Kenroku-en Garden is one of the three most famous gardens in Japan. It is located in the city of Kanazawa on the Sea of Japan, and has been designated as a Cultural Property and National Site of Scenic Beauty since 1922. It is a strolling-style landscape garden on a slope facing the Kanazawa Castle and was originally designed as the castle garden. It was initially developed in the late 1600s and went through various renovation stages. The Kenroku-en Garden was opened to the public in 1874.
The visit of this garden took place mid-March, at a time when the snow was melted but all the elaborate winter protection structures were still in place. These structures are set up in the fall and taken down in the spring. It is very labor-intensive work, and when in place the structures allow for very unique photos. No labels were provided for tree identification in this garden, and in the winter when deciduous trees are bare, identification would already be challenging.
There is no lawn in this garden – the whole grounds are covered with various types of mosses. Not having colorful blooms to attract the eye at that time of the year is inciting the visitor to rather focus on the structures, the features and the general landscaping of the garden – in addition to the trees and their supports.
Kanazawa receives around 280 inches of snow par year, and much of it is wet snow. That’s a LOT of weight on trees branches and shrubs and hedges. The structures used to shelter those plants from the snow are made of bamboo poles and ropes, and tied with several rounds of rope, mostly in a tent-like fashion. This type of conical structure lets the snow slide along it without accumulating on the branches.
These structures change the whole appearance of the garden in the winter, and it is difficult to take photos without having any of them in the picture. However it can also be said that they have their own aesthetics and are an intrinsic – albeit temporary – part of the garden for several months every year.
Please click on the photos below to enlarge them and read their captions at the bottom. You can also enlarge the photos even more by clicking on the enlargement button at the top of the already enlarged photos.
PERMANENT TREE SUPPORTS
In many Japanese gardens, trees that have a historical and/or cultural significance will be taken care of using huge beams or extensive scafoldings to support them if needed. Those are permanent supports, although they constantly need to be adjusted to the growth of the tree, otherwise the strong ties used might strangle the branch that needs to be saved. It is therefore very labor-intensive, as it requires constant monitoring of all the supports and their ties. Many of the trees thus supported are centuries old. Below are some examples of those types of support in the Kenroku-en Garden.