Before I came to Japan, the word gardens meant flowers, and flowers meant very little to me. Flowers are inconsistent; flowers are moody, and quite often flowers are just wrong. Out of season they are ugly; in season I can`t remember what they are called.
Fortunately, many Japanese gardens do not depend on flowers. They are considered unnecessary and irrelevant.
Yet despite the lack of flowers, I initially struggled to like Japanese gardens. They are so different to English gardens; for 5 years I could not cope with the dissonance; I had to completely give up on the idea of gardens, refuse to accept they existed. It wasn`t difficult (fortunately I wasn`t a gardener), but I missed out.
But then late last year after months of twiddling, I managed to adjust my brain settings to allow definition changes. The meaning of words could change.
Gardens do not necessarily need rusty lawn mowers and mouldy tennis balls. They do not even need yellow, orange or red. Most gardens here are dominated by rocks, water and pine trees – all consistent, reliable and natural.
With rocks you don`t have to wait for a fleeting burst of bloom; everyday is rock day. (Next Valentine, give your girl a rock.)
Water is the start, middle and end of everything. Take this element out and your garden becomes irrelevant – plus all the carp will die.
And as for the gutsy, green pine trees, they give good, honest, year-round colour – and keep the gardeners out of mischief.