JGS Gardens and Show Gardens

2020 A new Japanese garden in Coventry Islands of Peace

Since 2019 the Japanese Garden Society has been working a group of five primary schools in Coventry to design and construct a Japanese Peace Garden in the Coventry War Memorial Park – Coventry’s largest city centre park. It is the culmination of a Japanese Peace Project, being run over the last few years within the schools.

The design of the karesansui or dry stone garden was by Robert Ketchell, Japanese garden creator and former JGS Chair, incorporating ideas suggested by the children.

Coventry is an International City of Peace, linked with Hiroshima through an annual ‘Hiroshima Day’. The City Council has fully supported this project and has contributed significantly towards the costs. The garden is now complete and due to be officially opened by the Japanese Ambassador on 2 July 2021.  We expect the garden will feature in Coventry being the UK City of Culture from May 2021.

The garden, as a space for reflection, will be open to the public, demonstrating the commitment of Coventry children to peace and reconciliation.  

For more information on the involvement of the schools see:-


2019 Restoration of the garden at the National Botanic Garden of Wales
The Japanese Garden Society was asked to carry out the restoration of the Japanese garden at the National Botanic Garden of Wales as part of the world-wide garden restoration programme instigated by the Japanese Government. The garden started life as a ‘Best in Show’ Show Garden at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in 2001 and was reconstructed at the Botanic Garden later that year. After seventeen years the garden inevitably needed some repair and renovation, which was completed in May 2019. The work undertaken by JGS members and volunteers, working with the gardening staff at the Botanic Garden. The restored garden was officially re-opened at a ceremony on June 4th 2019, conducted by Ambassador Koji Tsuruoka and Lord Daffyd Elis-Thomas AM, who jointly planted a tree to mark the occasion.

2014 Willowbrook Hospice Garden number 3 (Prescot, Merseyside)  Following yet further building work at Willowbrook Hospice, the JGS team was called in again to suggest how the outer part of garden number 2 (2012) could be modified and extended to take account of the revised buildings. The new space was to be an extension of the original garden number 2, yet much of it would only be seen on its own – i.e. as garden number 3. Graham Hardman has designed rock arrangements and planting to suggest a landscape set in very curving areas of paving. This has been shaped to flow with the garden and allows two spaces for beds to be wheeled out into the garden in fine weather. The enclosing fence has also been shaped to reflect the overall theme. While not a garden that you would see in Japan, this does use many Japanese design principles and techniques and is aimed at providing maximum interest to viewers from the many windows that overlook it.

2013/2014 Bury Hospice  The huge garden at Bury Hospice was designed by Graham Hardman in parallel with the Show Garden at Tatton Park in 2013. There had been an agreement between JGS and the Hospice that JGS volunteers would design and build a Japanese garden at the Hospice if some of the materials and plants could first be used to construct a Show garden at the RHS Tatton Park Flower Show. Following the Show all the elements from the show garden were transported to Bury and construction started in September 2013. This was by far the biggest project undertaken by members of the Society and was finally completed in May 2014 after about 50 working parties and hundreds of hours of work. The Hospice received some generous donations for plants and materials and very significant donations of stone and transport from Marshalls plc, allowing the Hospice to have a very large garden for the very limited budget that they could afford. The result has been widely acclaimed and has been another great success as a ‘healing garden’ created by the JGS. The garden was officially opened in June 2104 by Mr Akio Miyajima, Minster Plenipotentiary at the Embassy of Japan in London.

2013 Hatch Mill Nursing Home  The JGS Southeast region was approached by Hatch Mill Nursing Home for advice on reshaping an existing courtyard garden. Robert Ketchell designed a completely new look using Japanese themed sections of garden around the paving of the courtyard. The results have been extremely successful and much appreciated by the residents and staff. A team of volunteers from the Southeast constructed the garden during the summer of 2013.

2012 Kaetsu Centre, Cambridge  In 2010 the JGS held its annual National Meeting at the Kaetsu Centre in Cambridge, this being a centre for Japanese studies associated with the Murray Edwards College of the University. The Chief Executive raised the issue of a particularly difficult part of the garden. Two small areas of ground had been left at the sides of a glass-surrounded stairwell at the rear of the building. Gardeners had found it difficult to find a satisfactory solution to keeping these looking good, mainly due to lack of light. The design team of Robert Ketchell and Graham Hardman came up with a scheme which was subsequently built by members from the JGS Southeast region, supported by some of the regular team from the NW. The garden eventually became four separate elements, the two sides of the stairwell, an indoor tray-scape between the two at the foot of the stairs, and an outer area beyond the stairwell. Each had its own theme, but all linked to the basic purpose of the centre, the provision of education.

