Tokyo Tales for 2020[No. 1]

The Daimyo Teien of Edo

Strolling through some of the capital's most beautiful gardens

| Daimyo Garden

A Gardener’s Work is Never Done.

Trees and flowers grow, fall and decay…

We asked Kimura to dress in uniform for our photo. His tools hang at the back from his waist.

Perfectly-manicured vistas are the norm whenever you visit a daimyo teien. According to Rikugien gardener Koichi Nemoto, maintaining those lovely vistas “requires constant work, with no room for delay”.
For example, in the month after the rhododendrons have finished flowering, gardeners at Rikugien prune a thousand of the plants, while at the same time carrying out other tasks like removing new shoots from pine trees and making unexpected repairs to paths. It’s a constant race to keep up with nature.
Then there is the nuisance of trees dropping leaves, most obviously in autumn and winter, but this actually happens throughout the year. Blown by the wind into ponds and rivers, leaves accumulate at the bottom, contaminating the water, and producing an unpleasant odor, particularly during hot weather. Koishikawa Korakuen gardener Hiroshi Kimura and his team must therefore dredge the river on a monthly basis to avoid visitors being assailed by bad smells.
Each daimyo teien has dedicated gardeners on-site working throughout the year on maintaining and managing the garden. The gardens contain centuries-old trees and herbaceous plants with attractive seasonal displays, and monitoring these to ensure they stay healthy is an essential aspect of the job. For the gardeners, every day is a battle with the restless seasons, dealing with everything from weather events, such as typhoons and snow, to insect infestations caused by global warming.

Gardeners wear traditional work clothes designed primarily for comfort and convenience: a harakake apron with pockets at the waist over underwear, and roomy work trousers pulled in below the knee to avoid legs tangling in vegetation. Footwear consists of indigo blue split-toed tabi that allow the wearer to feel the ground underneath, and grip well. Then, a traditional jacket.
Finally, wrist and hand guards.
Kimura notes, “In the old days they used to say no wrist guards, no pay. I suppose wrists were easily injured.”



His wrists are well-protected by fabric wrist guards.

Garden maintenance 1

Cleaning out Ponds and Rivers

A monthly event, 2-3 times a month in summer

Gardeners use rakes to collect and remove algae (photo left) and fallen leaves stuck to the bottom, then stir up the riverbed to wash away any smaller debris. This process (photo right) is repeated until the river is clean, taking eight people half a day to complete.

Despite Tokyo’s high level of rainfall, maintaining an adequate water supply to the gardens is difficult, and at Koishikawa Korakuen well water is used.
Differences in river shape modify the flow of water, and water temperature rises in shallow spots where the flow is slower. This makes the river dirty, requiring dredging of the riverbed. Carried out monthly even in midwinter, it is one of the most important jobs in the garden.


Garden maintenance 2 

Removing
New Growth

Annually, from April to late May

In spring, pines burst with new growth (photo top left). Gardeners decide which shoots to leave, and remove the others individually by hand (photo top left). The result is a tree with a tidy shape.

春になると、マツの新芽(みどり)がひとつの枝から5〜10本伸びる。それらは樹形を崩すため、柔らかなうちに手で摘み取る。「樹形を見定め、どのような形に発展させるかを考えます」と、六義園の庭師、根本浩一さん。芽の伸びる方向を見極め、どれを残しどれを摘むかを判断し、1本のマツを2〜3時間かけて仕上げる。


Garden maintenance 3

Trimming

Annually,from late April to June

Shears are used to trim spherical topiaries. The trick is to use one hand as a support, and cut with the other. When done attractively, the result is a well-groomed landscape.

Trimming is necessary for the maintenance of artificial features such as hedges. It is particularly important to trim trees such as rhododendrons attractively to stop them growing too large, and to maintain a good balance with the surroundings. Each tree has its own season for trimming: rhododendrons, for example, sprout new buds for the coming spring about a month after flowering ends, so the key is to clip them in that intervening month to avoid inadvertently removing buds.


Garden maintenance 4

Thinning

Annually, from October to March

A pine with new needles loses its neat silhouette (photo top right). Excess branches and shoots are removed (photo top left), then any old needles are plucked off by hand (photo left).

Pines like the sun, so going into winter any tangled branches and unnecessary foliage are removed to give the whole tree access to maximum sunlight. First, thinning is carried out: any surplus branches are identified and cut off. Then any older needles that are changing color or dead are removed. The state of foliage on each branch is checked before pruning. A delicate job requiring a lot of patience, work on a large pine can take a whole month.


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JQR which launched in April 2011 is now released No. 26. We issue JQR in English, French and 2 Chinese languages.
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