When I was in my teens, my dad planted a Japanese maple in the front of our “little box” suburban home. It seemed rather exotic for the block, but it was a pretty tree and for me, that tree was what a Japanese maple was all about.
I supposed if I’d given the matter any thought, I would have realized that it was just one of many varieties. But I didn’t consider this until one day in April when I visited the Steinhardt Garden in Westchester, thanks to a program called Open Days run by The Garden Conservancy (see my blog roll).
It was raining fairly hard that day, a fact that disappointed me until I saw how magnificent Japanese maples of every shape and hue looked in the rain. There was, in this part of the garden, a very sweet melancholy, something like the melancholy created in Venice when it rains–a combination of a certain muted light, the rain itself, and glistening beauty beyond imagining.
I learned after taking the photographs below that the gardens were created by the plant and landscape specialists Gayatri Carole Rocherolle and her husband Jerome. Gayatri’s book, THE LANDSCAPE DIARIES: GARDEN OF OBSESSION documents the decades it took took to create the Steinhardt gardens, including the remarkable collection of maple trees. Indeed, the couple searched far and wide for the most unusual shapes, colors, and varieties of maples.
I still have fond memories of the Japanese maple that stood elegantly out of place in front of our small house. But how thrilling and rewarding to keep discovering that the world is so much larger than the front lawn of one’s childhood.