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Dan Pearson’s Japanese forest garden offers a fresh and sensitive approach to horticulture

She writes: “When we grow perennials, we sometimes meet a moment of chaos… Chaos can be romantic in the garden, but on the other hand it can soon look tired. We enjoy the time we have had with the plants so far and then we make a bold step change at the right time for the garden.”

A reverence for the right time permeates the Millennium Garden. As part of her training, Shintani worked as a traditional gardener, where she learned “self-discipline, diligence and devotion”. This ethic underpins everything carried out at Tokachi.

Gardeners often carry out tasks silently, in awe of the mountains that dominate the landscape. There is, too, a constant awareness of every season. We are familiar with the idea that cherry blossom is celebrated in Japan, but the 72 seasonal changes recorded in the ancient Japanese calendar provide regular prompts to respect the beauty of evanescence.

Throughout the turning year, there is a phrase for each five-day shift: “The earthworms rise, The plums turn yellow, white dew on the grass.” This close observation is a constant reminder of the passing of time, of the coming of death to us all.

But each natural change is also a cause for celebration. Under the veranda of the Garden Café is a display table, an encouragement to look closely at an arrangement of whatever foliage, flowers, or produce is in season.

Pearson has brought home much of what he has absorbed from Tokachi. In his West Country base at Hillside, the land is worked only enough to support the life he shares with his partner, Huw Morgan, who acted as editorial and creative director of this beautiful book. (Commitment to the Japanese aesthetic was also shared by Julie Weiss, the book’s designer.)

Pearson says that through the experience, “we have learnt to prize the small and the fleeting”. At this time of year, pears are gathered and spaced out on a wooden table. Dahlias are picked, each in its own small vase for closer inspection.

Satoyama is practised in the garden, where a dialogue is being established with nature that aims for balance and diversity. At Hillside, repetitive tasks are celebrated, the pace of life is slower and modest undiscovered beauty waits to be revealed. The influence of Japan has been potent.

Tokachi Millennium Forest by Dan Pearson (£40, Filbert Press). Order your copy from books.telegraph.co.uk. 

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