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Chelsea Flower Show Favorite: Mr. Ishihara’s Minimal Water Hut

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Chelsea Flower Show Favorite: Mr. Ishihara’s Minimal Water Hut

May 27, 2017

If there are any messages at the Chelsea Flower Show, they are firmly nailed on to that of the sponsor of each show garden. Designer Kazuyuki Ishihara, the dapper genius of small spaces, brings his own messages and, he would argue, they are about gardening.

“No Wall, No War” is the name of his Chelsea offering this year: a hut with transparent walls and floors that rises from the water on stilts, the better to survey its setting of impeccable harmony:

Photography by Jim Powell, for Gardenista.

Kazuyuki Ishihara&#8
Above: Kazuyuki Ishihara’s No Wall, No War garden, a gold medal winner at this year’s Chelsea Flower Show.

Mr. Ishihara is famous for his exquisite moss gardens, flanked by the unmistakable shapes and colors of acers. The palette is essentially green and red, with a dependable accent of turquoise, provided by the aged copper detailing on his structures. This year the building might have disappeared, given the name of the work. Ishihara’s desire was to create something “where one can see everything without physical obstacles.”

Gosho No Niwa: No Wall, No War.
Above: Gosho No Niwa: No Wall, No War.

Weathered copper provides a frame and is continued in the lowest of perimeters, between the densely planted garden and minimal rocks. Mr. Ishihara’s inspiration for this garden was the Emperor’s residence in Kyoto.

A vertical plane of moss (you could call it a wall) for viewing, within the wall-less building.
Above: A vertical plane of moss (you could call it a wall) for viewing, within the wall-less building.

The garden is the guard. “You can admire the scene from all aspects,” Ishihara notes, and this includes from inside the building, looking out at bumps of moss, or through a filter of acers over water.

Moat alternative: water flowing under and around the structure that is clad in aged copper.
Above: Moat alternative: water flowing under and around the structure that is clad in aged copper.
Distinct textures and shapes, next to controlled colors: Japanese water iris, Japanese black pine, moss, acer, water.
Above: Distinct textures and shapes, next to controlled colors: Japanese water iris, Japanese black pine, moss, acer, water.
A narrative of rock and moss, scale and texture. The direction of travel combines rustic with sleek.
Above: A narrative of rock and moss, scale and texture. The direction of travel combines rustic with sleek.
Socks only. The inside features a highly lacquered (and flowered) low table, with a floor cushion on either side, plus a bonsai tree. There is a slight &#8
Above: Socks only. The inside features a highly lacquered (and flowered) low table, with a floor cushion on either side, plus a bonsai tree. There is a slight ’60s vibe, of being in a glass room with a glass floor, and, as Ishihara says, no walls.
Perfectly assembled: the right angles of the structure give weight to the spikes of water plants by flat, wide stones. Even the water by the building is vertical as well as horizontal.
Above: Perfectly assembled: the right angles of the structure give weight to the spikes of water plants by flat, wide stones. Even the water by the building is vertical as well as horizontal.
The corner of the garden from an angle that reveals that every side is planted, whether you can see it from the front or not.
Above: The corner of the garden from an angle that reveals that every side is planted, whether you can see it from the front or not.

Kazuyuki Ishihara’s plant list on this garden includes one Acer reticulatum and six A. palmatum: ‘Bloodgood’, ‘Deshojo’,’Inaba-shidare’, ‘Linearilobum’, ‘Sango-kaku’, and ‘Seiryu’. Many of these, plus the evergreen shrubs and feature rocks, were supplied by the Japanese Garden Centre, Kent.

An undesigned water source at the back of the No Wall, No War garden.
Above: An undesigned water source at the back of the No Wall, No War garden.

In a garden with no walls, no moats, no obstacles, it is fitting that there is no hidden “behind the scenes” area. This has always been true of Ishihara’s Chelsea show gardens. The designed rear is popular with picnickers who have discovered that if they sit at the back, they can gaze at a tapestry of green under the shade of the showground’s London plane trees.

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Above: “The garden is the expression of peaceful daily life.”

For more of Kendra’s coverage of this year’s Chelsea Flower Show, see:

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