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Meet Alan Jackson: Creator of Gory'u

Meet Alan Jackson - Bionic man and the owner, creator and designer of Gory’u garden in Hartley west of Sydney.


INTERVIEW: Graham Ross


Alan Jackson has spent the last 25 years carefully crafting a 3.4-hectare site into a Japanese garden – a real labour of love!


Where does your obsession with all things Japanese originate?

From watching a TV series, ‘The Samurai – The Travelling Swordsman’. The hero travelled from one end of Japan to the other to support and protect the government of the day. It was made in 1962–1975, it was set in Feudal war times between the Samurai and Ninja 18th century Japan.

The series started off black and white, but when colour television came along, it brought the garden scenes to life - it was sensational! I was only 15 and enrolled into the Ryde School of Horticulture, where I studied horticulture and landscape design. Eventually, I went on to give several talks on the topic of Japanese gardens. It’s not just the landscapes though, the Japanese culture is unique in society, friendly and respectful.



What made you decide on the Little Hartley location?

The 3.4ha (8.5acre) site was chosen after searching for 8 years for a location that would occupy the ‘six sublimities’ of a Japanese garden – spaciousness, seclusion, artifice, antiquity, watercourse and panoramas.

Hartley Valley ticked all the boxes. It offered: ‘Shakkei’ or borrowed scenery, the principle of incorporating background landscape into one’s own garden (Mt York), a large expanse of water, and a mountain that resembled Mt Fuji, without the snow (Sugarloaf Mountain).



How long has construction taken?

It’s been 25 years, with many visits to Japanese gardens all over the world. Plus, the accumulation of all the elements – rocks, stones, stone bridges, lanterns, basins and Japanese maples – all carefully and accurately curated and placed, to ensure they maintained the premium essence required to create a magical [Japanese] oasis in the central tablelands of NSW.



Gory’u is a major solo effort. You have survived two horrendous car accidents, resulting in two heart pacemakers and multiple operations, what keeps you going?

One never gives up. With my wife, Margaret, and family as motivation for the next steps towards a greater life, together with my Japanese maples, pets and gardens, of course. I regard myself as the modern day ‘Samurai Travelling Warrior’, without the sword!



What Gory’u structure are you most proud of?

The Torii Gate, an exact replica of the one in the Ryoanji Temple, Kyoto, Japan.



What is the visitor journey at Gory’u?

Gory’u is a ‘walk around’ garden, a clockwise conceptual idea from the Edo Period (1615–1867) of Japan, incorporating thirteen themed gardens. Inspiration was largely drawn from the Adachi Art Museum in Yasugi, where the gardens were designed for visitors to view as works of art, each representing Buddhist, Taoist, Shinto, Confucian, and Christian philosophies.



Japanese maples are the focus in your Maple Springs Nursery, any favourites and tips to growing maples?

Feed in spring and autumn with cow manure, blood and bone or a certified organic pelletised fertiliser. Mulch, mulch and more mulch around the tree to help conserve water loss. Grow in full sun, as light is life in giving a full range of colours. However, this can vary between varieties, so check before planting.

My favourite maples are cultivars of Acer palmatum: ‘Orangeola’, ‘Crimson Queen’, ‘Emperor 1’, ‘Margaret Bee’, ‘Mikawa Yatsubusa’, ‘Shirasawanum Aureum’, ‘Chantilly Lace’, ‘Ellen, ‘Okagami’, and ‘Red Dragon’.


Gory’u is open March 20–30 May, 7am-7pm, 85 Baaners Lane, Little Hartley. Other times by appointment and groups welcome. The nursery is open 7 days a week. For more information, call 02 6355 2140 or visit



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Author: Graham Ross