Commonplace Western assumptions about Japanese gardens focus on a restrained and dreamlike fusion of raked gravel, rocks and dwarf bonsai trees. In fact, on my travels outside the main cities I rarely saw what we might even call a ‘garden’, any useful land being used for growing vegetables or rice, perhaps with the odd mophead hydrangea punctuating a driveway entrance. The application of traditional Japanese aesthetics is pretty much restricted to temple and public gardens, domestic gardens being  – as Western ones – multifunctional family spaces for parking, storeage and play as well as horticulture.

I loved this collection of exquisite and accomplished bonsai trees – some probably well over 50 years old judging by their girth – casually and efficiently displayed on stacked beer crates by the roadside. (With thanks to Nina Pope for the photo)

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