Tag Archives: Japanese Gardens

Japanese poets in the garden

For centuries Japanese poets have been influenced by the beauty, magnitude and mysterious quality of gardens from their country. Their is an evocative yet subtle quality to Japanese gardens, that are usually depicted in an ideal landscape with a very stylized aesthetic and a precise perspective. Both in terms of the form and beauty, one can see the influence of these gardens on poets from Japan.

In general, nature has been a profound influence on Japanese poetry. Particularly, the rich and delicate landscape of Japan mixed with their ever changing climate. However, in a Japanese garden, nature is depicted in a highly stylized way without the intention of being artificial. On the contrary, a Japanese garden is supposed to appear real and an authentic landscape, as if it has grown there, organically on its own. The Zen monk, Kokan Shiren wrote about Japanese gardens. Most of Shiren’s writing depicted the connection and relationship man had with nature and the landscape. Further, Shiren was interested in how the garden could actually purify or cleanse the senses and soul of a man. So, in this sense, the effect the garden produced on this poet was of a spiritual quality which evokes a more imaginative and mysterious quality of influence.

One form of poetry that has been linked to the work of gardens is Haiku. Haiku’s specific structural form and precise historical context makes it an easy target for comparison with the Japanese garden. Many Japanese poets have used the influence of Japanese gardens within the realm of the poetic form of the Haiku. The 20th Century Japanese Haiku poet, Shuoshi Mizuhara was preoccupied with gardens and their effects to man. It is obvious how much Japanese gardens played a role in the poetical works of the past few centuries. Like sculpture or painting, Japanese gardens became a type of natural artwork that become an influential source of inspiration for many poets, architects, musicians, and teachers.

Japanese gardens not only influenced the poets of Japan but poets from other countries as well. The influence was international and widespread. It has also dominated in the works of architecture and other art forms both in Western and Asian cultures. Above all, Japanese garden making is a tradition built on centuries of knowledge and wisdom that has been passed down from generation to generation, very much like Japanese poetry.

 

 

Summer Walks in a Japanese Garden

When my soul is in need of quiet reflection, I know where to ease the anxious mood that keeps sweet calm from my restive condition. Before I even pass the alluring doors guarded by statuesque lions, my pace slows and the garden begins to whisper…

A Japanese garden is my intermediary to peace, connecting with that part of me designed to find in nature what I cannot find in myself, to lift my spirit upward so my thoughts might glide mindfully amid things above. I am charmed and even stunned by its beauty, in love with an art form that is the Japanese garden–pathways, stones, ponds and bridges that are all so familiar, and yet all so decidedly unique.

Trees and shrubbery, cedar, hemlock, barberry and yew, play with scale and perspective to create illusions that become realities in a universe of complex simplicity, a world extended beyond the space that would be its boundary, engendering an experience of peace and feeling of rest I know will stay with me after I leave. A pond dotted with small islands is home to rocks emerging to hold in place life in constant motion. Nearby, vivid colors of flowering greenery glow like modern mosaics, with irises and azaleas offsetting low growing companions with muted-colored blossoms.  In leaving an elegant structure, I slide back delicate frames to reveal, not water, but a substitute of pebbles in curved lines bathed in broken light. Rocks, gravel and sand playfully integrate elements of design to bring fun and lightness to austerity.

On a platform suspended above uncertain currents I study the koi and then follow the restorative sound of falling crystal water. Trees with weeping canopies bend low to cast shadows that lightly touch the rippling surface beneath, and I notice a warm breeze playing with my hair, feather touches like falling petals caressing the air. A pathway circles the pond, mimicking the path of life, or perhaps, the path of enlightened existence: left to right, diagonally, but seldom in a straight line. Walking up the path, my eyes are drawn to textured surfaces, sweet flag, baby’s tears, spurge and mosses on and around artfully place boulders.

This is my meditative sanctuary, where I come to walk, or sit, and let my soul relax as I wonder how I might coax my life to blend with this landscape. This is the Japanese garden.

Japanese woodland favourite

Kirengeshoma palmata is a late-flowering rhizomatous perennial up to 1.2m high with arching stems and is native to the woods and mountain lowlands of Korea and the Japanese islands of Shikoku and Kyushu.

