A Gardening Magician
Kazuyuki Ishihara is a Japanese landscape artist who has been praised by Queen Elizabeth II as a gardening magician. This year, he won the President’s Award at the prestigious Chelsea Flower Show.
The following are excerpts from our interview.
365 days a year, morning, noon, night. The seasons are always changing. That’s the meaning of senri-sentei, something like “a thousand moments, a thousand gardens.” Maybe I go up above my car and have a drink. Maybe I’ve got fishing equipment in there. I listen to a favorite song. It’s meant to be fun.
More are more people are clustering in cities like London, space, so gardens are getting Paris, New York. There's less destroyed to make room for garages. So there’s less greenery, but if the plants can become part of the garages, they can survive. People really seemed to like this concept, which was just fantastic for me.
I use very few flowers. For this, I used just a few irises. European designs have lots of lush flowers, and it’s beautiful. But I like to have just a few flowers. Around where I live, in May the irises start blooming. They’re still tiny. That's what I see in the landscape around me, and it gives me such a strong sense of the season. That’s the kind of thing I try to express.
Also, English-style designs have a lot of straight lines; they’re very symmetrical. But the design I did this time, there’s this car on the right, and then this huge staircase on the left. It’s asymmetrical.
It’s balanced unbalance. The balance is a little off, but that’s what pulls you in. Mother Nature is my teacher. And you don’t find perfect symmetry in nature. I think I don’t create “gardens" so much as I create landscapes. It's a landscape, but it's manmade -- but it doesn't look manmade. I’d say those are the kinds of spaces I strive to create.
In Japan, moss is part of a beautiful garden. But lots of British people think of it as a blight. They hate it. That’s certainly how British gardeners felt about it back in 2006. If moss is growing on your lawn, it’s a big problem. ‘Cuz the grass will die.
So I wanted to make an entire house just out of moss. The green of moss is pale but so vivid. Moss is beautiful, presented the right way. So I did this, and it got a lot of attention; I even got the nickname “Moss Man.” And then everyone else started using moss too.