Tag Archives: zen 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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Your own Japanese Garden, part two

In my previous article I wrote about considerations and decisions to be taken when you are going to build your own Japanese garden. In this article I’ll elaborate on that.

As the Japanese garden evolved over 15 centuries it is difficult to label or “put in a box”. As there are many garden types in Japan, to typify it as (just) “a Japanese garden” is not enough. It is not workable nor does it do justice. The differences between e.g. a Tea-garden and Karesansui-garden are just too big to talk about in general terms when working on a design.

It is important to know what type of Japanese garden you are “planning” so you can name it and focus on the relevant characteristics. There are of course commonalities between all Japanese garden types but these are often not the subject of discussion. It is required to typify it one degree more precise to be able to successfully realize a Japanese garden, either of a single type or a composition of divers elements and compartments.

One of the first thoughts should be: “what type of Japanese garden do I want to realize ?” Then when decided upon, this typification can become the basis for further study, investigation, discussion, architecture design and elaboration.

Use of Archetypes of gardens according to the Tokyo Agricultural University has proved to be a good approach. Then you can talk about your Japanese “Tea garden” or “Zen garden” or perhaps a combination of elements from different garden (arche)types. The Tokyo Agricultural University recognizes eight archetypes. To make this workable and pragmatic we often see this brought back to 4 or 5 archetypes or main garden types, e.g based on themes or application.

Heian Aristocrats gardens for worship and leisure, Palace gardens, Temple gardens and Nobles-men’s gardens, including Tea gardens and dry rock gardens.
Or:
Strolling and pond garden, Natural (Paradise) garden, flat garden, sand and stone or dry rock garden, tea garden.

Nowadays the Japanese typically categorize their gardens into three broad types.

  • Tsukiyama gardens typically feature artificial hills combined with a pond and a stream, plants, shrubs, and trees.
  • Karesansui or dry landscape garden.
  • Chaniwa or tea-garden, attached to the tea-ceremony.

Following the complete list of eight garden archetypes according to Tokyo Agricultural University (in time from 6th Century until modern day):

  • Ceremony Worship ceremonies, including routes for worshiping.
  • Leisure The ancient capital 1300 years ago: Today a legacy from the past.
  • Paradise Representation of Paradise on Earth. Joruri-ji Temple, in the hills near Nara, is the only existing Heian-era Amida Hall with nine images of Amida representing the nine levels of enlightenment.
  • Zen Ryoan-ji is regarded the archetype Zen or karesansui (dry rock) garden.
  • Buke(-zukuri) A style of residential architecture in use among the bushi or warrior class.
  • Tea Garden and house dedicated to the Tea Ceremony, Cha-no-yu. Highly influenced by Buddhism in particular Zen.
  • Theme
    Katsura Imperial Villa is a circuit style garden with small and large islands connected by bridges.
    Kenroku-en is “a strolling-style landscape garden”. “Kenroku-en” literally means “garden that combines six characteristics”. Grouped in their traditional complementary pairs, they are spaciousness & seclusion, artifice & antiquity, water-courses & panoramas.
    Both gardens take full advantage of seasonal change.
  • Modern Gardens from the last century and a half.
    A “new type of karesansui garden” or “modern karesansui garden” by Shigemori Mirei.
    This type is not (yet) included in the list but gets more and more recognition as a distinct type, perhaps not so much as a new archetype.

An other style-element regards complexity or the degree of elaboration of a garden(compartment). The book Tsukiyama teizoden names three:

  • Shin, very elaborate and formal.
  • Gyo, intermediate and semi-formal.
  • So, the simplest informal.

Is then “So”, the simplest of all, the Zen version ? Not so.
The complexity here relates to the number of elements and objects like: scenes, hills, rocks, stone, tree’s, bushes and other objects and level of detail in a garden. Some Zen gardens have lots of them and hence are not So.

The symbolism, not to mention superstitious beliefs, as such mean little to many (most ?) of us. However symbolism sometimes has a direct impact on the aesthetics of a garden that can not be neglected. Hence you need to take symbolism into account and bring it into the garden if it in your eyes, enhances the appearance and appreciation.
The same is true for the geomancy, nowadays popularised as Feng Shui, (fusui in Japanese) Yin Yang and the Japanese equivalents and interpretations like Yi and the Five Phases as described in the garden book Sakuteiki and older text like Huainanzi which precedes the Five Phase Encyclopedia by about 600 years.
The essence regarding aesthetics from the opening words in the Sakuteiki can be leading for designers:


” In making the garden, you should first understand the overall principles.”

  1. According to the lay of the land, and depending upon the aspects of the water landscape, you should design each part of the garden tastefully, recalling your memories of how nature presented itself for each feature.
  2. Study the examples of work left by the past masters, and considering the desires of the owner of the garden, you should create a work of your own by exercising your tasteful sense.
  3. Think over the famous places of scenic beauty throughout the land, and by making it your own that which appeals to you most, design your garden with the mood of harmony, modelling after the general air of such places.