The unusual name? No, it doesn’t come from an obscure Danish botanist called Kirengeshom. It’s really just a Latinised version of the original Japanese name. Palmata, a common specific epithet, means shaped like a hand and refers to the foliage.

Formerly classified in its own family, it is now a member of the hydrangea family, although its flowers, which are around 3cm long, are more reminiscent of those of a single-flowered Japanese anemone. The flowers of most of the plants seen in gardens are a fairly deep yellow, though the colour of wild specimens ranges from white to apricot. While beautiful and graceful, the fleshy-petalled flowers, which are borne in sprays on wiry stems that bend under their own weight, never really open fully. The buds start to burst in early autumn.

While the flowers can be something of a disappointment, it isn’t too great a disadvantage that they don’t open fully as this is a plant grown as much for its foliage as its flowers. The leaves are up to 20cm long and wide with pointed lobes that are deeper on the basal leaves and very shallow on the reduced leaves found on the flower stems.

The generally accepted opinion is that it the only species in its genus, but some botanists prefer to classify the Korean plants separately as Kirengeshoma koreana. As far as gardeners are concerned any differences between the plants are very minor, though there is some suggestion that the Korean plants may eventually be larger than their Japanese cousins and that their flowers open more fully.

As you would expect, considering its origins, Kirengeshoma palmata prefers a moist, leafy, humus-rich soil in partial shade. In other words, typical woodland conditions. In late autumn it dies back to its rootstock, which is extremely hardy and quite capable of withstanding -15?C. It is propagated either by division in winter or early spring, or by raising from seed. The seed prefers cool temperatures, around 12’to 15?C and the germination time is variable, anywhere from 30 to 300 days. I’ve found that sowing fresh seed in the autumn and leaving the seed tray in a shady place for germination in the following spring satisfies any stratification requirements and gives good results.

Kirengeshoma palmata is an ideal companion for any Japanese or Chinese woodland plants and looks magnificent under maples, the leaf shape of which it complements perfectly. Because it needs ample summer moisture it thrives at the edges of a bog garden with candelabra primroses, Rodgersia and irises. Its late flowering habit is invaluable in providing interest at a time of year when other woodland plants may be becoming rather dull.

So why isn’t it far more common? I have absolutely no idea.

Fuchsia in New Zealand

Fuchsia (named after Leonhard Fuchs, a 16th century German botanist) is a genus of over 100 species of shrubs and small trees. Although there are four New Zealand native species (colensoi, excorticata, perscandens and procumbens) and one from Tahiti, the vast bulk of the genus occurs in Central and South America. 

Think of fuchsias and chances are the fancy garden hybrids come to mind first. Showy as they are, it is not difficult to see they are related to wild species such as Fuchsia magellanica, Fuchsia denticulata and Fuchsia triphylla. 
Some species, however, are less easy to distinguish. Our common native tree fuchsia (Fuchsia excorticata) has fuchsia-like flowers, though it can be hard to see the connection with the garden plants when it is not in bloom. But the likes of Fuchsia arborescens from Central America, with its panicles of tiny flowers, scarcely matches the common idea of a fuchsia. 
The most widely grown of New Zealand’s native species is Fuchsia procumbens and it too is quite unlike the garden cultivars. It is a low spreading plant with small rounded leaves and can be very hard to pick as a fuchsia until it flowers. Indeed, my initial experience of the plant was with cultivated specimens and I have to admit that I didn’t immediately recognise wild plants when I first saw them. 
This species was discovered in Northland in 1834 by Richard Cunningham. (some authorities call him Robert; in any case he should not be confused with his better known brother Allan.) However, it wasn’t introduced into Europe until 40 years later in 1874. It has at times also been known as Fuchsia prostrata and Fuchsia kirkii. 
The species occurs naturally in the north of the North Island down to northern Coromandel, often in coastal areas, and is now endangered in the wild. Though wild specimens can spread to several metres wide, cultivated plants are usually quite compact. 
The flowers, which appear from mid to late spring are sometimes hard to see among the dense, sprawling foliage. The blooms are not the usual fuchsia colours – green and yellow, not red and purple – and most unusually, they face upwards rather than being pendulous. The blue pollen-tipped anthers are also very distinctive. 
Upward facing flowers are scarcely surprising in a plant that grows so close to the ground. Nevertheless it is a feature that hybridisers have long been trying, with limited success, to breed into garden hybrids. 
The real feature, and the reason why Fuchsia procumbens is grown by enthusiasts world-wide, is the berries that follow the flower. All fuchsias bear berries, but none can match the fruit of Fuchsia procumbens. While the bright red berries of wild plants are scarcely larger than redcurrants, cultivated plants may have fruit the size of small plums. The fruit has a grape-or plum-like bloom and is particularly showy because it is carried on top the foliage, not hanging below it. Fuchsia procumbens is a plant that likes to show off its wares. 
This little trailing plant makes a superb hanging basket specimen and is very easy to grow. Despite its northerly natural distribution, it tolerates frosts and even withstands some drought. But strangely enough it is one of those New Zealand natives that is better know abroad than at home. British and American growers wouldn’t be without it, but how often do you see a good specimen in a local garden?

