Tag Archives: Plants & Gardens


On my first visit to Japan I did three weeks in Korea in the middle of my visit. On returning to Japan I was tired of planning and booking accommodation so I decided to stay in Narita for a bit, since the airport was there.

What a surprise! A beautiful historic city with a thousand year old temple complex.

Here is the entrance

This first photo is of the water fountain for cleansing as you enter. I couldn’t wait to revisit the temple, so I went there on the first night, – hence the evening light.

On your right as you enter is the pagoda

The temples are more assembled than built. Nothing is fixed and so the building is wonderfully earthquake resistant.

In Japan every temple has its garden, as much a part of the temple as the building. In Narita, it extends as a wood on the hill behind the temple.

After a while, as you wander around the forest, you hear the sound of water rushing.

Near the top, you find the fountain, and behind it the calligraphy museum.

In Japan simplicity is very important. This is the work of one of their most famous calligraphers.

The view from the museum

As you go out there is another scene

Lanterns are very popular, and very beautiful, especially when they are lit at night.

This one seemed to need a bit of help on the lighting front..

That’s all for now, I will add another mini-tour of a Japanese garden for you soon.

They are and remain some of my favourite places on earth.


They call the place Sissinghurst Castle Garden, but it is really not a castle.

The garden is very famous though.

We approach.

Last winter they opened the winter garden to visitors for the first time and I was there.

On a lovely bright February day.

Vita Sackville-West was the lady of the house and the chief gardener. She and her husband bought the place, I think there was some sad story of her growing up at a mansion not too far away and being unable to inherit it.

She fell in love with the tower on this property. This is the view from up there.

You can see the hop kilns

The view form the other side of the arched entrance,

the neighbours,

over the pond to the main buildings

and the tower as seen from the garden.

In February you can see the snowdrops, the crocus flowers and the bare rose stems.

They say if you bend the roses they flower profusely. You can do this with all roses except the hybrid teas. Think I should come back in summer!

Do you think we can pick saffron?

The garden is famous for Vita’s new style of planting, but don’t overlook the structural design.

They say she was never in the garden without at least a string of pearls.

The main living quaters as seen from the courtyard.

And the tower in all its glory. It does seem like an ideal place to write, which is what she wanted it for.

Think I remember they lived here for years in a ruin so they could renovate. All for the tower and the garden.

Well if she had her way and stayed in her childhood home, she would never have created this beautiful place and garden.

Our guide wasn’t sure of the name of this plant but assured us it had been flowering for weeks. Protected there in the corner.

If I’m right it is the camelia japonica, or the Japanese camelia, cousin to the tea plant – camelia sinensis, from China.


It seems as if I am in the south of Germany here sometimes, although in reality it is Namibia, on the south western point of Africa.

There are so many Germans here in Swakopmund you get confused.

I’ll do a small post about last summer in Germany.

We start in Cologne, a highly industrialized city that survives since before Roman times, was mostly flattened in WWII, put still has their cathedral.

They have quite a vibrant shopping scene today.

From my window, on the 22 floor, you could follow the chimneys on the horizon.

The poor cathedral is really suffering with all the air pollution.

The spiel is that building works extended over 700 years, but if you listen carefully, it sounds like it was suspended for over three hundred years, somewhere in the middle. Because of wars I take it.

So not quite 700 years of work.

I wasn’t overwhelmed by their cleaning effort, to be honest. At this rate they will never get it done, and the overall effect is really just to make the dirty bits look dirtier.

Also they seem to have enough going on inside. Nifty spider thingy they have there.

I suppose if they don’t clean the outside, the dirt will eventually work its way inside and you will be left with a mosaic floor with a ribbon around it, like you have on the old Roman archeological sites.

Impressive mosaic though, assume made with marble etc and not tiles.

Windows equally impressive

Here is a little combination from the summer gardens on my side of the city.

They seem to be doing well despite the air pollution.

I was in the red and blue block you can see  above the honey sign. It won the award for the ugliest building of the year 😦

Can’t fault the view though.

Trees on my way to the shop

Had to go past the tennis courts, along the mosque and across the street.

Suppose you need workers in all those industries.

I found the people of Cologne gentle and kind, which makes sense for a city with one of Europe’s oldest universities.

