Japanese government minister visits Gunnersbury Park to mark planting of 80 cherry trees

Image above: Students from Capel Manor

Minister Takeshi Ito, the Japanese government minister for public diplomacy and media, visited Gunnersbury Park on Friday (18 March) to mark the planting of 80 cherry trees.

The grove was planted in November by students at Capel Manor, the specialist environmental college based in the park grounds. The trees were paid for by Japanese businesses as a gesture of friendship between Japan and Britain.

Over three years 8,600 cherry trees have been planted all over the UK as part of the Sakura cherry tree project. Among the businesses to donate money to the project are car companies Mitsubishi, Nissan and Toyota as well as Japan Airlines and financial institutions including banks, insurance companies and asset management companies.

The project was initiated by Keisaku Sandy Sano, with Theresa May was prime minister.

“The response we have had throughout the UK, from Guernsey in the south to the Orkneys in the north, from parks, schools and community gardens has been amazing. It is a testament to the strong relationship between the two countries and we hope the trees will be a lasting tribute to that” he said.

The Gunnersbury planting was initiated by Michael Rowan, one of the trustees of the Gunnersbury Museum & Park Development Trust who had heard about the Sakura UK Project and thought it offered a wonderful opportunity for Gunnersbury. It has been a long held aim of the Trust to create a Japaneses garden, as the Rothschild family, owners of the house which is now Gunnersbury Museum established an Anglo-Japanese garden in 1900-1.

Image above: Painting of the original Japanese Garden at Gunnersbury Park planted by Leopold de Rothschild and his gardener James Hudson

There are some plants which have survived in the park from the original Japanese garden. A tree expert visiting from Japan in 2002, Masayuki Ogawara, identified 20 surviving plants which were uniquely Japanese in origin.

The park recently saw considerable damage meted by storm Eunice. A huge old Lime tree on the site of the Japanese garden was toppled, along with a Holly, a Yew and a Magnolia and one of the original Palms. The original Japanese garden planted by Leopold de Rothschild’s gardener James Hudson, had little footbridge over a watercourse, between carved stone pillar lanterns.

Image above, from the left: Deputy Leader of Ealing Council Deirdre Costigan, Hounslow Cabinet Member for Leisure Services Samia Chaudhary, Minister Takeshi Ito, Hounslow deputy mayor Cllr Hina Mir, Hounslow Leader Steve Curran, Lady Victoria Borwick of the Sakura Project.

Gunnersbury Park is jointly owned by Hounslow and Ealing councils. There to represent Hounslow were council Leader Cllr Steve Curran, Cabinet Member for Leisure Services Samia Chaudhary and deputy mayor Cllr Hina Mir. Representing Ealing was deputy leader Deirdre Costigan.

Image above: The cherry tree grove planted in November

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