Even a relatively modest rock still weighs more than a tonne. Professor Fukuhara, who created a superb Japanese garden at Chelsea in 2001, made it look almost too easy.
Where there's room, they can be swung roughly into position with slings and cranes, but the finesse of the design depends on the exact alignment of one rock with the next. The plants they use are familiar, but we don't normally grow them in a Japanese way.
Reverence for nature, the oooh-aaah of chasms and waterfalls and mountain peaks was mirrored in the way they laid out their idealised landscape parks.
Evergreen azaleas in a Japanese garden are often clipped into rounded shapes to look like groups of boulders. Garden centres in Japan sell turves of moss the way we buy grass. Perhaps that could be a way of getting to the point of Japanese gardens. Enthusiasts can join the Japanese Garden Society, which aims to record, conserve and encourage the making of gardens in the Japanese style. Contact Ann Dobson on 08, e-mail [email protected] or check out the website at
Pines, too, are trained, not left to go their woolly, wild way. On Wednesday, Colin Ellis, a member of both The Japan Society and the Japanese Garden Society (he's also chairman of the oldest bonsai club in Europe), will be speaking about the Japanese garden as part of the Garden History Society's winter lecture series.
The planting was simpler then than it is now, though some of the original trees remain: acers, Japanese flowering cherries and a superb cercidiphyllum. In Ireland between 1906-10, Lord Wavertree was doing the same sort of thing on his estate at Tully, Co Kildare.
He brought over a Japanese garden master called Tasa Eida and his son, Meiroru, who, with an army of Irish labourers, laid out a garden symbolising man's journey through life.
Perhaps garden makers of the 18th century could get closer than us to understanding an authentic Japanese garden.
They wouldn't have found it any easier than we do to grapple with the philosophical underpinning, but someone like Capability Brown would have been in complete sympathy with the principle of tweaking nature.Louis Greville had been Second Secretary at the British Embassy in Tokyo in the late 1880s and on his return to England in 1901 laid out a Japanese garden on the banks of the river Avon that flows through the ravishingly beautiful grounds of Heale House.A red lacquer bridge (a smaller version of the famous Nikko bridge in Japan) straddles the stream and an authentic Japanese tea house, with rice paper walls and grass tatami mats, was put up by Japanese carpenters.By then, though, it was a style thing rather than a philosophical thing, although several garden owners in search of authenticity, such as Louis Greville at Heale House in Wiltshire, imported Japanese gardeners as well as bridges, tea houses and stone lanterns.Japan in tea-garden mode appealed to British taste rather more than the austere rock/sand landscapes of the purist Zen style.Gardens made in the authentic Japanese style are rare in Britain.