Also quite gels with their signature scent, the 4 7 11, soft and unpretentious, if a little aged 🙂

The old city over the Rhine

and a little closer up

This guy seems to have his own built in pigeon, very efficient.

Quite a good museum about their Roman history, which I didn’t visit.

A lot of transport still goes on the water here. Think this is an oil tanker.

They are the biggest Rhine city today.

And this poor bugger is the face of STD’s in Germany.

I certainly hope he lives far away, it would be a bit upsetting to see him on the S bahn.

Looks a bit upset himself, but who can blame him?

Suizenji – Kumamoto

Still on the west island (Kyushu), on the west coast is  Kumamoto city. Their garden is Suizenji.

Suizenji is a miniature version of the Tokaido route. The old eastern sea route between Kyoto and Edo – today Tokyo.

Their is a Tokaido line on the Shinkansen railway still today. Gives you a good view on Mount Fuji.

Their you can see Fuji in the garden, snow cap included. The garden is on scale. Only the trees on Fuji they couldn’t quick get small enough. There is only so much you can do with bonsai.

Fuji again, from a different vantage point. Wish I could get a photo with a lawn mower. Do you think they are also miniature?

Suizenji, as you may have guessed from the name, is a temple garden. You have temple gardens and walking gardens.

The old Shinto beliefs are alive and well in Japan. Alongside the Zen Buddism. Shinto is old Japan, Buddism is from the continent.

To wash your hands and rinse your mouth before entering the temple. Often they have dracons, but not this one.

The water is clear and fresh though. The garden was made near a spring. Possible for the sea of the sea route.

The obligatory water and koi with the semi-obligatory camelia japonica.

I wonder how old this pine is. Sometimes you see people on ladders cutting some of the needles out on the growth points.

It’s not easy to get everything in, there Fuji is again, just to the right of the bridge.


The Duessel river delta empties into the Rhine here and gives the city both its name and its atmosphere.


Currently the capital of the area, they are in competition with the nearby Cologne, on the same river, holders of the cathedral and previously more important than they.

Also good shopping on the Konigsallee. There is a flea market on the river side of the street as well. With art and books and of course beer and sausages 🙂


They also have this wonderful park.


A local lady stopped to tell me that during the war all the statues were removed and only restored much later.

A Japanese garden on the Rhine.


This was in a window.


Botanical Garden – Leuven

The botanical garden in Leuven, Flemish Brabant, Belgium. The city also has the oldest catholic university still in existence.


Part of the heritage of convents are their gardens, medicinal herbs falling in the cadre of the monks.

as did drinks..


for the absinth


and hobs for the beer. Stella Artois is from Leuven and the second large export product together with the university.



Taxus is not only used for hedges, but a product for chemotherapy is also made from it.

At the TU Delft (Technical University) the garden has to earn its keep (being in the Netherlands 😉 ) One of the brains there realized one day that during a thunder storm you can smell fir trees. He then thought to use electricity to milk the Taxus in stead of having to cut them down to get the substance. You need tonnes of wood to get only milliliters.

And it worked. You put a gardening fork in the ground to earth the wire and put stream on the tree. A fine spray comes out of the leaves which contains the substance you’re after.

The tree is unharmed and can be milked again after a time.


Madam seems satisfied 🙂

Shelter for exotic plants.

And some trees dressed in autumn colours.

Perhaps the best, and certainly one of the most charming of the botanical gardens I have seen.



Few things as good as a fresh artichoke.

These are fresh cut and boiled in water with vinegar. Dipped in olive oile with fresh thyme and lemon juice, whipped with a fork.

Did you know thyme kills all bacteria in sight in micro seconds?Apparently the thymol in thyme. It is the main active ingredient in Listerine mouth wash and also active against fungi. You can treat toenail fungus with thyme oil.

In Dalmatia they make a traditional artichoke stew. My friendly hostess brought me some on a cold and rainy Saturday. This is her family recipe.

Bang the artichoke face down so that they lose some of the leaves. Stuff them with garlic, parsley, breadcrumbs and olive oil.

Put some fresh butterbeans (favo), peas and the stuffed artichokes (together with the leaves that came off) in a pot with water and salt. Cook over low heat for an hour .

Delicious with fresh bread.

Favo beans have been eaten in the mediteranean since 5000 BC.