2011/2012 Willowbrook Hospice Garden number 2 (Prescot, Merseyside)  Following the success of the first garden in 2009, the Chief Executive of the Hospice invited the JGS team back to design a much larger garden for a new courtyard created by a large building extension. This space was overlooked on all sides so had to look good from all angles and at one side had to be merged into the existing landscaping. This was dealt with by reshaping shrubs and the lawn so that the flowing shapes led the eye into the Japanese garden within the more enclosed space beyond. This second garden took several months to construct over many working parties, and was officially opened in June 2012 when Mr Yatsuhiko Kita from the Embassy of Japan in London planted a tree within the garden.

2010 Norwich Cathedral  While two JGS members were doing some research on gardens at the Library of the Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures (SISJAC), based in Cathedral Close, Norwich, the deputy Director of the Institute asked for advice on building a Japanese garden within the confines of the Cathedral. The garden was to be sponsored by SISJAC for the Cathedral. Graham Hardman was one of the researchers and offered to provide a design on a voluntary basis for the Cathedral authorities and SISJAC to consider. Graham worked with Robert Ketchell on the design, which was approved and a small team of JGS volunteers built the garden in March 2010. Some members from the experienced group in the NW were joined by local JGS members from the Norwich area. The garden had to be designed without any planting at the request of the cathedral authorities, so is in the karesansui or dry landscape style with a simple rock arrangement set in a gravel ‘ocean’. The garden occupies a small space between the end of the modern welcome hall or ‘Hostry’ and the ancient wall of the cathedral. As such it is seen by all visitors to the Cathedral. The garden suggests a link between the traditions of monks in Zen Buddhist temples in Japan and those of the former Benedictine monastery on which the cathedral is based. The Hostry and garden were officially opened by Her Majesty the Queen in May 2010.

2009, Willowbrook Hospice Garden number 1 (Prescot, Merseyside)  Following an enquiry for advice about constructing a Japanese garden by the Chief Executive of Willowbrook Hospice the JGS NW Regional group offered to provide a design and if approved, a team of volunteers to construct a garden. This was a win-win situation as the Hospice had a very limited budget and our members were able to practice and enhance their garden construction skills, developed initially at Walkden Gardens in Sale. The space concerned was a very irregular shape which nevertheless lent itself well to treatment in Japanese style. The garden was constructed over two weekends in August 2009 and was an immediate success. Not only did patients find the garden interesting to look at but so too did families and friends, and staff found the garden a visual relief from their daily work. This became the first of three gardens that JGS has developed at Willowbrook hospice.

2006 Walkden Gardens   JGS members in the North West Regional group designed and built a Japanese garden in Walkden Gardens, owned and managed by Trafford Borough Council.  The garden shows different aspects of Japanese gardens and attempts to give the ‘feel’ of a garden as seen in Japan.  Walkden Gardens are laid out as a series of garden ‘rooms’ separated by high hedges in the style of Hidcote Manor in Gloucestershire. The rooms contain different themes and styles of garden and the fact that they are self-contained made it an ideal site for a Japanese garden. The original space, half a thicket of shrubs and trees and half a bedding scheme, has been completely transformed into a Japanese landscape garden, subdivided into three sections: an entrance area, a woodland garden and an open karesansui, or dry-water garden. Construction began in early 2004 and was completed late in 2006, with some modification in 2009. The gardens were officially opened on Friday October 20th 2006 by His Excellency the Japanese Ambassador, Mr Yoshiji Nogami. Members of the JGS continue to maintain and develop this garden on a monthly basis. For information contact the NW Regional group.

2005 Birmingham Botanical Gardens   Japanese Courtyard Garden. In 2004 Birmingham Botanical Gardens sought help from the Japanese Garden Society in the re-design of the Japanese garden. Following a design workshop for Midlands’ JGS members, plans were drawn up and submitted by Graham Hardman, JGS Chairman. The plans were approved and building work began shortly afterwards. JGS members were involved in rock placement, planting, making the dry stream and other constructional details. The Official opening of the garden by His Excellency Mr Yoshiji Nogami, Ambassador of Japan, was in May 2005.


Show Gardens

2013 Tatton Park Flower Show   To celebrate the Society’s 20th anniversary we designed and built a large Show garden at the RHS Tatton Park Flower Show. The garden was called Reflections of Japan and was designed by Graham Hardman, sponsored by Bury Hospice and built by members of the JGS. It was awarded a Gold medal in the Large Show Garden category. The garden was designed in two halves, reflected about the central line. One side was designed in Japanese style, the other using the same spatial layout but treated in a more English style. The aim was to show the public how Japanese ways of using space can be adapted to create interesting gardens that don’t look overtly Japanese. After the Show all the materials and plants were reused to create a Japanese garden at Bury Hospice.

