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A Symphony of Scents and Colors
The Japanese garden is alive all year round, and visitors will find something new every week. Towards the end of winter, when clouds of mist rise from the surface of the water between still-bare trees, pink and red camellia blossoms and the strange yellow-brown strands of witch hazel (Hamamelis) impress the visitor. Soon after it is the turn of the magnolia, which also originally came from China, along with tulips, narcissi, hyacinths and other heralds of spring - a symphony of scents and colors.
When the cherry trees are in flower, anyone strolling through the garden will really feel as if they are in a park in Japan. There is just one difference: in Japan, trees in flower are lit up until late into the night, and parties, accompanied by a certain consumption of alcohol, are held beneath the pink flowery canopies.
The main emphasis in summer is on the green tones of trees and shrubs, accentuated by a second flowering period, as it is now that plants such as red fuchsias and begonias come into their own. October and November is the perfect period for a contemplative stroll, as this is when the autumn leaves are glowing, first in all shades of yellow and then in flaming red, fading to rust tones. And then, finally, the trees and shrubs stretch out their bare branches and twigs into the grey sky.
Camellias (Camellia japonica and sasanqua) flower in late winter, and so need particularly attentive care and protection. Over the years, the specimens in the Leverkusen garden have reached an impressive size. Camellias also originated in China, where yellow, scented varieties have recently been discovered in the wild.
Various species of witch hazel (Hamamelis japonica and mollis) flower at the start of the year. They, too, originally came from China and Japan. Other deciduous shrubs of Asian origin include the birch-bark cherry (Prunus serrulata), a type of the ornamental Japanese cherry family which has already been mentioned, the purple-leaved plum (Cerasifera nigra) which has pink flowers, the almond and the ornamental apricot, which Europeans often mistake for a plum (Prunus mume). This tree has for centuries been a very popular subject of East Asian painting thanks to its white to deep red flowers which come out in the winter and look wonderful against a snowy background.
Magnolias open their sometimes star-shaped and sometimes tulip-shaped flowers somewhat later, in April. These plants also originally came from China. They are followed in May by the tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera, Yuri no ki in Japanese) with its slightly yellowish-green flowers and the pale violet bells of Paulownia tomentosa (Kiri). Kiri trees are very fast-growing and used to be planted in Japan to mark the birth of a daughter. By the time she was of marriageable age, the tree was large enough to be cut down so that its wood could be used to make her dowry chest.
The ginkgo is regarded as a plant “fossil”: with its fan-shaped lobed leaves, it is an intermediate stage between coniferous and deciduous trees, and has been in existence in its present form since the Early Jurassic period. It may well be the oldest living plant species on earth. The lofty ginkgo, with its pale green leaves that turn a golden yellow in autumn and drop within a few days, is the very epitome of an East Asian tree for many Europeans. So the garden still fulfills the purpose which its creator had in mind when he laid it out between 1912 and 1914: to show the observer the cycle of nature on a small scale, just like in East Asia.
Notice to Visitors
The entire park is accessible except for the Japanese Garden, where restrictions apply to prams (baby carriages), wheelchairs and dogs. However, the path around the edge offers a good view of a large part of this garden.
Source: „The Japanese Garden of the Bayer AG at Leverkusen", published by Bayer AG, Communications, Leverkusen