A Chelsea tribute to Japan’s plight
Words: Kate Ferrari, RHS Online
Chelsea garden designers go to extraordinary lengths to produce amazing gardens that meet the exacting standards expected at this world-class show.
But this year that is especially true of Ishihara Kazuyuki, who has managed to complete his garden, A Beautiful Paradise, against all odds.
In the aftermath of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami in March, Ishihara thought all hope of creating his garden for Chelsea was lost.
As his country fought to come to terms with its devastation and loss, he abandoned his project feeling that it couldn't, and perhaps just shouldn't, go ahead.
There were practical problems too. Some of his team had suffered personal loss and were unable to continue their work; and the journey he had planned to England to source and check plants had to be postponed.
He decided instead to leave the Tokyo office behind and visit the ravaged north-east to witness the devastation for himself.
As he stood viewing the flattened towns and forests, despite the overwhelming sense of loss, he decided he must rekindle his ambitious Chelsea project, but this time make the garden a tribute to his country and its people.
‘I thought I must do something to highlight the plight of my country,’ he said. 'Many times since then I had doubts about whether I could do this in time. All my plans were in pieces.'
The new version of the show garden, he decided, would not be quite like the original first mooted 10 months ago. This version, he vowed, must convey the spirit of north-east Japan rising up against terrible odds.
Once a landscape swathed in acres of beautiful acer forests, he decided his show garden should incorporate many acer varieties to symbolise their replanting in Japan.
'We lost so much beautiful forest,' he said. 'But I am already involved in plans to help replant it and this is my way of saying that we will bring back the beautiful views of trees that we once had. I am determined to rebuild Japan as a gardener.'