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Photo: Flora Press.

The Art of Creative Pruning

Decorative tree pruning brings innovation and artistry to gardens. It has something for all tastes, including sophisticated sculptural trees, modernist bumpy hedges, boxwood balls and lollipops.

Author Jake Hobson outlines an approach to topiary that is more creative than traditional and positively encourages out-of-the box thinking. Instead of peacocks and rabbits, you will see boxwood shaped to reveal Russian dolls, trees snipped to resemble the top tiers of a wedding cake, and hedges carved with graffiti. All the practical considerations are here as well, including pruning to improve a view, remedial pruning to fix problems, and pruning fruit trees to increase yield.

Nothing brings a touch of artistry to the garden like ornamental pruning, and a series of deliberate cuts can create landscapes and evoke faraway places. All that’s needed to recreate the effect in the garden are a sharp pair of pruners, some imagination, and the instruction found in The Art of Creative Pruning. Drawing on both eastern and western styles, author Jake Hobson moves beyond the traditional, and teaches a whole new approach to ornamental pruning which will appeal to modern sensibilities.

Complete with spectacular photographs and well-illustrated step-by-step projects, this book will have everyone reaching for their secateurs!

Jake Hobson worked in a traditional Japanese nursery in the outskirts of Osaka, Japan, after completing a degree in Sculpture at London’s Slade School of Fine Arts. A keen observer of the artistry of gardens, Jake now runs his own pruning equipment and consultancy business, and experiments with mixing pruning styles from the East and the West.

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The Art of Creative Pruning

Inventive Ideas for Training and Shaping Trees and Shrubs

By Jake Hobson

ISBN: 978-1-60469-114-6

Published: November 2011, £25

Published by: Timber Press

Website: Timberpress.com

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Bonsai, the silent garden

Life is hectic and perhaps stressful at times. Everyone needs an outlet to discharge those struggles and anxieties of the day and growing Bonsai can help you achieve this much-needed balance in one’s life.

Bonsai’s offer a uniqueness to the grower. They allow you to feel liberated as you release your creativity in designing your tree to be natural, mimicking nature from a wind-swept tree that could be found in West Cork to a cascade hanging off a cliff in the Mourne mountains. The benefits of growing a Bonsai tree continue farther than the realms of imagination alone. Bonsai gardeners feel an immense reduction in stress as this silent garden grows.

Growing this intricate plant takes time and patience. It is not a request but a requirement. This amazing plant will grow, develop, and thrive with each passing year. A sturdy plant that necessitates a patient set of hands to cultivate, trim, and water, it is what this particular plant appreciates. Be kind and gentle to the serene plant, and it will recompense the care with the progress of a relaxing silent garden. This is a garden that evokes tranquility by its mere presence.

Growing and caring for plants is directly related to caring for Mother Nature, and a sense of peace and serenity is most often felt by gardeners. The trimming and caring compels gardeners to relax and feel at peace. The time and patience involved with gardening creates the idyllic Zen atmosphere as one becomes a single entity with the plant. When one cares for a plant, they are focused, disregarding the materialistic world that surrounds them, and taking pleasure in the most basic forms of life. To be Zen is to be a part of the evolving universe. This plant allows one to take part in the evolution of life by caring for a living thing.

