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Volcanic Activity around Shadowlands - Owakudani


Dear Friends,

It has been quite a while since my last post on this forum. This has mainly been due to a heavy workload for the last six months, but also because I wanted to let the garden mature a little before posting again.

There have been a number of notable successes. This year, for the first time since I planted it – around 7 years ago, one of my apple trees has offered up a cluster of blossom on one branch. While this is a modest success, it tells me a lot: that in fact it is a tip-bearing apple, and that the soil (uncultivated mountainous acidic soil) and climate (high altitude) does not absolutely prevent it from flowering. That is a great start. I don’t expect any apples – since there are none around in flower to cross pollinate with, but it’s a start. This winter I did not prune any of the branches – and because it is tip-bearing, obviously it had the chance to flower. Hopefully next year a few more will appear.

The main problem I have been having in the garden this year and in fact every year when I think about it is the growing tips (the top two inches) wilting and dying on some plants. This affects the apples (not so much the pears), the roses, and to some extent the pink sallow. On inspection, on the stem there seem to be very small puncture wounds – below the portion which dies off. I am wondering whether it is a form of stem-borer or beetle causing this, and how to prevent it? I am going to ask soon at the local garden centre because, while it does no long-term damage to the plant, it does reduce the number of flowers etc. It appears that whatever the life-cycle of the critter is, by the end of June, it is no longer in that pernicious phase of life and the plants grow-away, blooming late.

But the main problem I have at the moment is that the volcanic activity has picked up a lot and we have been having earth quake swarms everyday since the 26th of April. You may have seen on the international news that Owakudani, the geothermal valley in Hakone has been closed to tourists and the volcanic threat level raised to 2. Well, we are but 2 km away from this. We have temporarily abandoned the house (and most lamentably the garden) until the earthquake swarms subside (already 80 tremors today). From the Owakudani vent, steam continues to billow out and at times has the sound of a jet-engine. All very disconcerting really. Since Hakone is a very popular tourist spot, I pity the local shops and services that depend upon the tourist trade. How long it will all go on for is anyone’s guess. I attach a picture of Owakudani taken from a local school soccer pitch (5 km away) yesterday. We are much closer at 2 km away, but the other side of the mountain on Mt Sounzan. Most of the tremors are not detectable by humans, but a handful are each day. The wildlife seems rather unsettled too, with a brat deal of bird activity and ‘chatter’.

Enjoy your gardens and gardening everyone, it is a privilege to have one.

Kind regards,


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I'm reminded of my trip to Chiang Mai when we were hit by a powerful earthquake. It was terrifying especially coming from a place where earthquakes are rare. We never knew when it was over because the aftershocks continued for days. Be safe.

10 May, 2015


Good to hear from you again Ptarotuos, but your news is rather alarming. We take our geological stability rather for granted here in the UK. Let hope it all settles down again without anything major happening. it must he so hard to have to leave your house and garden, but better safe than sorry.

10 May, 2015


Hello Ptaro, its always good to hear from you and know how things are doing for you and of course in the garden, it sounds good as regards the blossom, even if you don't get fruit the blossom is still lovely, will you get another tree? I wouldn't class it as abandoning, you have had to leave your house but gosh it is very close isn't it, although you might feel sad at not being there the safety of your wife, children and of course yourself has to come first, nature recovers a lot easier and quicker than us..
Praying that it calms down for you and all who live there, I cannot imagine what it must be like to live in some areas and always thankful for that, stay safe Ptaro and hoping to hear from you soon and know all is well with you all and you are back in Shadowlands...

10 May, 2015


Thanks everyone for your concern: you are of course right that the safety of the family comes first, and being kept away from the house and garden for a few weeks (?) is nothing compared to what people are suffering in Nepal and other quake affected areas. I went through the Great Tohoku Quake, Mag 9.0 in 2011, and know well the power of nature - an awesome power.

To show better the seismic activity this link takes you to an hourly updated graph showing number of quakes per hour - quite a few yesterday, as you can see:

Hope to talk about gardening again soon.

Best wishes,


10 May, 2015


Dear Linclass,

In relation to your query over the apple tree, yes I already have 2 others planted (though they have only been in the ground about 3 years). Neither have shown signs of flowering yet. Not sure what type of bearers they are either, but I was told they were good partners to the one that is not offering up a couple of dashes of blossom. The prunus and peach trees flower well and I get fruit formation no problem (though protecting them from the birds, insects, rainy season, which are less cooperative than in the UK is a full-time job (I'm pretty organic). Also had a clump of Lily of the Valley come up and flower this year for the first time (last year they just sat there are green leaves). Most of the Chrysanthemums, amazingly with no protection served the very harsh winters we have here (I lost three, but propagated three). Much hardier than people give them credit for. As with so many plants, consistent cold and consistent warming up is much better than patchy and late/early frosts.

Kind regards, ptaro

10 May, 2015


The earthquake you experienced on May 9th, 2011 is the one I went through in Chiang Mai, Thailand. They must be related. It was terrifying, however forced me to run out into the streets and meet all my neighbors. Strangers became friends real fast.

10 May, 2015


Hi Bathgate,

I actually meant the 11th March 2011 quake off Tohoku, Magnitude 9.0 (not May 9th). 4th strongest ever recorded. But, certainly, it probably caused other shocks around Asia, and continues to do so off the coast of Fukushima. Kind regards, ptaro

11 May, 2015

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