"Dwarf Trees" from Sir Francis Taylor Piggott's The Garden of Japan

       Sir Francis Taylor Piggott (1852-1925), jurist and writer born in London, practised for a while at the bar and wrote legal texts, but he aspired to an official position.  After ad hoc involvement in Foreign Office initiatives concerning the recognition and enforcement of foreign and colonial judgments, he was appointed in 1887 to a three-year term as constitutional adviser to the Japanese prime minister Hirobumi Ito.  The slim volume Garden of Japan (1892) was based on the author's diary written in 1890.  In 1893 he was secretary to the attorney-general, Sir Charles Russell, for the Bering Sea arbitration, and later that year he accepted the post of procureur- and advocate-general of Mauritius.  In 1905 Piggott received a knighthood and was appointed to Hong Kong where he was Chief Justice for seven years and worked at a revision of the laws. 1

       The Garden of Japan (1892):

       "Later in March. -- Buds, still buds; and, except for the evergreens, not a leaf to be seen: but of buds an ample supply of Mume, Pyrus, and Magnolia.  At a ball given in commemoration of the Constitution, with the exception of a few early Camellias, the decorations consisted entirely of branches of Pine and boughs of buds, all arranged with the most consummate taste.  One of the hanging baskets was made of split bamboo, of a truncated 8-shape not unfamiliar to us in the West; within the basket an upright glass vessel full of water in which gold fish disported themselves, and inside this again a dark green joint of Bamboo holding branches of Camellia -- a thing of joy to be remembered.  A few days later arrive pots with dwarf trees simply smothered with bloom -- among them the lovely white Pyrus japonica, almost a stranger, I think, in England.  A few days later still the Camellia season is full upon us.  Of course we know all about Camellias at home; I have even seen moderate-sized trees growing out of doors in England; but in Japan C. japonica [14]

Gardeners Going To A Flower Fair With Dwarf Trees, Japan, 1890

       grows in the most reckless profusion, and in protected spots to an extraordinary height; it is indeed the queen of flowering shrubs... [15]

A Dwarf Tree of Prunus Mume, Japan, 1890

       [16] "... I have the wish, but not the power, to devote some space to the delightful little flower-trees which are so characteristic a feature of Japanese gardening science.  I have, however, been quite unable to get any reliable information as to how the wealth of flowers is produced, beyond the fact, which will probably suggest itself to gardening minds, that the root-growth is retarded by tight straw bandages.  The accompanying illustration of a dwarf plum-tree will give some idea of the great beauty of these little trees.  The trunks are often thirty, forty, or more years old, but they are covered with a cascade of blossom, the young flowering branches being arranged with a profound art.  The science of this arrangement is traditional, and, I believe, unwritten.  It is based, of course, on the predominant idea of all the flower arrangements, which is -- beauty of line.  The trimming of the buds is so arranged that you seem to see every flower on the tree at once -- no one standing in another's light..."
       [34] "...The white Wistaria (W. brachybotrys) has larger flowers but much shorter racemes than the lilac, and is not of such free habit.  Arbours are, however, often covered with it.  Used as a dwarf tree for the house it is exceedingly handsome." 2


1     Piggott, Sir Francis Taylor, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, http://www.uniset.ca/naty/maternity/piggott_odnb.html;

     Obituary: Piggott, Sir F. T., The Times, March 13, 1925, http://uniset.ca/misc/lnt_piggott_obit.html.

2     Piggott, Sir Franics Taylor  The Garden of Japan: A Year's Diary of its Flowers ; (London: George Allen; 1892, 1896, Second Edition.)  With four pictures by Alfred East and several from Piggott's own sketches. 13-16, 34.

The second illustration was also used with an article on these in the Scientific American Supplement, June 9, 1900.

There is a book review of this in The Garden (London), Vol. XLV, No. 1159, Feb. 3, 1894, pg. 93, which includes the Wistaria quote, and also this:
       "Mr. Piggott tells us that the Japanese market gardeners have a regular succession of flower fairs to attend with their beautiful produce, and to which they bring not only dwarf and dainty pot or vase plants, but large shrubs, and even small trees."

Piggott's actual take on this is as follows from the month of May, starting on pg. 37:
       "Most curious are these flower-fairs, which go on all the year through.  Each district has one every month, when its inhabitants take a holiday; many of the days being fixed so that the evening fair may come as a pleasant termination to the festival at the Temple hard by.
       "The gardeners have thus a regular succession of markets to attend, but I am bound to say I have never yet understood how, after a short time, they have anything left to sell, for they bring large trees and shrubs for sale besides their innumerable plants.  Of course it is something like the stage army, the larger trees moving on from market to market until they are disposed of; but the impression left on the mind is, that the majority of the gardeners are being sold out of house and home.  And yet the supply goes on all the year round.  The most amusing part of the business is, first, the exuberantly extravagant price asked for the flowers; secondly, the ridiculously diminutive price actually taken.  It has indeed passed into a proverb, for the custom is not reserved for foreigners, but is applied to Japanese as well, that any tradesman who asks high prices 'charges like a florist at a festival.'  But one is compelled again to wonder, after a few fine sturdy plants have been bought for a few sen [100 sen = 1 yen], how the peripatetic florist can live, for it must be with difficulty that he can sell a dollar's worth in an evening. [38]
       "But it is always the same in Japan -- the difficulty of finding out the true value of anything; 'what it will fetch' seems to be the only rule.  Two commercial ideas seem alone to prevail.  If anything has cost money, it must rise gradually in price so long as it is unsold, in order to bring in interest on the original outlay; the older the stock, the higher the price.  Secondly, if only that worthless commodity, labour, has been expended in production, the price really is unimportant so long as you get something.  The only result is that one hour's work may bring in less or more than another, and, what can that matter?
       "With this perpetual round of fairs the Japanese house need never be without its branch or pot of flowers.  To the foreigner they give the first insight into the astonishing skill in transplanting trees, which the Japanese gardener possesses.  Nothing is too big to move; they know the times and the seasons for doing it, and the way moreover to do it successfully; transplanting a garden is indeed as much in a day's work as planting it.  The law and the custom have grown up side by side; under the old law, which remains unchanged, trees and shrubs are movables, and belong to the tenant who planted them; they are part of the slender stock of household gods which he carries with him in his frequent migrations.  At certain times of the year whole copses come upon you, climbing up the hills and wandering through the streets."

Per the Wikipedia article on the Japanese Yen, "Following the silver devaluation of 1873, the yen devalued against the US dollar and the Canadian dollar units since they adhered to a gold standard, and by the year 1897 the yen was worth only about 50 cents(US).  In that year, Japan adopted a gold exchange standard and hence froze the value of the yen at 50 cents."

The value in the year 2009 of the "dollar's worth" mentioned above in 1890 would be at least $24.30 (or $26.70 compared to 1897) per Samuel H. Williamson, "Six Ways to Compute the Relative Value of a U.S. Dollar Amount, 1790 to Present," MeasuringWorth, 2010. URL http://www.measuringworth.com/uscompare/.

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