The silent garden also silently works hard to purify the air that surrounds it. As with most plants, Bonsai strive to rid the atmosphere of dangerous pollutants and toxins in the air. The better care the plant receives, the stronger it will be to filter the air. Cleaner air, decreased stress, and a real sense of achievement as the plant flourishes is only the beginning of the many rewards one will receive as the begin this life-changing hobby.

To learn more about bonsai, take a look at one of the following links:

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Japanese Stroll Garden, a silent place!

Imagine gliding across bamboo, around the centerpiece of a water fountain, surrounded by classical greenery, evergreens and symbolic stones, being embraced by Japan to find two bamboo seating chairs on either side of a center table holding the ever patience bonsai tree, all in the back garden. This is the stroll garden.

There are several different garden types from flat gardens to hill gardens; all of which are achievable by anyone with the desire to produce a quiet stillness, as well as an appreciation for nature. The design and existence of gardens has been a very important art in Japan for centuries. The stroll garden was developed between the 17th and 19th century, after the medieval period, due to the lack of travel. This garden has a specific purpose, the path is the importance. The path in the stroll garden has symbolic references and memories of destinations. This creates the desired transportation to those far away places. This garden succeeds at a rare accomplishment, getting away without leaving.

In earlier gardens, with artificial hills and ornaments, were dictated by belief of myth and legend. Between 1185-1392, the Kamakura period, the Zen Buddhist priests developed the gardens for meditation. Though royal gardens did flourish again, seemingly as a result of Zen gardens, the newly vivacious gardens consisted of waterfalls, hills and a variety of plants, while the tea garden still adheres to meditative qualities rather than decorative. Close attention to symbolic features and the arrangement of elements is necessary.

Creating a Japanese garden can be an inspiration. Gratification is awaiting you at the conclusion of the garden’s uprising, beyond the serenity that is created, the patience that is taught, the perseverance that is achieved… there is an invitation of peace. Remembering this is not an English garden, it is not to be extravagant and overwhelming. The garden is simple and natural and invokes the spirit of the surroundings. The ultimate objective to a Japanese garden is to solicit harmony and pursue peace.

New Orleans Japanese Haven

City Park in New Orleans has nestled in its midst the New Orleans Japanese Gardens, known formally as Yakumo Nihon Teien. Yakumo is the assumed Japanese name of the prominent New Orleans writer, Lafcadio Hearn. Lafcadio was deeply stirred and inspired by the Japanese culture in his visits to Japan, and brought much of what he saw and learned back to Louisiana through his prose and poetry. Nihon Teien translates to Japanese Garden. For beauty and the opportunity to enjoy quiet meditation in a natural setting, this is a place to visit when in New Orleans.

Japanese gardens date as far back as 500 A.D. when they were designed to replicate mountainous landscapes of China. Around 700 A.D. they began to be used as places for ceremonies and meditation. Tea houses were introduced to the gardens around the 1500’s. Tea houses are used as a place to teach the culture of Japanese and Confucian virtues.

The garden design acknowledges the importance of stones in Japanese gardens. Robin Tanner, a landscape architectural expert, and Vaughn Banting, a bonsai and horticultural expert, drove to Crossville, Tennessee to personally select stones for this garden, loaded them on their own truck and delivered them. They installed them in the garden where they became a permanent and central part of the landscape design. The garden was conceptualized in 1985 and realized in 2005, the year of Hurricane Katrina. Many plants suffered or were lost completely in the flood, but the core landscape of the garden survived. In its restoration a tea house was added.

Upon entering the garden, the attention is drawn to the bamboo fence surrounding it. The garden design uses trees, bushes, and flowers native to Louisiana and incorporates them into the Garden with Asian plants, stone lanterns, and bamboo. The use of Stone lanterns in the Japanese garden dates back to the 1600’s when they were first used to light the pathways in Buddhist tea gardens.

The garden lends itself as a natural setting for bonsai, ikebana, and sado. Bonsai is the ancient art of growing miniature trees in trays and pots. Ikebana is a high art form of floral arrangement involving shape, line, and form and incorporating leaf and stem into the arrangement. It uses a technique called minimalism, which is the minimal use of blooms dispersed among the leaves and stalks of the arrangement. Sado is Japanese tea ceremony.

Words and pictures will never describe accurately the beauty of the garden. It simply must be experienced personally. The quiet time for meditation is a much needed commodity in any city, large or small, and the New Orleans Japanese Garden offers residents and visitors just such a place.

