Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Ju Raku En Japanese Garden in Toowoomba

Toowoomba the Garden City boasts one of the best Japanese Gardens in Australia - the Ju Raku En. This week is Toowoomba's Carnival of Flowers - Saturday being one of the best days to visit because there is the parade down the main street with floral floats, street performers, stilt walkers and bands. Starts at 12.00pm on Saturday, 22nd September. Lots of open gardens to visit and of course the Ju Raku En.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

900 metres above sea level makes a big difference.

Springbrook which though still in south east Queensland is so different to Brisbane it could well be in another country. Sitting 900 metres above sea level the climate is cool, fresh and moist. Up here it is quiet and serene yet not that far away we left behind an eight lane highway with thousands of cars travelling from Brisbane to the Gold Coast and vice versa. The altitude seems to provide the ideal climate for Camellia japonicas, Azaleas and Hydrangeas. The Camellia japonica shrubs were robust, healthy and had flowers covering them with trunks up to 30cm thick.
Looking east towards the Gold Coast from Springbrook National Park. Deep valleys covered in lush subtropical rainforest gradually rise to steep granite escarpments.
A rock pool on the edge of the escarpment looking down the valley towards Surfers Paradise
Ancient Antarctic beech trees (Nothofagus mooreii) in a small remaining grove, believed to be over two thousand years old.
A lush group of tree ferns (Cyathea leichardtiana) next to a creek at Springbrook

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Ekka!! - what's Ekka

It's easier than saying the Royal National Agricultural and Industrial Association of Queensland. It's when the country comes to the city and it's Queensland's largest event of the year.
One of the entrances into the Ekka - a ten day event held every August in Brisbane.
An agricultural produce display put on by one of the local high schools.
A horticultural display organised by the Bromeliad Society of Queensland.
A blacksmithing competition in full swing.
The woodchop - where men from the bush come wielding very sharp, shiny and expensive axes.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Queensland Garden Expo - July 2011

Even customers like these need something sharp to cut their Gladioli with! An imitation of Australia's grand old dame - Edna Everidge - and her sidekick came in to see what we boys had on offer. Unfortinately for us there was a "no sale" when these two roving entertainers left our stand last year at the Queensland Garden Expo in Nambour. On another day we were entertained by Gardening Australia's new host Costa Georgiadis as he ran along the aisles with a trolley, used for moving large pot plants, borrowed from the neighboring stand. Someone was heard to call out "Run Forrest, Run"
Glorious sunshine for three days along with plenty to see and eat - how could anyone call this winter.
We'll be there again on July 6th, 7th and 8th this year so here's hoping the weather stays fine. If you're looking for a great range of hand forged Japanese tools for the garden along with high quality machine made woodsaws, pruning saws and secateurs then get out of the garden for a few hours and come to Nambour. We look forward to seeing you there.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

It's Autumn in South East Queensland

Toowoomba (known as the as The Garden City) is the closest town to Brisbane to see the beautiful Autumn colours of deciduous trees. Last Sunday on a glorious autumn day away we visited Queen's Park where the Liquidambers and Maples were all turning bright orange and yellow.
Liqidamber styraciflua (Sweet Gum) - always the first of the deciduous trees to colour up.
A row of maples starting to turn a deep red during the early stages of Autumn.
Butter yellow leaves on a  tree I didn't recognize - so what! it looked fantastic anyway.
The garden of this very well maintaned cottage caught our eye and as we walked past the lady who owned it was working in it. I commented that she had a beautifully kept garden and a conversation soon ensued. It turned out she is an interior decorator - it really showed. The colour scheme of the house and everything about it looked so inviting.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Hanami - the time to view the Sakura flowers.

A good friend of ours just sent some photos of the current cherry blossom (Sakura) season taking place in various parts of Japan right now. This is the most popular time for overseas tourists to visit Japan to see this most spectacular show of nature's wonder. For the locals it's a time to get together with friends for picnics and barbecues under the Sakura trees along with festivals that include traditional performing arts.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Is it a home built by the owner, a store that sells musical instruments, a coffee shop or a venue for some live music played with some very different instruments..............yeh it's all of those things.