2004 Chelsea Flower Show The JGS was awarded a Gold Medal in the Show Garden category with a garden called Shizen – The Japanese Way. It was designed by Maureen Busby and built by members of the Japanese Garden Society, many from the South East region, with the help of their contractors and sponsors, including a team from Beechings Landscapes.

Shizen, “The Japanese Way”, illustrates the unique way in which the Japanese people seek to be in harmony with nature in their daily lives by using sliding shoji screens to frame different views of the garden. The garden was designed to show that authenticity does not need any of the ornaments or artifacts often associated with Japanese gardens. A dry stream runs under the house and flows into a shallow pool with a rain chain. A three rock arrangement in gravel with clipped shrubs and contoured lawn bring precision and space to the small garden. A stepping stone path leads from the veranda through trees to the shakkei (borrowed scenery) of the woodland.

2002 Hampton Court Flower Show The JGS Maple Courtyard (momiji tsuboniwa) was designed by Maureen Busby and was awarded a Gold Medal and Best in Show in the Small Garden category. It sought to evoke the atmosphere of a restrained and serene tsuboniwa, or courtyard garden, in the Kyoto style. Such gardens are viewing gardens, entered only with the mind. They are an art form shaped as much by the Japanese landscapes and architecture, as by Shinto, Buddhism and the master gardeners who established the principles of assymetry, minimalism and harmony.

2001 Tatton Park Flower Show A western interpretation of a Japanese tea garden, designed by Graham Hardman and built by members from the North West Region assisted by students of Knowsley College. It was awarded a Silver Medal.  The aim of the garden was to show how an enclosed courtyard could be treated in Japanese style. Entitled ‘The Tea Garden’, this was a modern interpretation for a tiny courtyard (6m by 4M). A tea house was suggested by shoji screen panels, and a waiting arbour by the bench under the entrance gateway. The garden between them included a stepping stone path, water basin and lantern, and a bridge over a dry stream that divided the space. Planting was informal, as appropriate for a tea garden, and mainly consisted of evergreen shrubs with an Acer suitably framed in the corner. Being a show garden, public access was important: the side fencing allowed the public to get very close to the garden, even to lean on it, and when standing back, to see views framed by posts and roof.  

1996 Hampton Court Palace Flower Show  This three dimensional representation of ten old Chinese poems and paintings known as the Ox Herding Pictures, was built in just three weeks on the largest plot at Hampton Court that year. The garden was constructed by members of the JGS under the guidance of the designer, Robert Ketchell, then Chairman of the JGS. It won a Bronze Medal.

The Ox Herding Pictures portray the ten steps on the Zen path to self enlightenment. Landscape painting is one of the favoured routes of teaching employed by Zen Masters and paintings were often translated into the garden form. The entrance courtyard was enclosed by bamboo screens which allowed glimpses of the main garden beyond. Near the gate to the main garden, a single stone represented the ox herder (the self) at the start of his quest. As a stepping stone path wound its way around the garden, each stage of the journey of enlightenment, from the first sighting of the ox’s tracks, to its capture and taming, were depicted by stone and planting compositions. Lanterns lit the way through the garden, until finally at the last gate; the ox herder no longer needs the ox. At certain times visitors were treated to narrated painting demonstrations on the garden which translated the compositions of rock and plants back to the paintings.


Gardens maintained by members of the Japanese Garden Society

In addition to involvement with the design and construction of the above gardens, in many instances JGS members carry out routine maintenance. From time to time these maintenance workshops are also conducted at a number of other gardens around the country. This gives our members a chance to work on an established Japanese garden, develop skills and contribute to the garden’s general welfare. The scope and amount of work is specific to the garden concerned. If you are interested in joining us, contact the region concerned.

Danescourt Cemetery, Wolverhampton

Members from the Midland Region organise several working parties during the year to clean, tidy and prune the many shrubs and trees in the garden. These visits provide a great opportunity to learn new techniques and to share experiences with other gardeners.

Walkden Gardens (Sale, Cheshire)

Members from the Northwest Region work in the garden every month, on the last Saturday of the month. The work is very varied and tuition on pruning techniques can be provided for newcomers.

Great Ormond Street Hospital (London)

 A garden designed by Maureen Busby in a roofed area is maintained by members of the South East Region.

Other gardens with occasional working groups:

Willowbrook Hospice (NW Region)

Bury Hospice (NW Region)

Tatton Park, Cheshire (NW Region)

Birmingham Botanical Gardens (Midlands Region)

National Botanic Garden of Wales (SW Region)

Kingston Lacy, Dorset (SE Region)

Hammersmith Park (SE Region)