Thinking of Spring!

When it comes time to plan a spring garden, there are many designs from which to choose. One of the serenest and most enjoyable garden designs is a Japanese garden design. A Japanese garden is a simple garden design that creates a space that fosters calm and is perfect for meditation. The following is a guide to the elementary principles to understand to make your Japanese garden a reality.

One idea that is hard to understand at first is that everything in this style of garden needs to emulate nature to the best of its ability. That means no sharp angles can be used. You cannot use things that wouldn’t exist in nature, like a fountain for instance. Another idea essential to the design of a Japanese meditation garden is a sense of balance. These gardens are essentially efforts to recreate a natural landscape in a small space. Therefore, everything is magnified. Rocks, for instance, take on the role of mountains. Therefore, you need to take care in the size of the elements that become a part of your garden design. Perhaps the hardest element for the Western mind to grasp when designing Japanese gardens is the emptiness that they require. This empty space is known as ma. Ma defines all of the elements that surround it, and is defined by all of the things around it. Ma is one of the most important elements in this kind of Zen garden, and it is one of the most important elements to include in your design in order to create a space that encourages meditation.

A final key to the design of this style of garden is to create a sense of enclosure. This garden is meant to be a separate space that is an oasis from the hustle and bustle of the modern world. Therefore, it is necessary to surround it with something that shelters it. This is often a bamboo fence, but it doesn’t have to be. It could be surrounded by pine trees or other natural elements that will give it a feeling of enclosure. The most important elements to include in a Japanese garden design are rocks, sand, and water. The plants are secondary. Remember, you want this space to be minimalist with harmony and balance. Decide where to place your rocks first, and then layout the sand and water around them. This is the best way to create the most harmonious space. Everything else is secondary.

Kepaniwai Park Heritage Gardens

It is hard to believe that the dense rainforests and jagged peaks of Maui’s Iao Valley were once the scene of some of the bloodiest battles in King Kamehameha the Great’s quest to unify the Hawaiian Islands. In the 1790s, during the height of the conflict, there were so many warriors slain that their bodies blocked the stream. That battle was called Kepaniwai, which in English means “damming of the waters.”

The history of Iao Valley goes back more than 1,000 years. Ancient Hawaiians gathered in the valley for their annual makahiki festival. This celebration honoured Lono, the God of agriculture. Before Captain Cook put Hawaii on the European map, the valley was a major population center and the largest farming area in the islands. Taro farmers had their hales, or cottages on the slopes and along the valley floor. Fishermen lived along the shores of marine rich Kahului Bay. That all changed by the late 1800s. By then sugar was king and the water that was once used to irrigate island crops was diverted to nourish the cane fields. Iao Valley became the Hawaiian equivalent of a ghost town.

Today Iao Valley is a State Park. Hiking trails wind through the valley’s floors. Visitors are asked to stay on the trails, as the Iao Valley is a burial ground for many of Hawaii’s ali’i, or royalty. Steps lead you up to the top of the Iao Valley Needle. The needle, a pointed spire made of volcanic basalt, was once used as a lookout for warriors during times of war but now offers a panoramic view of the valley and beyond.

Just outside the park, the Kepaniwai Heritage Gardens, taking its name from the battle described above, is a memorial to those ancient Hawaiians as well as the many cultures that followed. Stroll the pathways past a New England Salt Box house complete with white picket fence and flagstone patio. Visit a restored ancient Hawaiian hale with its lava rock walls and thatched roof and a Portuguese outdoor oven surrounded by a European style garden complete with Virgin Mary statue. A Chinese Moon Gate graces one of the entryways, and a bold aqua and pink Korean Pavilion overlooks its own garden, graced by a statue of the God Haitai. Explore a replica of a bamboo walled Filipino Nipa Hut.

The Japanese Gardens, representing those from that nation that came in the mid 1800s to work the cane fields, include an authentic tea house and two Japanese temples, one of them large enough to walk through. Pathways lead over arched stone bridges spanning koi filled ponds and past carved stone pagodas and lanterns. A life size bronze statue of two Japanese field workers greets visitors to the collection of tropical flowers and carefully sculptured trees. Designed by garden architect Richard Tongg, Kepaniwai Heritage Gardens is just off of Highway 32 in Central Maui.