Tag Archives: tranquility

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.

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 Gardens, Tranquility Personified

Japanese Gardens have been a treasured art form in Japan for centuries, and are very much influenced by the ancient and intricate garden designs of China.

The exacting tradition, linked to the related and equally disciplined arts of calligraphy and Japanese ink brush painting, is historically passed down from sensei, or master, to apprentice.

Even though Japanese Gardens have been influenced by the West since the late 19th century, there are some elements that are considered typical, and in some respects, necessary to the art form.  Water, either real or symbolic is a must.  Bridges or stepping stones frequently cross a pond or stream element to an island, or perhaps to a tea house or pavilion. Rocks or stone arrangements create waterfalls, dry or wet.  Hedges, fences or traditionally styled walls create an enclosure around the miniature landscape.

There are three basic traditional styles of Japanese gardens.  The Karesausui gardens are dry landscapes in which different shades and shapes of rocks and gravel, as well as exactingly placed mosses and shrubs are used to represent ponds, islands, rivers, seas, boats and mountains in abstract form.  Raking stretches of gravel or sand creates the illusion of moving water.  This type of garden is for meditation and is frequently found at Zen temples.

The Tsukiyami garden style recreates features from famous landscapes in China or Japan. The clever placing of shrubs to block views of surrounding houses or structures is effective in creating the illusion of a much larger garden area. Footpaths may wander past ponds, streams, stones and hills and may lead the visitor across intricately carved bridges.  Bonsai trees, scaled down versions of their full sized cousins, are an important part of these miniature landscapes.

water © Michael Shake - Fotolia.com

Chianwa gardens were created for holding tea ceremonies, another exacting and quite lovely Japanese tradition.  A simple tea house is the usual focal point, and the gardens themselves are equally simplistic in their elegance. Traditionally stepping stones across a quiet pond lead to the tea house and an assortment of stone lanterns and basins dot the garden landscape. The stone basins, known as Tuskubai, are where guests are invited to purify themselves before taking part in the tea ceremony.

In addition to these three basic styles, Kanshoh style gardens are popular in private residences and are meant to be viewed from inside.  Pond gardens, built along quiet shorelines, are designed to be viewed from a boat. Strolling gardens take visitors along winding pathways, offering a sequence of views as one navigates the gentle curves.

stones © N.PARNEIX - Fotolia.com

From the hundred year old Hagiwara Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park to the Japanese Gardens at the Irish National Stud in Kildare in Ireland, these peaceful, creative nods to the art of tranquility now circle the globe. Bamboo plants, Japanese black pines and colorful maples share space with native plant species in the most unlikely of climates. Even in the town of Ronneby, Sweden, almost at the top of the world, it is possible to find an authentically created Japanese Garden.  Enjoy!


What Bonsai Tree are YOU

As Bonsai and garden lovers we spend alot of time getting to know our trees, we get intimate with shaping, trimming and styling. We water and feed, but how close are we to our trees! If we were a Bonsai tree what type of tree would we be.

In the following list, map your birth date against your tree type and then take a look at you description. Let me know how accurate it is and above all have fun.

January 2 to January 11 Fir

January 12 to January 24 Elm

January 25 to February 3 Cypress

February 4 to February 8 Poplar

February 9 to February 18 Cedar

February 19 to February 28 Pine

March 1 to March 10 Willow

March 11 to March 20 Lime

March 21 Oak

March 22 to March 31 Hazelnut

April 1 to April 10   Rowan

April 11 to April 20 Maple

April 21 to April 30   Walnut

May 1 to May 14 Poplar

May 15 to May 24 Chestnut

May 25 to June 3 Ash

June 4 to June 13 Hornbeam

June 14     to June 23 Fig

June 24 Birch

June 25 to July 4 Apple

July 5 to July 14 Fir

July 15 to July 25 Elm

July 26 to August 4 Cypress

August 5 to August 13 Poplar

August 14 to August 23 Cedar

August 24 to September 2 Pine

September 3 to September 12 Willow

September 13 to September 22 Lime

September 23 Olive

September 24 to October 3 Hazelnut

October 4 to October 13 Rowan

October 14 to October 23 Maple

October 24 to November 11 Walnut

November 12 to November 21 Chestnut

December 23 to January 1 Apple

Apple (Love) … quiet and shy at times, lots of charm, appeal and attraction, pleasant attitude, flirtatious smile, adventurous sensitive,loyal in love, wants to love and be loved, faithful and tender partner, very generous, many talents, loves children, needs affectionate partner.

Ash (Ambition) … extremely attractive, vivacious,
impulsive, demanding, does not care
for criticism, ambitious, intelligent, talented,
likes to play with fate, can be very egotistic,
reliable, restless lover, sometimes money
rules over the heart, demands attention,
needs love and much emotional support.

Ash (Ambition) … extremely attractive, vivacious, impulsive, demanding, does not care for criticism, ambitious, intelligent, talented, likes to play with fate, can be very egotistic, reliable, restless lover, sometimes money rules over the heart, demands attention, needs love and much emotional support.

