked to form a design. The composition is given by the careful grouping of rock, ornament, and plant. A lantern (the reclined shape), a bamboo (the vertical form) and a flat stone (the prostrate form) can form the whole picture. In the waterless garden, there are hills, but the water is indicated only by the placement of the stones, more or less as were the mountains in the Chinese gardens. The garden with hills and water is a landscape complete with clustered hills, a stream and a rock arrangement in the foreground, or a lake with islands. The completed view has infinite variations, but the basis of the garden project follows defined rules. At the imperial palace of Katsura in Kyoto, the garden for walking is a deeply evocative experience.

Observed on a superficial level, it is a landscape of incomparable beauty, in which an infinite variety is merged in a quiet unity; but below the surface, there is a profound philosophy of the relationship between man and nature. In the Japanese gardens, the shape and placement of the plants are as carefully controlled as those of the rocks. The tradition of artificially small trees is well known, and if a plant sooner or later grows too much for its placement it is replaced by a smaller one. The most used forms of plants are the very rounded reclined ones, such as Japanese azalea and dwarf conifers; the gnarled tree, exemplified by the pine bent by the wind; and the vertical shape of the bamboo. Some of the most beautiful Japanese gardens are entirely covered by a carpet of moss, a coating that accentuates the molded shape of the ground and creates the perfect structural contrast with the rock. The structure plays a more important role in Japanese gardens than any other historical tradition. Although it is an idealization of nature, the Sino-Japanese garden has always been closely related to buildings, and it is only in relation to oriental architecture that one can appreciate the shapes of lanterns and bridges. They show the same exuberance and the same dynamic form, which is nevertheless firmly rooted to the ground because of its sense of balance. In their setting, they are part of an entire world in tune with them but lost in western environments they can also look bizarre. The influence that the Sino-Japanese garden has had on the West is not easy to evaluate. Although the first descriptions of the Chinese garden may have been misrepresented, they certainly served to light up the imagination of the English landscape school and, if the results were totally different, the ideas behind the two types of gardens had much in common. Both were an idealization of nature, both relied on balance and natural form rather than symmetry, and both incorporated the traditional architecture of their respective civilizations. Above all, both were closely related to the art of landscape painting. It is a revealing fact but not surprising that the highest peak reached by the English landscape garden is derived from the translation of an idea into the language of English countryside and philosophy. The less successful result of the Jardin anglo-chinois derived from a more direct copy of an original not fully understood. The winding paths on the plan of an old Chinese park are clearly the ancestors of the winding avenues of the Anglo-Chinois garden, but what the plan does not show are the hills and valleys, the rocks and the changing views that justify the tortuosity. The map of a mountainous region shows the same swaying and sinuous roads, meaningless in the absence of the reliefs. The blind imitation of Japanese gardens does not give a better result even today, but we have much to learn from their infallible sense of balance, from the evocative forms, from the economy with which their landscape is sketched and by the quiet moderation of their compositions. The influence of Japanese landscape architects has played a vital role in the development of landscape design in the US since the mid-twentieth century, and since then their influence has spread throughout the world.

11 May 2018

Anagallis (Primulaceae)

The name derives from the Greek anagallís, «pimpinella». Although many species of this genus are perennial, it is common in cultivation practice to treat them as annual plants. They are all rather low and often have a creeping course; for this reason they are used for borders and in border, in the first line.

Among the annual blue-colored flowers, Anagallis linifolia is undoubtedly one of the most pleasing and harmonious examples.
Among the annual blue-colored flowers, Anagallis linifolia is undoubtedly one of the most pleasing and harmonious examples.

Cultivated species:

Anagallis arvensis, anagallis, prostrate, with quadrangular stem and red corolla, blooms in summer, grows wild in gardens and cultivated land and its seeds are poisonous for small birds; var. cerulea, with blue flowers, phoenicea, with red flowers, latifolia, with blue flowers; Anagallis linifolia (30 cm), with a gracile stem, elongated or lanceolate leaves, 10-12 mm flowers, blue, with a red spot in the center, blooms in June-July; it is a species rich in var .: breweri, with red flowers; hill, with purple pink flowers; lilacina, lilac; monellii has bigger flowers than the same species; phillipsii, with intense gentian blue flowers; Anagallis tenella (10-15 cm), with a corolla much larger than the glass, about 10-15 mm, pink with darker veins, blooms in summer. These three species are spontaneous in Italy, but the last two are cultivated more often for ornamental purposes.


