There is no substitute for being there. If you search the web for information on how people use plants at home in Japan, you will find a ton of pages talking about historical styles, how the rich build their private gardens, and which Japanese plants you can buy for your own home. In truth, most people in Japan have tiny homes, and not much space to build huge gardens. But plants are very much part of their lives. So every little house in a city will have a small space with plants. On a gloomy day, as we walked from the famous Golden Pavilion of Kyoto to the equally famous gardens of the Ryoan-ji, we kept stopping at every second doorstep. In a tiny space, sometimes only the width of a step from the street to the door, every house had a plant or two. One of them was this cascade of yellow flowers which I could not recognize. The narrow focus of my macro lens gives lovely photos, but may not be ideal when you want to identify a plant from its photo. Can it be some kind of an anemone? Is anyone from a temperate region of the world ready with an identification?
As I took the featured photo, The Family found the larger garden whose entirety you see in her photo above. I can recognize asters. But the rest are outside my experience. The pot in the foreground is a whole Japanese garden in itself: at least three plants, arranged tastefully to show colours at different times, but green most of the time. Of the three, one stands tall, one droops and the one with the springtime colour spreads. Such meticulous planning! Each piece can occupy your attention, and that is the purpose of gardens after all.
I was surprised when Kunzum led us to a cottage at the top of the rise. Our morning’s walk to see Chomolungma had not left me hungry. Perhaps it was the altitude, after all we’d reached a place which was a little over 3 Kms from sea level. Or perhaps it was the nice, but heavy, breakfast of parathas and steaming hot potato curry. Still, I was happy to sit and shed some layers. The last climb had left me a little sweaty.
As I was doing that, The Family had shucked her backpack and walked back out into the yard to take photos of the house. The soil in the yard was parched and hard with the cold, but the house was bright with potted plants. This is one thing about hill houses that really cheers me up: every house has rows and rows of flowering plants lined below windows, around doors, and anywhere possible on exterior walls.
I stayed in for a moment, enchanted by the beautiful light in the pantry and dining room. The full Singalila trek takes experienced trekkers four days or so (it would have taken us maybe about six). Along the road are these “tea houses” where people can spend a night or get something to eat. The pantry reminded me of century old black and white photos of Himalayan houses. I took a few photos and decided the light deserved monochrome.
The light was less dramatic in the dining area, behind the wide open windows, but still mild enough that the place deserves a black and white photo, in keeping with historical precedent. In truth though, you must imagine it as being very colourful in a pastel sort of way. The Family leaned in through the windows and said “Come out. Look at the flowers here.” I pulled on my jacket and followed her.
I suppose I could try out monochrome shots of the flowers, but they were so lovely and colourful that I think they deserve a full colour treatment. Some were wilting a bit in the extreme dryness of the atmosphere up here. The air pressure at this altitude is about 70% of what it is at sea level, and that means water can evaporate pretty rapidly. But in spite of the dryness at the edges of the petals, these flowers looked really pretty.
The two of us took our phone to every flowerpot we could see. Now when I look at the number of flower shots we took, I think we must have been slightly addled. Still, that gives us a nice big set to select from.