Early summer brings forth some fabulous Japanese flowers, including some lovely lilies. King among these must be the huge red-speckled white stars of Lilium auratum, but these are matched by vast displays of Lilium rubellum, lovely orange Lilium maculatum as well as a supporting cast the includes the sought after and lovely Glaucidium palmatum, stunning ivory-white Paris japonica, near black Fritillaria kamtschatcensis primulas, masses of Iris ensata and much more. The tour incorporates botanically rich areas from coastal Tokyo to Hokkaido and the Japanese alps.
With Hiroaki Takenouchi
We arrive into Tokyo on 24 June and overnight near Narita airport
The morning will be spent exploring a small area of attractive clifftops where there is an early-flowering population of that most glamorous of all lilies - Lilium auratum. The outsize flowers are also sweetly-scented and paths wind through coastal scrub, which features familiar garden species such as Fatsia japonica, blue Hydrangea macrophylla and the attractive spotted bells of Campanula punctata. In the afternoon we will transfer to Shinshirakawa for the night.
Hidden in lushly forested hills, is a remarkable population of Lilium rubellum, with thousands of lovely pink trumpets on show in a large clearing. Nearby is an interesting area of bogland, with red Rhododendron molle subsp. japonicum, Iris setosa, sundews and abundant ferns. The surrounding woods have Paris tetraphylla, Monotropa, patches of big-leaved Rodgersia podophylla and trees clad with Hydrangea petiolaris. Overnight Shinshirakawa.
This morning we will fly to Sapporo, the largest town on Hokkaido. Near here is the well-known nursery of Katsura Arakawa, where we will spend the rest of the day. In the late afternoon we’ll drive onto Asahikawa for the night.
Even around the town we will see Lilium pensylvanicum, the vibrant orange-yellow flowers freckled with purple. However, better populations lie outside the town where we will also see the attractive yellow-flowered shrub Weigela middendorfiana, Actinidia kolomikta and perhaps Aconitum. A cable car whisks us up to 1600 metres where we hope to find the black-purple bells of Fritillaria kamtschatcensis. Other plants include Mertensia pterocarpa and Primula cuneifolia as well as a mountain garden planted with just native Hokkaido plants. Overnight Asahikawa.
To the north-west lies an interesting area of coastal vegetation with plentiful golden-trumpets of Hemerocallis dumortieri growing alongside the towering architectural forms of Angelica ursina and a bizarre littoral scrub of low bamboo and Rosa rugosa. In places they mingle with Lilium pensylvanicum and then big drifts of Iris ensata. A area of protected wetland nearby, has even more irises including Iris laevigata and perhaps a few of the orchid Pogonia in flowers. Overnight Wakkanai.
Today we need to transfer south again, flying via Sapporo to the industrial town of Matsumoto. It is in the hills near this town that we will see our next lily, the lovely pink Lilium japonica, which grows with Schizophragma hydrangeoides, a deep purple form of Campanula punctata and flowery bushes of Hydrangea paniculata. We will drive on to Hakuba for the night.
This highland area is a former Olympic host and is now well-served with cablecars that can take us into the hills quickly. We’ll visit two contrasting areas. The first is a rockier path to see Epimedium koreanum, Primula farinosa, Pedicularis chamissonis var japonica and Pinguicula vulgaris, the chairs passing over dense herbaceous communities of Aruncus dioicus, Veronicastrum and Euphorbia. the second is an extensive boardwalk that passes through bogs with Lysichiton camtschatcense, Gentiana thunbergii, Veratrum stamineum and woodlands with the lovely fringed pink bells of Schizocodon soldanelloides, Glaucidium palmatum, Diphyleia grayi and the unique Paris japonica. There is the chance of Lilium medeoloides at both locations, but this is really a later flowering species, so expect to see them in bud only. Overnight Hakuba.
There will be time to check some local bogs for Hosta sieboldii in flower, maybe an early Cardiocrinum cordatum too. There will be lots of Lilium lancifolium in this wet habitat, but they will be in bud as this species flowers much later here. Afterwards we will take the bullet train to Tokyo for the night.
The volcanic island of Izu Oshima is still very much active with obvious areas of recent lava and ash. It hold a healthy population of Lilium auratum var platyphyllum with some immense specimens hanging out from roadside banks, weighed down with huge flowers. The coast fringe also has beautifully-marked Lilium maculatum alongside Hemerocallis fulva and Vitex ovalifolia. After a day on this pleasant island we’ll return to Tokyo for the night.
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