By Avi Landau
Each summer, those of us with gardens in Japan have to fight a continuous battle against the onslaught of all-encompassing vegetation. If we let our guard down even for a couple of days during the rainy season, our homes, once ostensibly part of civilization, are quickly reclaimed by THE WILDS. Naturally we have to deal with quick and tall growing grasses. More troublesome , however, are the relentless vines and creepers which with surprising quickness get a hold of and grow out to cover all the trees, hedges, utility poles, and even the houses themselves. Since I don`t use herbicides, I spend time every day pulling down these ravenous and highly determined plants, in both the morning and the evening. From my neighbors I have learned to identify one creeping vine which we let run free. That is why, about half way through the rainy season every year, around my neighborhood, the NO-ZENKAZURA, OR NO-ZEN NO HANA, large, bright orange, trumpet shaped blossoms burst out on top of the hedges, high up in trees, or even completely up and down the telephone poles
NO-ZENKAZURA are not native to Japan, but were introduced to this country from China (along with so much else, natural and cultural) in the Heian Period (794-1185). They came to be admired for their vigor and bright color, and by the Edo Period (1600-1868) they had also become a symbol of summer for HAIKU poetry.
When the rainy season ends and Japan pulsates with heat and bright sunshine, these flowers, along with the crape myrtle (sarusuberi) will be among the few blossoms which can withstand the conditions. When I see them, its hard to resist not putting on my Hawaiian shirt and mixing myself up a cold, sweet and colorful cocktail (with a little umbrella in it).
The scientific name for the species is campsis grandiflora. There is a similar species in North America, campsis radicans, which is much more aggressive and considered by many to be a pest.