Japanese Gardens Cowra.

We are recently returned from another touring holiday of Victoria -extended distances again, and a sense of freedom on the long day drives. On our first day, on our way south to Canberra, we stopped at the Japanese Gardens in Cowra, New South Wales, for a horticultural treat.

During WW2 there was a Japanese PoW camp at Cowra, and on 5th August 1944, 1104 prisoners broke out of the camp, although where they would have gone in this inhospitable, and at that time largely uninhabited country, is anybody’s guess. In any event, they were either killed (there were 231 deaths amongst the Japanese) or recaptured and imprisoned for the duration of the war. There is a Japanese cemetery nearby where those killed in the breakout were buried and in 1960 the Japanese Government decided to bring their war dead from other parts of Australia to be buried there. The cemetery is serene and peaceful, a fitting resting place for the Japanese soldiers who died in Australia.

The inclusive and healing nature of the cemetery was the beginning of a friendship between the people of Cowra and the people of Japan. In 1977 a world famous landscape architect, Ken Nakajima was commissioned to design a garden reminiscent of the landscape of Japan, and the beautiful Cowra Japanese Gardens are the result. Many of the trees in this garden were planted by visiting Japanese dignitaries.

Set in a natural amphitheatre, after 40 years the gardens have grown to be a splendid example of the principles of Japanese gardening containing accepted elements such as plants that provide colour and interest throughout the seasons, water, stone or gravel, bridges and fish.

Although we arrived in late Autumn there was still plenty of colour to be enjoyed.

Water is in constant view in the garden. A chuckling stream of recycled water makes its way down the hill between manicured shrubs to finish in a lake containing Koi Carp.

Boulders, some of them very large, were donated by the Dunhill family of ‘Boonderoo’ in memory of Ted Dunhill, who died in Sandakan province, Borneo in 1945. In a photo below Mr MG surveys the gardens from the top of the hill.

Long views shown in the photos below demonstrate how the elements of Japanese gardens combine together to construct a landscape in miniature.

This was a wonderful and uplifting way to start our holiday, as I hope the photos show.

Finally, I’d like to share with you photos of these paintings displayed in the Cultural Centre. Painted by Paul McKnight, an Australian artist, they charmed me with their attention to detail and quirkiness. Each paper-thin tea cup with its matching saucer is complemented with a teaspoon, a biscuit and a lushly painted background. They had names such as ‘Royal-tea’ and ‘Her Majes-tea’.

Do you enjoy a manicured garden such as this one, or do you prefer something altogether less structured?

36 Comments Add yours

  1. Christel Dewar says:

    I can see why you are enjoying your trip. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Jane says:

      Thanks for the comment Christel. Glad you enjoyed the photos.

  2. Kris P says:

    The garden looks huge, Jane. My local botanic garden’s Japanese garden is tiny and congested by comparison. Even the Japanese garden at The Huntington Gardens in Pasadena , California, immense in contrast to our local version, looks smaller than the Cowra garden. Although I generally gravitate to flowerful spaces, I do love the peace and tranquility characteristic of gardens in this style. The history of the Cowra garden, particularly the rapprochement between Australia and Japan, makes it all the more special.

    1. Jane says:

      Hi Kris, the gardens are five hectares in size. I don’t know if that constitutes a large Japanese garden or not. Like you, I prefer a less orderly garden, but you are right about the peaceful ambience in this garden. I imagine a great deal of work goes into keeping it all in perfect shape.

  3. Looks beautiful and the history of the garden was very interesting. I like visiting structured gardens but I prefer a bit more organised chaos in my own. Those were paintings? Crikey, they looked real.

    1. Jane says:

      I’m with you in the organised chaos. My garden isn’t very orderly and I do like a more flowery appearance in a garden. Full borders spilling over, I say!

  4. Chloris says:

    What a fabulous garden and amazing autumn colour. I love those teacup paintings too.

    1. Jane says:

      Thank you Chloris. The garden was well worth a visit.

  5. Tracy says:

    How beautiful, Jane. It looks like it is definitely worth a visit.

    1. Jane says:

      Yes, Tracy, perhaps you’ll have the opportunity to visit the garden on a trip north one day.

  6. June says:

    I love these gardens. Japanese gardens seem so peaceful and perfectly arranged somehow. They seem a fitting resting place for the soldiers.

    It looks as though you are having a great trip – have fun!

    1. Jane says:

      Thank you, June.

  7. As you would expect, I go for the less structured; however there is a place for such as these. An uplifting story well photographed. Amazing teacup paintings

    1. Jane says:

      Yes, less structured for me too, Derrick. I’m glad you enjoyed the photos.