Just off to one side of a narrow winding road that ascends a moderately steep hill in Kamakura sits a nondescript little wooden shop advertising coffee and cakes. Inside it could be mistaken for a coffee shop, with all sorts of props intended to create some atmosphere for the hapless customers who come in to enjoy the coffee and cake. But then the very friendly owner gets across to you that he built the place himslf when he was much younger - the photographs testify to that when he pulls out an album of photos that show the progresss of the house being built, by a man who resembles the man who is showing me the album.
Musical instruments adorn the beautiful timber walls of this rustic shop. The owner tells me he is a member of a four piece band that get together regularly to play at various venues.

The real surprise comes when the man brings out a bamboo flute which he puts one end up to his nose and proceeds to make music. Yes folks this a nose flute!!
I never realised there were Japanese hippies but I think I may have found one here.


Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The way of the Samurai - removing branches like a professional!!

Using a "Samurai" brand saw with precision ground and impulse hardened teeth that are nickel plated to stop rust, make the first cut 20-30cms out from the trunk, cutting 1/3rd of the way through the branch on the underside. The effort should be put into the pull stroke with only little effort being put into the push stroke. Japanese blades are thinner that western style saws because the blade is under tension on the pull stroke. The blades are also made thicker at the teeth and tapering towards the back of the blade so that as you cut through the branch there is less friction than a western style saw.

 Next make your second cut on the top side of the branch, 20cms out from the first cut.

Keep cutting until the weight of the branch causes the two cuts to join up. This stops any bark from tearing away along the trunk of the tree.

All that is needed is to remove the remaining stub so it looks like this. All proper safety precautions should be applied when using a saw to remove branches. In a year or two the stub will be covered over by the outer layer of bark.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Private gardens in Japan

Walking the streets of Japan you get to see a variety of gardens as you would in any country. Japanese gardens have some common plants that can be seen time and time again especially in their traditional type gardens. This courtyard garden has a Rhapis excelsa along with a mix of trees and small shrubs. The trees are pruned to reveal the outline of the branches and to give a more artistic look to what would otherwise be just another tall tree or shrub. There's never too much repitition in the plantings. A tree such as a Podocarpus, a Cryptomeria or a Pinus is carefully shaped and placed along side of a smaller shrub - an Azalea, Ardisia or a fern set amongst some well chosen rocks.
Even when there is very little space, which is the case for a lot of Japanese residences, a number of pot plants are squeezed into every available spot. Chrysanthemums are one of the more popular choices along with plants like Nandina domestica often seen close to the front door of a house.

Glossy leaved evergreens dominate the traditional courtyard gardens of Japan along with a few flowering plants like Azalea kurume and Camellia japonica and sasanqua varieties. The Kurume Azaleas are generally clipped to get a dense rounded shape. Japanese gardeners nearly always use garden tools made in Japan - hedge shears, secateurs, garden scissors used for thinning the needles on the Pine trees along with different sickles for removing weeds from gardens beds.

Monday, March 12, 2012

The distinctive shapes of Japan.

The gardening in Japan is vastly different to the rest of the world. They shape trees in their own unique way. In the west we have topiaries, clipped formal hedges, informal gardens, cottage gardens, tropical gardens..... but in Japan it's so different.
An air conditioning unit made to look more attractive by a group of  trees clipped into a mass of rounded shapes.
A private home with three clipped trees.
Another private home with a Japanese Cedar (Cryptomeria japonica) and some shaped Azaleas.
Some neatly clipped small shrubs and a Podocarpus tree in a small garden bed greet the visitor to this public park in Tokyo.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Autumn colours of Japan

Japan has an array of trees that colour up in autumn that highlight the shape of the leaves in the process. The Japanese maple comes in many forms and sizes from shrubs to tall tees. I didn't realise how big they got until I saw them growing in ravines on steep mountain sides. When they change colour in November they can vary from a butter yellow to scarlet red. This photo shows how they can be two toned on the same bush. If you live in a  subtropical climate you really appreciate the beauty of the deciduous plants.
Ginkgo biloba - the Maidenhair tree - beautiful butter yellow leaves on a tall tree.
A broad spreading Japanese Maple ( Acer palmatum) in a park in Kyoto.
Buxus microphylla (the Japanese Box) turning a bronze colour in the cold climate - this doesn't happen here in Brisbane. They remain green throughout the year.
Subtle autumn colours of the trees along the side of a canal.