National Geographic : 1947 Jul
Patient Gardeners of Old Japan IN a north-south direction the islands of Japan cover about the same amount of latitude one finds journeying from New Eng land to Florida. Toward the south where the winters were mild there could be a continuous succession of flowers, and there the Japanese had a floral calendar marked by different species. The Japanese calendar was so ar ranged that New Year's Day fell in our Feb ruary, just as the first Plum blossoms opened. These were followed in March by the Peach and Cherry. May brought the fuji, or Wis teria. June was made beautiful with Irises and Peonies. In July came the East Indian Lotus. The late summer-August and Sep tember-was marked by various kinds of Hibiscus, with autumn being heralded by the October Chrysanthemums. And the winter months, closing out the Japanese year, were the time when the Tea Plant and various Camellias bloomed. Paragons of patience in a craft where patience is a cardinal virtue, the old Japa nese gardeners with their keen eyes for selec tion gave to the world a long series of choice ornamental varieties. Although working pri marily with their native materials, the Japa nese made free use of other species, so that Japan is the actual door through which many Chinese and other Asiatic species came to us. JAPANESE WISTERIA (Wisteria flori bunda): This strikingly beautiful member of the Pea Family has long been a favorite and in the hands of Japanese selectors has yielded numerous garden forms. In its original state the flowers apparently were purplish and in clusters (called racemes) less than a foot long. By careful selection the basic colors have been separated, intensified, or diluted to pastel shades, and recombined by hybridization so that the tints now range from deep violet to light blue, rose, pink, and white. Other selections yielded plants with racemes up to 3 or 4 feet long; this showy group, desig nated variety macrobotrys, also has numerous races varying in the color, size, and shape of their flowers. Several Chinese species also are grown, such as W. sinensis, with its either blue-violet or white flowers, and W. venusta, with its large white flowers on short racemes. Native Amer ican Wisterias, as W. frutescens of our own Southeastern States, and W. macrostachya of our South-Central States are sometimes cul tivated. The genus Wisteria was named in honor of Caspar Wistar, 1761-1818, professor of anat omy in the University of Pennsylvania. The slight change in spelling may be no more than an attempt on the part of the original namer of the genus to arrive at a somewhat more euphonious Latinized form of the original. BLEEDING HEART (Dicentra spectabilis): This Japanese member of the Fumitory Fam ily has long been popular and is found in many American gardens. As its name rightly indi cates, it is the most spectacular member of the genus. Like many North Temperate genera, Dicentra has wild species both in Asia and in North America, the two American species, increasingly frequent in gardens, being D. formosa of the Pacific coast mountains and D. eximia of the southern Appalachians. An other American member of this plant family, Adlumia fungosa, known in various regions as Allegheny-Vine, Climbing Fumitory, or Mountain Fringe, is also commonly planted. JAPANESE IRIS (Iris Kaempferi and I. laevigata): In the wild, Iris Kaempferi is said to have reddish-purple flowers and I. laevigata blue ones. Although usually sold under the name of Iris Kaempferi, apparently both species (and probably others) are involved in the present races of this complex and variable group of plants. Long grown in its native home, the Japanese have hundreds of named varieties; in recent years our own Iris breeders have added many more. AZALEA (Rhododendron, various species): As will be noted on page 65, the Azaleas, botanically speaking, belong in the genus Rhododendron. A clump of Japanese Azaleas is shown in our picture near the stone lantern. Its showing here honors those old Japanese gardeners who produced so many fine varieties, both in the evergreen and in the deciduous leafed groups. The so-called "Japanese" Azaleas, for the most part, are the result of hybrid combinations between native Japanese species and some introduced there from China many years ago. In our picture a few artificially dwarfed trees also are shown. One of these is the pine. Several species were used, but the Japanese Red Pine seems to have been one of the favorites. The other is the Flowering Cherry. The subject of Japanese Flowering Cherries is too large to be discussed here, but various botanically distinct species in their many garden forms and apparent hybrids were available. Japanese gardeners also made use of the Flowering Almond and the Peach, both native in China, in the production of these dwarfed flowering-tree specimens.