Man Spends 13 Years Transforming Barren Backyard into Terraced Japanese Garden
A man has spent 13 years transforming a barren backyard at his terraced city home into an incredible Japanese garden.
Martin Fitton, 54, fell in love with Japanese gardens after first visiting one on holiday in Dorset back in 2009 and immediately set about creating his own at home.
Over the past 13 years, he’s tirelessly renovated his garden by himself and now has an oasis which looks like it’s been plucked straight from some distant village on Honshu, complete with his own traditional teahouse, koi pond, little bridge, concrete lanterns, and pagodas.
“I am very proud of my garden,” said Fitton, a tanker driver by trade from Brislington, Bristol. “It’s been very rewarding. I don’t have any help with the garden, I do it all myself, so it’s nice being able to see how it’s all come together.”
“I like it all but I recently renewed the top part of my Zen garden so that’s probably my favorite part now,” he noted. “I like to sit on the pavilion with a cup of tea or a beer with my wife and look over the garden, it feels very peaceful.”
It wasn’t always Japanese though. When Martin initially moved into his home in Bristol in 2001, his children, Rhys and Vanessa, gave motivation to install climbing frames and summer houses for them to enjoy instead.
Ironically his inspiration and love of the Japanese tradition arose, not from a visit to Japan, but a Japanese garden in Compton Acres, Dorset on England’s southeast coast in 2009.
“It felt so peaceful and quiet and calm, and I was looking around at it all and thought I could definitely do that myself,” says Fritton, who’s always enjoyed working with wood. “My kids were teenagers by this point so weren’t really using the garden like they used to as children, so as soon as I get home, I started on transforming the old summer house into a tea house.”
Over the next few years, Martin transformed his backyard, adding a Zen garden, pavilion and Japanese trellis. He built everything himself except the courtyard and concrete lanterns, for which he had expert assistance.
His garden has gained him a lot of fans, including plenty from Japan who have complimented the dad-of-two’s dedication to tradition.
“I’ve had Japanese people compliment the garden which is really nice because I didn’t want to offend the Japanese by doing it wrong so I like that they have approved of it,” he noted. “The tea house is the first thing you see when you enter the garden and it was the first thing I built.”
“I really wanted to make sure that everything was Japanese and that I didn’t get it mixed up with Chinese so it was all true to the culture and not crossing over,” he said.
“I’ve made Japanese friends as a result and often send them writing that I’ve found to make sure it translates correctly and to make sure it’s Japanese, not Chinese, as the writing looks so similar.”
Despite his fascination with Japanese culture, Martin has never made it to the country but the couple plan to go for their joint 60th birthdays in four years’ time.