Tel: 01983 855397

The Japanese Garden

The Japanese Terraces envisaged by Simon Goodenough were to become a plant collection of plants from the Japanese islands that shared the same climatic conditions as Ventnor. However, by naming this part of the garden Japanese Terraces, the visitor has distinct expectations of a garden style.

The Japanese tradition of gardening has some very distinctive, memorable features. To stray away from these expectations and deliver only the ecological plant display would have been foolhardy. Consequently development included some of the architectural features of the Japanese tradition into this area, also some of the plants one might expect to see, for example flowering cherries, very significant in Japanese culture. This difficult to manage and north facing part of the garden was limited by a steep slope that needed taming with terraces; their structure arrived from a distant source.

A little bit of local history…

In 1870 the Ventnor Pier & Esplanade Co. was formed and a new 478 foot pier was completed in 1873. A landing stage was added in 1881 but this was destroyed, along with 40 foot of pier-neck, by storms later the same year. A 650 foot, £12,000 replacement pier was opened on 19th July 1887. A £980 pavilion was added in 1906. As the Guyanaen tropical hardwoods were bolted into place, little did anyone realise the future these precious timbers would have. By 1981, £750,000 was needed to repair the pier, but fire damaged the structure in 1985 and the pier was demolished in 1992. At this point a new fire raged on Ventnor seafront as the waste timber was being burned. Fortunately the plume of smoke was noticed, and the remaining baulks of timber were rescued, brought to Ventnor Botanic Garden to be reborn as the structural body of the Japanese Terraces.

There have been three (so far) phases of development in our Japanese Terraces. Simon Goodenough’s 1992 terraces were built by a team of disadvantaged adults on a government scheme. Turning difficult north facing slopes into graded terraces containing acidic soil gave rise to what have now become a dense glade of bamboo and some large groups of Camellia. The second phase in 2000, to the east, used the remaining Green Heart timber to create a stylised Japanese garden, with architectural features of faux bridges, a false gateway and dry garden pool. Plants in this area were of new introductions from the far-east including Vietnam, Korea and Taiwan.

New developments

Of the two Japanese bridges, only the eastern zig-zagged bridge functioned as a bridge from completion. Over time the softwood handrails had made us close it down as unsafe. Regular visitors will know well the serpentine Wisteria that corkscrews around it and upwards to the trees above. We have now repaired to this bridge, removing decayed timbers and replacing with new. An initiative from our gardener Dean was realised by removing a short length of path behind it we have slowed the footfall through this area and now the visitor passes over the bridge as part of the journey. In Japanese mythology, evil spirits pass only in straight lines, so a zig-zag bridge prevents all but the pure access through to the next plants.

The Western bridge was fake, made to look like a bridge with a dry stream underneath, it only had one side, the other simply a continuation of the existing path from 1992. This year it has been the intention to correct this forgery. We continued the dry stream bed upwards to the top of the bank and filled with pebbles. These now flow beneath the bridge which has been fully recreated and is now functional. Part of the process saw us removing broken handrails for replacement with treated hardwood (oak), and a complete new deck. We have painted the bridge a lacquered red, and have maintained the handrail overhanging detail from the original.

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Tel: 01983 855397  |  Ventnor Botanic Garden, Undercliff Drive, Ventnor, Isle of Wight, PO38 1UL

The Japanese Terraces envisaged by Simon Goodenough were to become a plant collection of plants from the Japanese islands that shared the same climatic conditions as Ventnor. However, by naming this part of the garden Japanese Terraces, the visitor has distinct expectations of a garden style.

The Japanese tradition of gardening has some very distinctive, memorable features. To stray away from these expectations and deliver only the ecological plant display would have been foolhardy. Consequently development included some of the architectural features of the Japanese tradition into this area, also some of the plants one might expect to see, for example flowering cherries, very significant in Japanese culture. This difficult to manage and north facing part of the garden was limited by a steep slope that needed taming with terraces; their structure arrived from a distant source.

A little bit of local history…

In 1870 the Ventnor Pier & Esplanade Co. was formed and a new 478 foot pier was completed in 1873. A landing stage was added in 1881 but this was destroyed, along with 40 foot of pier-neck, by storms later the same year. A 650 foot, £12,000 replacement pier was opened on 19th July 1887. A £980 pavilion was added in 1906. As the Guyanaen tropical hardwoods were bolted into place, little did anyone realise the future these precious timbers would have. By 1981, £750,000 was needed to repair the pier, but fire damaged the structure in 1985 and the pier was demolished in 1992. At this point a new fire raged on Ventnor seafront as the waste timber was being burned. Fortunately the plume of smoke was noticed, and the remaining baulks of timber were rescued, brought to Ventnor Botanic Garden to be reborn as the structural body of the Japanese Terraces.

There have been three (so far) phases of development in our Japanese Terraces. Simon Goodenough’s 1992 terraces were built by a team of disadvantaged adults on a government scheme. Turning difficult north facing slopes into graded terraces containing acidic soil gave rise to what have now become a dense glade of bamboo and some large groups of Camellia. The second phase in 2000, to the east, used the remaining Green Heart timber to create a stylised Japanese garden, with architectural features of faux bridges, a false gateway and dry garden pool. Plants in this area were of new introductions from the far-east including Vietnam, Korea and Taiwan.

New developments

Of the two Japanese bridges, only the eastern zig-zagged bridge functioned as a bridge from completion. Over time the softwood handrails had made us close it down as unsafe. Regular visitors will know well the serpentine Wisteria that corkscrews around it and upwards to the trees above. We have now repaired to this bridge, removing decayed timbers and replacing with new. An initiative from our gardener Dean was realised by removing a short length of path behind it we have slowed the footfall through this area and now the visitor passes over the bridge as part of the journey. In Japanese mythology, evil spirits pass only in straight lines, so a zig-zag bridge prevents all but the pure access through to the next plants.

The Western bridge was fake, made to look like a bridge with a dry stream underneath, it only had one side, the other simply a continuation of the existing path from 1992. This year it has been the intention to correct this forgery. We continued the dry stream bed upwards to the top of the bank and filled with pebbles. These now flow beneath the bridge which has been fully recreated and is now functional. Part of the process saw us removing broken handrails for replacement with treated hardwood (oak), and a complete new deck. We have painted the bridge a lacquered red, and have maintained the handrail overhanging detail from the original.

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