Orchids and Japanese Gardening

orchid_gardenCombining the Traditional Japanese Garden with Tropical Plants creates a beautiful retreat. Japanese gardens are elegant, deceivingly simplistic and aesthetically pleasing. The subtle shifts in colour and form tend to calm the spirit, taking us away from the busy pace of the modern world. This can even be at a subliminal level. Your mind’s eye may know the garden has placed a gossamer veil of peace around your psyche, but your body may take a while to catch on.

But it will. Spend time among the carefully placed rocks covered with velvety textured mosses, quiet ponds filled with koi fish or even next to an imaginary river made of seemingly flowing pebbles and yes, your body will eventually get the message.

It is not surprising that those who have the skill, patience and creativity to create a Japanese garden would use those same skills to nurture delicately scented orchids. Nor is it a surprise that the fragrant orchid and Japanese garden design elements can be elegantly wed.

Morikami Park, in Palm Beach County, Florida, is home to a Japanese garden with a tropical twist. Named after George Sukeji Morikami, who immigrated to the United States in 1906, the 200 acre property has expanded from a small, traditional Japanese garden and pavilion to a garden setting with almost a mile of pathways.

It has the traditional bamboo stands and tiny islands connected by zigzag bridges, as well as a “Contemplation Pavilion” that urges guests to just relax and enjoy their surroundings. The twist in this garden is that some of the traditional plants have been replaced by tropical ones, including orchids.

Instead of Japanese maples, which won’t grow in Florida, black olive trees were pruned and shaped to mimic this garden staple. Strawberry guava trees and slash pine were also trimmed to show off their elegantly shaped trunks and limbs. Fig trees form a wall, blocking out the sounds and sights of neighbouring homes.

The creator of this marriage of Florida plants and classic Japanese design is Hoichi Kurisu. Ever mindful of long held traditions, he has created a bolder, brighter colour palette that is more in sync with its tropic locale.

Adjacent to Morikami Park is a recently purchased parcel with a large greenhouse maintained by the American Orchid Society. Inside is a 15 foot high waterfall, its tiered layers covered with orchids of every colour and shape. Outside is a three and a half acre formal garden that is home to over 3,000 orchids that are growing in trees, among perennials and shrubs that line the pathways and alongside tranquil ponds.

In the wild, orchids attach themselves to tree branches in the forest canopy. They are epiphytes, getting their nutrients from the air. In this garden, orchids have been attached to the trees using wire and liquid nails. This means that you not only have beauty at your feet, but are greeted with an array of colour and hints of fragrance from above.

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