Monday, September 14, 2015

秋の七草 • Aki-no Nanakusa / (Seven Flowers of Autumn) + plant class & books

by aleks
Several years ago when the plant committee was researching plants in a small bed by azumaya, we found out that 4 or 5 of of them belong to seven representative flowers of autumn  - Aki-no Nanakuksa / 秋の七草 (as opposed to the Seven Herbs in Spring (Haru-no Nanakusa /  春の七草) which are edible wild herbs of spring.)

A poem by Yamanoue-no Okura (660–733), from the oldest existing anthology of Japanese poetry goes like this:

秋の野に 咲きたる花を 指折り(およびをり)
かき数ふれば 七種(ななくさ)の花
Aki-no No-ni Sakitaru Hana-wo Oyobiori
Kakikazoureba Nanakusa-no Hana
(Meaning: When I count on my fingers the flowers that bloom in the autumn fields, I find there are seven.)

萩の花 尾花 葛花 瞿麦の花 姫部志
また藤袴 朝貌の花
Hagi-no Hana Obana Kuzuhana Nadeshiko-no Hana Ominaeshi Mata Fujihakama Asagao-no Hana
(Meaning: Bush clover, Japanese pampas grass, Pueraria lobata, dianthus, Patrinia Scabiosaefolia, thoroughwort and bellflower.)

SJG • 9/9/15:  HAGI, bush clover or lespedeza

Struck by this 'coincidence' I wrote to Jim Thomas, a former head gardener in SJG:

dear Jim,

this is aleks, of the SJG plant group. some time ago we discovered that the small flower bed south of azumaya contains 4 of the 7 autumn flowers ((susuki/miscanthus, hagi/lespedeza, fujibakama/eupatorium & kikyo/platycodon).

 we think it is no accident and want to ask you if you know the story behind it, or perhaps you heard something  from Mr. Yamasaki (if the flower bed was planted before your  time in the garden….  in september we are doing a cont. ed. class for the guides that includes the 7 flowers of autumn and appearance of some of them in our garden - any of your thoughts on the topic much appreciated!

many thanks! aleks

p.s. we understand that the missing kudzu and, to some extend, patrinia are invasive and probable reason for omission, but who knows why the pink is missing, too… well, the usually strong eupatorium didn’t show up this year - speculation is the heat and lack f water did it, hopefully temporarily only.  

Jim answered:

Hello Aleks,
You are right, the planting at the Azumaya was no accident. Shortly after taking charge at the Garden I read through Prof. Iida's writings and descriptions of our garden. He talked about an orchard of cherry trees under planted with the "seven flowers of Autumn". 

With Bonnie Mitchell's help I found the names of the plants. Unfortunately only the Hagi and Suzuki are the native Japanese species. The rest are the proper genus but a western species. I did have pinks initially. They fell victim to the slugs and didn't get replaced. 

My intention was to create beds of these plants throughout the orchard adding interest and reducing the amount of lawn to mow. 

I also had Hagi and Suzuki plants at the south end of the orchard. However I think the site was too shady for them. 

I hope this information helps with your class. And thank you for your continued support of the Garden.

Jim Thomas 
SJG• 9/9/15 - Susuki, or zebra grass, behind hagi...

And Hiroko (of the Plant Group) commented:

Hi all,
Jim gave us a very interesting information. I have never read Mr. Iida’s writing mentioning the planting of seven fall flowers. I have one article by Mr. Iida which I am sure you all have. That was included in the training folder. I also have the same article in original Japanese which I treasure. He does not mention anything about the seven flowers in the orchard in the article, and there must be another writing by Mr. Iida which Jim must have read somewhere, and I would love to read it.

I think we should mention Mr. Iida’s original idea of planting seven flowers of autumn in our garden in the training material this fall. Mr. Iida’s style of stroll garden was new and unique during his career in that he incorporated more natural scenery like grove of mixed trees (copse) into a traditional Japanese garden. After the WWII, suburbs of Tokyo was rapidly urbanized and nature was gradually disappearing from the daily life. Mr. Iida tried to make nature more accessible to people by creating public parks in more natural style with grove of mixed trees which were abundant a few decades before around Tokyo. This historical assessment of Mr. Iida’s work is from what I read in a Japanese book. I will bring the book to the next meeting.  

I think his idea of planting seven flowers of autumn in the Japanese garden is in line with his creating more natural style garden to convey the feeling of undisturbed field with wild flowers.

Thank you for your patience reading my thoughts. I would love to hear your thoughts, too.

SJG - 9/7/15: the Garden starts to have that autumny feel...

Jim also said this about the moss in our Garden (we are researching moss, as well):

I don't have a specific recollection of where I read Prof Iida's mention of the seven flowers. Possibly in the Arboretum Bulletin. In the article he talked about different areas of the garden. His description of the orchard was something about it being "a table land above the lake" having cherry trees and the seven flowers. 

Regarding moss in the garden. You probably know that the most desirable type is Polytrichum or hair cap moss. It is one of many in the garden. The original members of Unit #86 used to make field trips to collect it to plant in the garden. Later we propagated it at the Park Department nursery. Transplanting it into the garden wasn't always successful. So that effort ended and we let the native mosses colonize on their own. I never pursued the nomenclature of the other mosses as their classification is based on their reproductive structures and was more important in my botany classes in college than in the garden. 
One interesting note. During Bonnie Mitchell and Urasenke's tenure in the garden, she would have her students clean the tea garden before going inside the tea house. The regular sweeping with bamboo brooms removed the light green sheet moss and the Sugi (hair cap) moss colonized behind it. 

A really informative article about 7 flowers of autumn from the Urasenke Foundation of San Francisco here - enjoy!

Guess what: the next Cont. Ed. class (Sat., September 19, 10:30 am) for the guides is on the plants of our Garden and it contains info on Seven flowers of Autumn!  Hope you can join us!

• • • •
BOOKS!:  we had a very lively book club discussion on Ruth Ozeki's 'A tale for the time being'. Next (and last for this year) meeting will be October 21, Wednesday, 10-Noon: BOOK GROUP #4—The Life of Isamu Noguchi (2004) by Masayo Duus.  You may know him by the iconic black 'donut' sculpture in Volunteer Park...

SJG - 9/7/15 - Euonymus hamiltonianus has pink sachets of seed right now, Area L

• • • • •

While looking at  the SJG calendar - don't forget this in October:

•  October 7, Wednesday, Noon-3:30: FILM—“Kaidan” (1964) Tales of the supernatural
•  October 10, Saturday, 10:30 am - Semiannual Unit 86 mtg. There will be a thank you lunch for volunteers immediately following the meeting at 12:30.
•  October 17, 8 pm: butoh in the Taoist Studies Institute: Borderline: Kantor’s Dead Class Revisited, a new work directed by Joan Laage (Kogut Butoh, one of our guides!).