Beech (Creative) … has good taste, concerned about its looks, materialistic, good organization of life and career, economical, good leader, takes no unnecessary risks, reasonable, splendid lifetime companion, keen on keeping fit (diets, sport, etc).

Birch (Inspiration) … vivacious, attractive, elegant, friendly, unpretentious, modest, does not like anything in excess, abhors the vulgar, loves live in nature and is calm, not very passionate, full of imagination, little ambition, creates a calm and content atmosphere.

Cedar (Confidence) … of rare strength, knows how to adapt, likes unexpected presents, of good health, not in the least shy, tends to look down on others, self confident, a great speaker, determined, often impatient, likes to impress others, has many talents, industrious, healthy optimism, waits for the one true love, able to make quick decisions.

Chestnut (Honesty) … of unusual stature, impressive, well-developed sense of justice, fun to be around, a planner, born diplomat, can be irritated easily, sensitive of others’ feelings, hard worker, sometimes acts superior, feels not understood at times, fiercely family oriented, very loyal in love, physically fit.

Cypress (Faithfulness) … strong, muscular, adaptable, takes what life has to give but does not necessarily like it, strives to be content, optimistic, wants to be financially independent, wants love and affection, hates loneliness, passionate lover which cannot be satisfied, faithful, quick-tempered at times, can be unruly and careless, loves to gain knowledge, needs to be needed.

Elm (Noble-mindedness) … pleasant shape, tasteful clothes, modest demands, tends not to forgive mistakes, cheerful, likes to lead but not to obey, honest and faithful partner, likes making decisions for others, noble minded, generous, good sense of humour, practical.

Fig (Sensibility) … very strong minded, a bit self-willed, honest, loyal, independent, hates contradiction or arguments, hard worker when wants to be, loves life and friends, enjoys children and animals, few sexual relationships, great sense of humor, has artistic talent and great intelligence.

Fir (Mysterious) … extraordinary taste, handles stress well, loves anything beautiful, stubborn, tends to care for those close to them, hard to trust others, yet a social butterfly, likes idleness and laziness after long demanding hours at work, rather modest, talented, unselfish, many friends, very reliable.

Hazelnut (Extraordinary) … charming, sense of humor, very demanding but can also be very understanding, knows how to make a lasting impression, active fighter for social causes and politics, popular, quite moody, sexually oriented, honest, a perfectionist, has a precise sense of judgment and expects complete fairness.

Hornbeam (Good Taste) … of cool beauty, cares for its looks and condition, good taste, is not egotistic, makes life as comfortable as possible, leads a reasonable and disciplined life, looks for kindness and acknowledgement in an emotional partner, dreams of unusual lovers, is seldom happy with its feelings, mistrusts most people, is never sure of its decisions, very conscientious.

Lime (Doubt) … intelligent, hard working, accepts what life dishes out, but not before trying to change bad circumstances into good ones, hates fighting and stress, enjoys getaway vacations, may appear tough, but is actually soft and relenting, always willing to make sacrifices for family and friends, has many talents but not always enough time to use them, can become a complainer, great leadership qualities, is jealous at times but extremely loyal.

Maple (Independence of Mind) … no ordinary person, full of imagination and originality, shy and reserved, ambitious, proud, self-confident, hungers for new experiences, sometimes nervous, has many complexities, good memory, learns easily, complicated love life, wants to impress.

Oak (Brave) … robust nature, courageous, strong, unrelenting, independent, sensible, does not like change, keeps its feed on the ground, person of action.

Olive (Wisdom) … loves sun, warmth and kind feelings, reasonable, balanced, avoids aggression and violence, tolerant, cheerful, calm, well-developed sense of justice, sensitive, empathetic, free of jealousy, loves to read and the company of sophisticated people.

Pine (Peacemaker) … loves agreeable company, craves peace and harmony, loves to help others, active imagination, likes to write poetry, not fashion conscious, great compassion, friendly to all, falls strongly in love but will leave if betrayed or lied to, emotionally soft, low self esteem, needs affection and reassurance.

Poplar (Uncertainty) … looks very decorative, talented, not very self-confident, extremely courageous if necessary, needs goodwill and pleasant surroundings, very choosy, often lonely, great animosity, great artistic nature, good organizer, tends to lean toward philosophy, reliable in any situation, takes partnership seriously.

Rowan (Sensitivity) … full of charm, cheerful, gifted without egotism, likes to draw attention, loves live, motion, unrest and even complications, is both dependent and independent, good taste, artistic, passionate, emotional, good company, does not forgive.

Walnut (Passion) … unrelenting, strange and full of contrasts, often egotistic, aggressive, noble, broad horizon, unexpected reactions, spontaneous, unlimited ambition, no flexibility, difficult and uncommon partner, not always liked but often admired, ingenious strategist, very jealous and passionate, not compromise.

Willow (Melancholy) … likes to be stress free, loves family life, full of hopes and dreams, attractive, very empathetic, loves anything beautiful, musically inclined, loves to travel to exotic places, restless, capricious, honest, can be influenced but is not easy to live with when pressured, sometimes demanding, good intuition, suffers in love until they find that one loyal steadfast partner, loves to make others laugh.

