Blind hubby spent 15 years recreating Japan in his backyard garden for disabled wife
A blind man has spent 15 years recreating Japan in his back garden because he and his disabled wife have never been able to travel there.
Childhood sweethearts John Blades, 75, and Esther Blades, 74, have always shared a passion for Japan and Japanese culture.
So when Esther was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) and John’s eyesight started to deteriorate, preventing the couple from travelling, John decided to bring Japan to them.
More than a decade and thousands of pounds later, the back garden of their former council-owned cottage in Welbourn, Lincs, has been transformed into an incredible East Asian oasis.
John, a retired prison officer, said: “As a young man I collected swords and about 40 years ago my wife bought me a Samurai sword. That’s how it all began.
“We fell in love with everything to do with the country and the culture – we’ve got all sorts of ornaments and collectibles.
“But we’d never been and we left it a bit late. Now with Esther’s MS, my eyesight and all the other health problems that come with age it would be too difficult to get on a plane.
“So we have Japan in our garden. Now that we’ve managed to bring so much of the culture to us, we don’t feel like we’re missing out.”
John and Esther, a retired secretary, married in 1966 and had one son, ____, who tragically passed away two days before his 21st birthday.
The couple, who met as teenagers at church 59 years ago, have always enjoyed gardening together and started creating their little slice of Japan just as John began to have trouble with his sight.
While designing their Oriental paradise, Japanophiles John and Esther decided to incorporate several different types of traditional Japanese garden.
And when Esther was diagnosed with MS and became wheelchair-bound, John persevered and has just finished the project – despite being registered blind himself.
The devoted husband takes photos of the stunning garden in all the different seasons for Esther to enjoy as being wheelchair-bound means she can no longer get out beyond their patio.
The couple have no idea how much they have spent on the garden over the years but admit individual lanterns cost hundreds of pounds each.
The garden includes an area known as a dry or zen garden, with white gravel which represents the sea and rocks to represent islands, a tea garden, a courtyard area with a Japanese fountain, a traditional waiting bench, a moss garden, a cherry blossom and cloudscaping, where trees are pruned to look like clouds.
John said: “Esther and I have always loved gardening and we’ve always done it together. It was my way of destressing after the long days when I was working as an officer.
“When my eyesight started to go downhill we decided to convert our cottage garden into a Japanese garden.
“It’s not a big garden as we only live in a little ex-council cottage but it’s got lots of different elements to it.
“It was a lot to take on but we did it because we enjoy the challenge more than anything else.
“I have no idea how many hours I spend out there or how much it has cost us – just one of the stone lanterns cost us £300 but when it’s a hobby you enjoy so much you don’t think about it.
“It is quite labour intensive but that is what makes it so rewarding. It’s a real labour of love.