In a Japanese garden, using plants that flower is tricky. One needs to introduce beauty and seasonal “visual treats” for guests but it must not be about the flowers. They should blend in with the landscape as a natural part of the whole.
In a chaniwa (tea garden) flowers are considered distractions that take the guest’s mind off the true purpose of the tea ceremony and, therefore, are discouraged.
For a strolling garden they can work as seasonal highlights. We don’t have a lot of flowers at Momiji-en, but there is usually something in bloom year-round.
Spring and summer are especially suited for blossoms. By early June this year, the rhodis and azaleas have been deadheaded, the Chinese orchids are about done blooming, and the peonies have dismantled themselves. The dominant flowers in bloom now are Japanese iris (a late blooming variety), astilbe, and water lilies.
Because they are purposely placed out of the main view, the potted flowers grown in the tea house cutting garden for chabana – displayed in the tokonoma – are saved for the experience of being invited to tea ceremony.
The power of these flowers is in their ephemeral character, reminding us of our own short time on Earth and our role in Nature.