Written by Botanic Garden Consultant, Honorary Life member friends of GCRBG & tour escort to the Toowoomba 3 Day Garden Tour, Kate Heffernan.

The beauty and tranquillity of Japanese Gardens has been replicated or re-imagined across the world. Strange as it might seem one of the finest is at the Irish National Stud, home of racehorse breeding in Co. Kildare Ireland. Conceived and developed by a Scotsman, but landscaped by a Master Horticulturist and his son between 1906  1910  it is a seamless blend of Eastern and Western cultures. Like many re-imagined Japanese Gardens it features a Guzei, or red bridge.

Another beautiful bridge, evocative of a scene from some of the wood block prints treasured by artist Claude Monet was built and landscaped by him in 1899 at his home in the village of Giverny, France. Blue-green in colour this bridge drips with soft mauve wisteria, is surrounded by lush plantings and crosses a pond of waterlilies in scenes painted by Monet a dozen times.

A curved bridge features in many of Australia’s Japanese style gardens including Royal Botanic Gardens of Tasmania in Hobart developed in 1970, the North Coast Botanic Gardens at Coffs Harbour in 2013 and Toowoomba’s Ju Raku En constructed at the University of Southern Queensland in 1989. All three have red bridges, typically seen in Japanese gardens in many countries but less commonly seen in Japan where they are more often crafted of natural, weathered timber.

Not intended simply for its visual effect, the bridge in Japanese gardening is an essential element. They may be created from timber, curving across part of a lake or across a stream which traditionally enabled boats to travel underneath. They are also often made of stone, sometimes two slabs to provide the curve or a slab hewn from rock for narrow crossings. The water crossing in the mountain stream themed Japanese Garden at Brisbane Mt Coot tha Botanic Gardens comprises of large flat topped rocks over a moving stream running into a lake. Designed by a leading Japanese Architect and built originally as a feature at Expo 88 before transferring to Mt. Coot tha, it cleverly combines native and exotic plants.

The red bridge in Toowoomba’s 4.5 hectare Ju Raku En is a feature in what is Australia’s largest and most traditional Japanese stroll garden. Entered through massive timber gates, the garden has elements reflecting a mountain stream and waterfall surrounding a large central lake with a backdrop of massed azaleas on a hill sloping towards the water.

Ju Raku En is just one of the wonderful gardens visited on Japan Holidays 3 day tour to Toowoomba at what would normally be Parade of Carnival of Flowers time, the best of best times to see Toowoomba’s spring gardens.

Picture – Japanese gardens at the Irish National Stud, Co. Kildare. Picture Kate Heffernan

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