Plant Encyclopedia

Flower Gardens

When one thinks of a garden, it is difficult not to think of flowers, and in some gardens flowers dominate the scene at least part of the year. Likely humans have always enjoyed flowering plants - who cannot resist a field of wildflowers in full bloom or azaleas carpeting a mountain meadow? When exactly people started to grow plants for their flowers is lost in the annals of history, however, for as long as humans have lived on this planet the importance of plants as both a source of food and medicine is without question. The first cultivated flowering plants were probably weeds around farms that were beautiful to look at and not too difficult to control. At first tolerated, in time they began to be purposely cultivated and even selectively bred - and so began the human love affair with ornamental flowers.

Flower gardens can have a variety of forms and themes. Many cottage gardens feature flowers, as do classic English gardens. Annual plants in particular are commonly grown in beds that can be planted two or more times a year to make for stunning mass displays that are always changing. Some flower gardens are largely devoted to one type of flower, for example rose gardens. One advantage of such a garden is the ability to see many different varieties of a particular plant growing side by side, while the downside is that its visual appeal is limited to just the flowering season. Mixed perennial gardens, if carefully planted, can have flowers in them the entire growing season. Flowering bulb gardens are typically incorporated into larger gardens to add a splash of color. Regardless of type, flower gardens are common nowadays, both public and private.

In this series of articles I'll focus on examples of different flower gardens, particularly ones in my adopted home, Japan. The Japanese have been purposely growing flowers for centuries, a habit they acquired from their neighbors, the Chinese. Odd enough though, flower gardens seen in Japan today are probably more influenced by western ideas than the earlier Chinese concepts which are more in tune with Zen gardens of holy sites. For example, cosmos are mass planted throughout the warmer regions of Japan today, something very out of place in a traditional Japanese setting. Flower gardens abound in the country today, to such an extent that flower viewing is an important seasonal past time in Japan. This desire to look at masses of flowers is known as hanami, literally meaning "flower viewing", and has become a major national pastime. People flock to flower gardens to see hydrangeas, roses, Japanese iris, peonies, cosmos… and of course cherry blossoms throughout the year. So, come along for the tour and a bit of history of the flower gardens of Japan.