The Japanese Garden Society celebrates its 20th Anniversary
By Graham Hardman, Honorary Vice-President, Japanese Garden Society

The formation of the Japanese Garden Society (JGS) in 1993 was driven by a group of enthusiastic post-graduate landscape architecture students at Manchester University. Two of them had spent some time in Japan, but the real push came from Dr David Hackett who had developed an interest in the Japanese Garden as an art-form. In conjunction with their tutor and Sam Youd, then Head Gardener at Tatton Park in Cheshire with its famous Japanese garden, a conference on Japanese gardens was organised in July 1993 and advertised in the National press. Over 100 people attended and so the Society was born.

As landscape architecture students they understood the power of the Japanese aesthetic as expressed in gardens and thought this would have a wider appeal in the UK. It proved to be true and soon a number of people with experience of creating Japanese landscapes joined in the early development of the Society. Within 12 months over 250 people had joined, and it quickly became apparent that there was a very wide interest in the subject across the country. Now we have a fairly stable base of 600 or so members across the UK and some in other countries.

Our aim as a charity, that status being granted in 2011, is to educate the British public in the subject of Japanese gardens.

We choose to do this by running meetings around the UK, organised by six regional groups, giving lectures, visiting gardens, running practical workshops and so on. We also run regular trips to Japan for our members to study gardens and to experience Japanese culture first-hand. Since 2004 JGS has organised thirteen visits to Japan, visiting over a hundred and fifty significant gardens in various parts of Japan, some many times over.

Three years ago we created a large travelling exhibition entitled ‘Visions of Paradise – the Japanese Garden in the UK’. This was first shown at the Embassy and has since been to Tatton Park in Cheshire, Norwich Cathedral, the Garden Museum in London among other venues. It will be on show at Chiddingstone Castle in Kent in May and June this year and at the Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institute in October and November. An accompanying booklet with the same title as the exhibition is available from the Society, details on our website www.jgs.org.uk

Gardens at Willowbrook Hospice in St Helens, Merseyside

In recent years, drawing upon considerable first hand experience of Japanese gardens and working with members trained in Japanese garden culture we have been designing and constructing Japanese gardens in public places, notably at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens, Walkden Gardens in Sale, Cheshire, Norwich Cathedral and the Kaetsu Educational and Cultural Centre in Cambridge. We have also started to create gardens in hospices, initially at Willowbrook Hospice in St Helens, Merseyside and later in 2013 at Bury Hospice in Lancashire.

Garden at Norwich Cathedral

Walkden Gardens in Sale, Cheshire

In this, our 20th year, we are creating a Show Garden in conjunction with Bury Hospice at the RHS Tatton Park Flower Show in July.

The Society is open to anyone with an interest in Japanese gardens, our members enjoying a high quality quarterly journal on all aspects of the subject, as well as meeting others with a shared interest and taking advantage of the opportunities that we offer for further learning and experience.