  8. Gill Heavens says:

    What a beautiful place, and a very touching story. Gardens are such wonderful places for healing. Lovely photos.

    1. Jane says:

      Thank you Gill, glad you liked the photos. The place is certainly photogenic.

  9. Cathy says:

    What a beautiful way to start a holiday and such a peaceful commemoration of a painful event.
    The tea cups are fabulous, each one made me thirsty!

    1. Jane says:

      Thanks Cathy. The gardens are a credit to the local people and so beautifully maintained.

  10. Lis says:

    Manicured gardens are completely against my nature but what a truly stunning place it is, you have captured the serenity and beauty of the gardens so perfectly in your photos, Jane. How lovely, too, that that they have been a place of healing between nations, perhaps there’s a huge lesson there for today’s world? Love the teacups, too! Hope you both enjoy the rest of your trip. 🙂

    1. Jane says:

      I’m not at all surprised that you like a less orderly garden,Lis😊 I agree about lessons to be learnt and whilst walking around the garden I thought how nice it would be if there were other gardens perhaps commemorating some of the people who’ve migrated to Australia more recently. Who knows? Perhaps it might happen one day!

  11. rusty duck says:

    Oh good, another trip! I am really looking forward to this.
    The gardens are magical. Autumn is the perfect time to see a Japanese garden.

    1. Jane says:

      The autumn colours were certainly beautiful, Jessica. I’d love to have another visit in the spring to see the trees in blossom.

  12. The gardens are majestically peaceful, befitting of a cemetery setting. It looks like a lovely place to visit and spend some time walking and meditating.
    The paintings are so sweet with so much attention to detail – an artist indeed!

    1. Jane says:

      I would love to have bought one of those paintings, Cindy. Each one was so interesting and beautifully executed.

  13. bonnie groves poppe says:

    I love Japanese gardens and am presently creating a “japanese inspired white garden” on part of my property here in Provence. I didn’t know that the Japanese were interned in Australia. As a Californian I am quite aware of it in the US, and have visited one of the camps, which has been preserved as it was the day they left. Manzano, its a very barren site, not entirely desert, but very inhospitable. There are photos of the period that show how much the incarcerated people were able to do to make it better. What a sad chapter in our history.
    bonnie in Provence

    1. Jane says:

      I would love to see photos of your white garden, Bonnie. There were Italians interned in Australia during the war too, and there are many interesting stories about them. A lot of them worked on inland farms without much surveillance and many returned after the war was over to begin new lives here. The parents of my brother-in-law did just that.

  14. Jane Munro says:

    Hi Jane, great to see the photos- what a lovely garden with an interesting history.

    1. Jane says:

      Thanks Jane. It isn’t so far away from us…perfect for a spring visit!

  15. Beautiful gardens structured or not. I prefer any garden to no garden and many people seem afraid of letting things grow and keep cutting anything that threatens their gutters or eaves…
    I watched a beautiful garden on the ABC garden show by the photographer Bill Henson. In the inner city of Melbourne too. What a treat that was as well.
    The Japanese gardens in Cowra are stunning. Thank you for showing us this delightful piece of stunning paradise…

    1. Jane says:

      I agree about gardens Gerard. Around us are plenty of houses with no garden at all and not a single tree, something I find difficult to understand.
      I saw Bill Henson’s Garden too and thought it very beautiful with its subtropical plants and perfectly kept gravel. Gardening Australia is a weekly TV highlight for me!

  16. Vicki says:

    There’s a feeling of peace and healing balm to any garden, but I do like the structure and attention to detail in a Japanese Garden which suits my obsessively neat habit in my own life.

    On the other hand I do like some of our own Native plant & tree parks and gardens in Australia too.

    It all depends on my mood on the day.

    1. Jane says:

      I don’t have the time or inclination to manicure my garden to such an extent, and in fact prefer a more loosely constructed appearance. However, I don’t like plants that completely take over either so I’m concentrating on planting things that can deal with the climate, be they native or introduced. I agree about peace in any garden though and I can spend ages just sitting and enjoying being among growing things.

  17. Japanese gardens seem to be at their best in autumn and spring when seasonal colour is so wonderful. We have a beautiful Japanese garden here in Toowoomba too.

    1. Jane says:

      I looked at the Toowoomba Japanese Garden online, and it certainly is lovely. I particularly liked the red bridges.

  18. Pauline says:

    So peaceful and serene and the colours of autumn are magnificent. It would take so much work to keep it looking so manicured that I love looking at this type of garden but something more rustic is my chosen style

    1. Jane says:

      I agree, Pauline. I wouldn’t like to spend so much time doing all that clipping and tidying. But the gardens were a treat to visit.

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