A. arvensis and A. linifolia love the sun and require normal garden soil; A. tenella prefers wet and also swampy areas. They can be sown at the beginning of spring and transplanted in June, or sow directly in April; Anagallis linifolia can be multiplied by division and, being perennial, can be left in place.

Read also: Anacyclus (Compositae)

04 May 2018

Amorpha (Leguminosae)

The name derives from the Greek dmorphos «informe» and derives from the irregular shape of the flower. The genus includes shrubs that can reach even 4-5 m. The flowers that are collected in spikes are formed at the ends of the branches developed in the previous season.

violet flowers, gathered in spikes, of the false indigo, Amorpha fruticosa.
Violet flowers, gathered in spikes, of the false indigo, Amorpha fruticosa.

Cultivated species of Amorpha:

A. fruticosa, false indigo, is native to North America; imported into Europe it has also spontaneousized in Italy, it blooms in July with violet flowers gathered in spikes. It is a shrub up to 3-5 meters tall, with erect, pubescent branches, small flowers in spiky racemes, terminals; Amorpha canescens, smaller than the previous one, can reach cm 90 in length, the blue flowers open from June to September; Amorpha microphilla is characterized by fragrant flowers, forming a cluster inflorescence.


all the plants of the genus Amorpha are suitable for the realization of mixed hedges in open places well exposed to the sun. They can be transplanted from October to February. After flowering, the plants must be pruned and deprived of the branches that have brought the inflorescences to their extremities. At the base of the bush will be formed numerous suckers that will guarantee its subsequent development. The multiplication is commonly done by cuttings in the summer or even in autumn using the branches obtained with pruning, but it can also be done by seed sowing in cold chests in spring.

Read also: Amelanchier (Rosaceae)

03 May 2018

Amelanchier (Rosaceae)

The name derives from the ancient French name of A. ovalis. The genus includes small trees or large shrubs, deciduous, rustic, cultivated for their decorative properties: at the beginning of spring the freshly sprouted leaves are copper-colored; white or rarely rosé flowers; and in autumn the foliage is colored with golden red.

Amelanchier canadensis, very decorative tree, can constitute ornamental elements for your garden.
Amelanchier canadensis, very decorative tree, can constitute ornamental elements for your garden.

Cultivated species of Amelanchier:

A. ovalis (A. vulgaris), corvino pear, is a small tree of about 3 meters, widespread throughout central and southern Europe. In Italy it is spontaneous in the hilly and mountainous areas, where it blooms in April with white flowers, and bears fruit at the end of the summer or in the first autumn; the dark red, almost blackish, fruits are edible. All the other species are native to North America: Amelanchier alnifolia, about 6 m tree, with white flowers in racemes erected in April, followed by the formation of sweet red and edible berries; A. canadensis (m 6-9), with small and fleeting white flowers, very abundant in April, and with berries of indefinite flavor in June; the young leaves are fluffy, and in autumn they are brightly colored; Amelanchier laevis (m 6-9), very similar to the canadensis, but the young leaves are smooth and red; the flowers are white, in May; A. grandiflora (m 3-5) is a hybrid of laevis and canadensis; the var. rubescens has pink flowers; A. oblongifolia (m 3-5), shrub with white flowers in April; A. stolonifera, a low spreading shrub (m 1-1.5), with white flowers in April.


all these species adapt to all types of soil, including calcareous soil. They are obtained by seed, collecting the berries when they are ripe, before they are caught by birds, which are greedy; they are sown in spring. The bushy species can be divided in autumn.

Read also: Amaryllis (Amaryllidaceae)

01 May 2018

Amaryllis (Amaryllidaceae)

The name derives from that of a shepherdess from Greek and Latin poetry. It is a genus that includes only one true species, although the name is commonly and improperly used for Hippeastrum and their many hybrids. The only species is A. belladonna : Brunsvigia rosea, Callicore rosea), from southern Africa, bulbous plant at rest in summer, with large flowering stem, crowned with fragrant pink flowers similar to lilies, which appears at the end of summer before the green and ribbon-like leaves they persist during the winter until the beginning of the summer. The plant is rustic in our climates, requires soil permeable without organic materials that can decompose causing rottenness, position in the sun. The bulbs, which can be left undisturbed in the soil for some years, will form colonies of bulbs that can be divided from the main bulb and replanted at the beginning of summer during the rest period.

Amaryllis (Amaryllidaceae)
Amaryllis (Amaryllidaceae) The fragrant pink lily-like flowers of Amaryllis

Read also: Amaryllis (Amaryllidaceae)