I had always been curious about Nicolai Bergman, the Danish flower artist whose eponymous shops are a treasure-box of colorful, eye-catching floral creations, both fresh and preserved. Neatly packed into beautifully designed boxes or transformed into flower sculptures, Bergman’s preserved flowers are in a class of their own because they look so natural.
Walking by Bergman’s shop in Roppongi Hills or Omotesando, it is difficult to resist the temptation to stop by, if only to have a look at what new floral creations he has concocted.
So, when I heard that the famed floral artist had transformed an expanse of land in Hakone, about 90 minutes drive southwest of Tokyo, into a natural habitat to showcase both plants native to Hakone as well as his own creations, I took the first chance I had to visit the site.
Bergman acquired this extensive plot of land, covering more than 66,000 sq. meters, in 2015 and spent the next seven years transforming the previously untouched site into an open air gallery where he could place his unique flower designs within natural surroundings.
As we walked up the road to the Nicolai Bergman Hakone Gardens we were immediately struck by a seemingly endless row of brightly colored hydrangea bushes lining the path leading to the garden’s entrance.
It was mid-July and too late for hydrangeas in Tokyo, but in the mountains of Hakone where temperatures are somewhat lower than in the city, the blue, purple and pink flowers were in glorious full bloom.
We later learned from one of the friendly staff that the 800 hydrangea bushes planted there were leftovers from design lessons held at the Nicolai Bergman flower design school.
The site, which was opened to the public in April this year, is still a work in progress. There are trails that lead visitors to different areas of the gardens, which are dotted with Bergman’s creations. But when we visited, many parts of the gardens were still closed to the public and it took just half an hour or so to enjoy the areas that were accessible.
There is a light-filled, spacious café near the entrance named NOMU Hakone, where tired guests can enjoy food and drinks, many of them made with locally sourced ingredients. We ordered organic coffee and a biscuit made with beets, a vegetable which is only just beginning to gain popularity in Japan for its unusual taste, color and nutritional value.
The bread is baked daily on the premises and the staff will provide a basket for guests to take out anything that is on the menu for a picnic in the gardens.
It will take some more time for the Nicolai Bergman Hakone Gardens to fulfill its potential and when we visited, the displays were much more subdued than those seen at his shops. But it is still well worth a visit to check out what creative seasonal arrangements the flower artist comes up with next.