Monday, July 4, 2016

Fukuoka in Five - A Million Milflores at the Ajisai (Hydrangea) Garden of Hakozaki-gu

While spring brings plum blossoms and sakura in Japan, summer is also prime time for
flowers.  In Fukuoka as in other places, irises and hydrangeas or ajisai as the Japanese
call them, bloom during June.

I was completely unaware that something special was happening when I visited the
Hakozaki Shrine.  There were not too many people around on that hot Friday morning.

As I walked around the shrine grounds, I saw  this little gate with pots of hydrangeas
in front.  A sign in Japanese was unintelligible except for the part that said 300 yen.
I figured that was the entrance fee so I paid, got my ticket and walked in.

I did not realise that I had just entered the famed Ajisai or Hydrangea garden of Hakozaki-gu.
Hakozaki-gu's garden is one of the best, if not the best, viewing spot for hydrangeas in Fukuoka.

The shrine shares its flowers with guests.  There were potted plants for sale at the entrance.

The hydrangeas were astonishing in their size and colours. 

I wondered, was this a hydrangea plant too?  I thought they were clusters of green grapes.

So many hydrangeas!  A lot of them were variants I had never seen.

White blooms tinged with green and lilac -- just so pretty!

The garden itself has over 3,500 hydrangea plants with more than 100 varieties which bloom at their peak during June.   Follow the gently winding path that will take you all around the garden.  

On week-ends, there are  flute and violin ensembles playing classical favourites,  perhaps they play from this charming little pavilion right in the centre of the garden.  I can imagine what a delightful time that must be. 

It's a riot of hydrangeas -- these photos hardly do justice to the beauty that was all around me.

While there were signs identifying the various blooms, they were all in Japanese.
So dear reader,  I googled so you don't have to.  The cone-shaped variety above is called the "oak leaf"  hydrangea, so called because of their leaves which resemble ... what else, oak leaves!

These unusual and attractive green hydrangeas may be of the variety called  "pee gees" but as
I am far from an expert,  I could be wrong.

It was my first time to see this type of hydrangea called "lacecaps", with small blooms in the middle and larger florets around it.

Here is another "lacecap" in white and pink. 

The following hydrangeas are called "mopheads" -- big, full and  round, they do look like
giant mops, don't they?

Blue, pink and purple are the most common colours of "mopheads".

Here is one in a subtle blue violet tint.

And here is another "mophead",  in bright pink with hints of purple in the middle.

A pink and green blossom -- such vivid and vibrant colours!

These blushing pink hydrangeas were slightly hidden in a shaded area of the garden.

"Lacecaps" are dainty and grow in this pattern with the blooms spread apart from each other ...

While "mopheads" grow in clusters, with the flowers closer to each other.

To add to the enchanting scenery were these two ladies in kimono,  with their parasols,
walking around slowly and enjoying the flowers.  I felt like a stalker with my camera.

 Old, moss covered trees made a good backdrop for the flowers.

The hydrangeas or ajisai  line the narrow path, I had to will myself not to stop at each 
and every bush. 

A small tent with benches had been laid out on this little clearing.   People sat quietly, enjoying the floral views. No one was on the phone, conversations were muted.  And most importantly,
no one was taking any selfies at all -- thank goodness! 

Except for me -- I surreptitiously took a "foot-fie" when I passed by a small pot of cut blossoms.

My visit to the garden was about to end.  The path was winding closer and closer back to the gate.  I tried to walk as slowly as I could -- to lengthen my stay amidst the hydrangeas.  

This cluster of pure white flowers are called "annabelles".  They are also known as
"snowballs" , "bounty" or "incrediballs".  I guess you can see why they are called that.
This was the last showstopper you would see before you stepped off the garden path.

I threw all shame to the winds and asked a lady to take my photo in front of these "annabelles".  Hydrangeas or ajisai  (or milflores as we call them here at home) were my mother's favourite
flowers.  I am sure that my stumbling on this million milflores was her special gift to me,
on  this beautiful June day in Fukuoka.


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