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Park life: this year marks the 200th anniversary of the foundation of the Royal Horticultural Society. In honour of this remarkable milestone, Octavia Lamb tours formal gardens around the world through the archives of the Royal Geographical Society.

As Britons spread out into the far comers of the Empire, they took with them the traditions of the English formal garden, along with a preference for the familiar flowers and plants of home. And so hill stations such as Simla and Mussoorie in the foothills of the Himalaya, havens from India's oppressive heat, were populated by demure, well-tended rose gardens.

But formal gardens are by no means a strictly British tradition. In the 16th century, the conquering Mughal emperors also settled in this far-northern region, and in Srinigar, Kashmir, laid out the Shalimar Bagh (Garden of Love), the Nasim Bagh (Garden of the Morning Breeze), and the Nishat Bagh (Garden of Pleasure) complete with terraces of flower beds and an avenue of cascades.

It could be argued, however, that it is with the Japanese that formal gardens reach their greatest expression. A tradition that dates back to the eighth century, the construction of a Japanese garden is guided by a variety of principles, many of which were first set out in the Sakuteiki, perhaps the world's oldest gardening manual.

Gardens can be found everywhere in Japan, from rooftops to restaurants. A traditional Japanese garden is a model of aesthetics, designed to reflect the beauty and grandeur of nature--a rock becomes a mountain, a pond the sea--and to provoke contemplation and feelings of harmony in the beholder.

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Title Annotation:Geographical Archive
Author:Lamb, Octavia
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:9JAPA
Date:Apr 1, 2004
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