For reference I am a Pine (Peacemaker) and it is very accurate.

The original author of this piece is unknown…


Zen Gardens, Imagination in the Making


By their very nature Zen gardens encourage you to use your imagination.  Using carefully placed rocks and stones and open spaces filled with sand or gravel these gardens tend to capture the eye and the mind and hold both. Soon one can see the waves undulating in the sand ponds as they push around the rock islands that break their flow. The carefully placed rocks along the shoreline become craggy mountain ranges. Perhaps a bit of moss adds a hint of color and the impression of a hidden valley between those ranges. As you sit deep in thought and relaxed, you realize the garden has indeed captured you.

Zen gardens are done in the Japanese dry gardening style of Karesansui. It was developed in the 13th century by a Japanese priest in Kyoto, the site of one of the world’s most famous Zen meditative gardens. Created over 500 years ago, the Zen garden at the Ryoan-ji Temple is one of the most visited sites in Japan. It contains no plants at all within its 30 metre by 10 metre design. Fifteen rocks are cleverly arranged on a bed of gravel and sand in such a fashion that one can only see fourteen of them at one time.

Kyoto is also home to Nanzenji, a Zen temple located at the foot of the city’s eastern hills. It is the head temple for the Rinzai sect’s Nanzenji Zen Buddhism school of thought and is famous not only for its contemplative Zen garden but for its artwork and rich history that dates back to 1291. The Seiryo-den is the main building, where hand painted sliding doors, called fusuma, open to the rock garden. The entrance gate, called the Sanmon, was completed in 1628.

Zen gardens have found their way to other parts of the world as well. In Portland, Oregon, sister city to Sapporo, Japan, the popular Japanese Gardens have included a Zen garden in their design. The creator, Professor Takuma Tono based his layout on a 2,000 year old legend that tells of Buddha saving a starving tiger and cubs that were trapped in a ravine. The expanse of combed gravel is accented by four smaller stones and one upright, all covered with a patina of moss after standing for fifty years.

Zen gardens may one day invite contemplation on the moon, or beyond. The National Space Society held a design contest for lunar space station layouts. Artist Ayako Ono from Japan entered her “Lunar Zen Garden” painting. It features a lunar layout with several domed buildings, solar panels and all else you would expect to find in a space colony. What was not expected was the groomed circles around the domed buildings and strategically placed rocks that seem to have no other function than to capture the imagination. Of course on the moon, limiting your gardening materials to rocks, sands and gravels isn’t much of an issue.

Why not try to sculpt your own Japanese Garden or create a Japanese Water Garden.

Ryoan-ji Temple, The Temple of the Peaceful Dragon.

Japanese Water Gardens and Light!

You can create remarkable effects for your Japanese water garden, stream, and waterfalls with lighting. You can make a fountain glimmer, illuminate the underwater world of your Japanese garden, highlight your waterfall, and even liven up your stream all with the addition of a few lights.

Pond lighting is a way to catch subtle attention and really emphasize the existing beauty of your Japanese water garden, it also provides additional depth to your night views.

There are several types of submerged lights on the market, each one creating its own special effect, depending on how you position it. Most submerged lights come with dark colored casings so that the lights disappear into the darkness of the Japanese water garden. They can be set either to illuminate an area or a feature underwater or to shine up out of the water to illuminate a design element outside of the pond. Use underwater lighting for drama but use them sparingly.

Waterfall lights can add a dynamic effect to waterfalls and spillways when placed beneath or behind them, it brings a new dimension to your Japanese garden after dark.

Fountain lights either in white or in color, give a fantasy effect to a spray. Some come equipped with transparent wheels of several colors. Some light sets feature transformers that include built in timers to allow you to set the time period during which the lights remain on. Others are equipped with light sensing cells so that the lights go on at dusk and off at dawn.

Lanterns are another form of accent lighting that seem to fit in every Japanese water garden. They stand alone and are either wired for electricity or candle powered.

Much favored in Japanese gardens are, snow lanterns, or yukimidoro, these have a wide roof that collects snow, which is then illuminated by the light chamber below. In warmer seasons, the illuminated lantern casts an interesting mix of light and shadows on the water’s surface.

Here are some tips for your pond lighting:

1. Pond lighting works best in clear ponds.

2. Never light up the entire pond if you have fish. Fish need dark places in which to hide and feel safe. They also need darkness to regulate their body cycles.

3. You should position the dome or spotlights where you can easily conceal their cables and connecting wires.

4. You can conceal exposed cable and cords with wood chips, plants or other design elements.

Pond lighting with tasteful garden accents, creates an unbelievable ambiance and a unforgettable experience for your guests at your next party.
Pond lighting is also the best and only way to fully utilize and appreciate your Japanese water garden during the night time hours.

The joy of having your Japanese garden, stream, waterfall, and fountains lit up well into the night will help turn an everyday spectacular, landscaping feature into a magical, mystical, after-dark wonderland.