Nagasaki Garden

About Project

‘The Butterfly Effect’ garden is a direct response to my visit to the Nagasaki’s Peace Park and museum last October. I spent time there after finishing building my first garden for the Gardening World Cup with its deliberate theme of ‘world peace’.

The heat created by an atomic bomb bleaches concrete and chars wood. Where its rays are blocked, a shadow is left. This museum is full of very poignant silhouettes of people, as well as objects, whose shadows are profound reminders of the horrors of the atomic bombs dropped over Nagasaki and Hiroshima in August 1945. I found this aspect of the museum very moving and also that something so beautiful, like the intricate shadows of leaves burnt onto walls and fences by the blast, can come from something that is so awful. As I left the museum bright butterflies were dipping across shadows created by plants and trees in the park. They must have followed us back to the gardening world cup venue as we suddenly seemed to have butterflies there.

Part of the intention of this design is to create a quiet and tranquil space, a space where, if the daylight allows, shadows will come and go, ever-changing. It is a place to think about, and reflect on, the importance of peace. Throughout the day varying changing shadows will be cast, and if we are lucky, butterflies will dance over them, attracted by plants such as eupatorium and buddleia.

The sunken garden has a deliberate Italian feel to it, its part-cloistered walls inspired by a childhood visit to an abandoned Tuscan monastery. Framed with classical architectural walls, but made out of materials found in Japan, the formal beds reference my Italian roots and the fact this is an Italian entry in the Cup.

A Japanese stone plinth stands at one end of the garden from whose base water bubbles up before traveling through rocks and stones, to a still, calm deep pool. The garden can be viewed from the outside through stone arches, framing views of pine trees reminiscent of Italian stone pines.

Paper forms suggest the fragility of a butterfly’s wing. Sculptured from Japanese paper, with stitched detail, by British artist Martin Dodkins, they sit in niches within the garden’s walls whilst others sit in a glass case on top of the plinth. The contrast between glass, paper and stone are deliberate. lighting within the niches picks up the shadows formed by the intricate folds in the paper.

These butterflies remind us of the ‘Butterfly Effect’ where our everyday actions can make a difference for generations to come. For me this is also fits with the Buddhist concept of ‘Dependent Origination’ meaning everything is part of everything else. What happens to one person touches everyone. We are all connected, as I am to the now through this garden, to those who suffered from this particular aspect of war.

Nagasaki, Japan
120 sq m
Aspect & Soil
South East
50% hard
Rendered walls, dry stone walls, sunken garden, stone plinth, rocks, boulders & stones, pool, paper sculpture, rill, pool
Silver medal winner
April 15, 2013
International, Planting, Show