Circle of Life Sanctuary Garden

A Sanctuary garden marking the passing of time and the ups and downs, twists and turns of human life, will feature at the 2022 RHS Chelsea Flower Show.

Designed by Yoshihiro Tamura,(Hiro) director of Hiro Gardening based in Wakayama, Japan, ‘The Circle of Life‘ provides sanctuary from the digital world, with only the sounds of wind and water. Mature trees shade younger plants while simple herbs and vegetables nourish. Dead trees and decaying wood will remind us of nature’s circles as they provide homes for insets, fungi and bacterial which all regenerate the soil. The Japanese aesthetic of wabi-sabi accepts imperfection and transience in nature.

The Circle of Life setting is international, reflecting the Japan-British Exhibition of 1910 in London, which had large Japanese gardens and exhibited old and new traditions from both countries. After the 1910 exhibition, the Chokushimon (Gateway of the Imperial Messenger) was moved to the Japanese garden at Kew.

Hiro’s personal inspiration comes from the terrain of his village at the foot of the Mount Koya UNESCO World Heritage Site.

A traditional Negoro lacquered tea set, has been specially made for the Circle of Life garden, by a contemporary maker and friend in Wakayama, Megumi Ito of Negoronuri Hatsunekoubou. The garden also features unique mosaic walls made of oiled hardwood off-cuts salvaged from Hiro’s workshop, which will mature over their 50 year life span like traditional Japanese houses.

Reclaimed hardwood forms the pergola and repurposed wooden salad bowls create hanging pots for salad plants. Thin walls permit wide accessible pathways, a salvaged river marker-pole indicates the meeting place and a white sheepskin seat represents clouds recycling planetary water.

The timeless universality of the ‘circle of life’ is affirmed in many cultures from the Zen enso, to the song by Elton John & Tim Rice in The Lion King. In 1859 Charles Dickens concluded: “For as I draw closer and closer to the end, I travel in the circle, nearer and nearer to the beginning.”

Planting includes Acer amoenum cv. Sanguineum, Geranium moyesii, Salvia microiphylla, Salvia patens, Sambucus nigra ‘Black Lace’ Thymus vulgaris and Stachys byzantina.

Hiro points out that: “If fresh green spreads in front of you, the mind becomes relaxed without effort and feels comfortable,” and we can’t argue with that. Very much looking forward to seeing this garden and best wishes to all in the run-up to the show.

Show garden design ©Yoshihiro Tamura,(Hiro)