In the modern translation of the Sakuteiki the authors see three aspects of Buddhism reflected in the garden. The third relating to the aspect of Buddhism by which the religion is seen as a protector of the individual. Inserting specific Buddhist elements in the garden was done for reasons similar to those for introducing elements that had geomantic influence. Both the Buddhist elements and the geomantic elements were perceived as protecting the household. If you are not a follower of Feng Shui, then you only have to take into account these aspects for the impact on the aesthetics of the garden and under the assumption that it will not enhance the appearance and appreciation when seen or experienced by a spectator without a thorough background of the rules and taboosimi or kinki. If you are a follower of Feng Shui then this is a whole different story.
Whatever the case the garden you create must give you the right “feel”, or better “fuzei”.

The picture: Kanji for fuzei in the Japanese flag. Fuzei: “Aesthetic sense” in Sakuteiki the 11th century treatise on Garden Making, the oldest and most revered Japanese text on garden design.

Piet Patings, Tsubo-en Zen-garden, www.zen-garden.org

Zen and three friends of winter

In Japan, rock gardens were created by Zen Buddhist priests to offer a place for quiet reflection near Japanese temples. Several features are essential to these gardens; a typical garden will contain a water element, boulders, a gravel sand area reminiscent of the seashore, and plantings – often a combination of bamboo, plums and pine, called the “three friends of winter.”

Pine (shou) showing brilliant green in the bleakest of winter. Pine have been as a symbol of long life in China since ancient times.

Pine (shou) showing brilliant green in the bleakest of winter. Pine have been as a symbol of long life in China since ancient times.

Bamboo (chiku) another plant that stays mostly green throughout the winter. The stalk of the bamboo is hollow, that symbolizes tolerance and open-mindedness.

Plum (bai) show a beautiful elegance during the bleakness of a hostile winter. The character of the plum tree serves as a metaphor for inner beauty and humble display under these extreme conditions.

If you don’t have space for a full-sized Japanese garden, you can create one in miniature: bonsai ponds can be made to fit a very small space. A water garden following Zen design principles is a simple do-it-yourself project, as any watertight containers can be made into bonsai ponds. Start with one container large enough to house all the elements of your project and a smaller container for the pond. You will also need a small aquarium pump to aerate the water. Ready-grown “three friends of winter” bonsai and the supplies and instructions to maintain them are available online. You can buy rocks, sand, and gravel at your local aquarium or home improvement store.

Arrange your garden according to the following Zen aesthetic principles: kanso, or simplicity; fukinsei, or asymmetry; shibui, or minimalism; shizen, natural materials; yugen, surprise or revelation; datsuzoku, or a sense of wonder; and seijaku, or tranquility. Fill your small container with water and place it on one side of the garden container; this will be your pond. To prevent the water from stagnating, conceal the aquarium pump in the garden to aerate the water – you can even arrange the pump outlet to create a waterfall over your rocks, if you like. To satisfy the principle of shizen, make sure any artificial elements are well hidden, for example you can use natural stone and gravel both to hide the edges of the water container and to create a shoreline around the water’s edge. Opposite the pond, arrange the “three friends of winter” bonsai with the larger rocks, surrounded by more gravel and sand: this balance between the pond and plantings will create asymmetry, or fukinsei. Make sure to place a few rocks in such a way that they may be hidden or may hide other elements that to offer surprises, or yugen.

No matter the size, a Japanese Zen garden will offer a peaceful haven from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

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…

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Zen Gardens, Imagination in the Making

zen

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.


The Chinese Venice of Suzhou

chinese-templesSuzhou is one of the most beautiful cities of China. Its the motherland of silk and one of the oldest traditional forms of Chinese opera – Kunqu, listed as one of the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity (UNESCO).

The city is located in the south of the province of Jiangsu and enjoys mild climate and beautiful nature. Marco Polo called Suzhou, this city of canals and gardens 85 km west of Shanghai, the “eastern Venice”. One Chinese proverb even says “There is heaven in the sky, and Suzhou on earth”. Its gardens appeared 2500 years ago and are still the best place to come to and enjoy the world as it is seen by Chinese poets, artists and men of wisdom. But for this they have to arrive there in advance, before crowds of people deprive the gardens of their calm charm. The city had about 250 gardens during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). Nowadays there are about a hudred of them left, and only a few are opened for visitors.

Far from a distance the city impresses with its magnificent walls and gates, its ancient pagoda produces a fantastic impression as well. In the old times Suzhou was renowned as “the land of fish and rice”, and this patriarchal appearance is still characteristic for the city. The hubbub and laugh produced by local people is a typical Chinese “song”. There are several attractions not to be missed while staying in Suzhou.

Blue Wave Pavilion (Canglang Ting) is the only garden part of which is not fenced. Moreover, this is the oldest garden in Suzhou. It is filled with the atmosphere of wilderness, decorated with stone hillocks, artificial mounds and bamboo groves. The name of the garden derives from the name of the pavilion built here in 1044.

Humble Administrator’s Garden (Zhuozheng Yuan) is one of the largest and the most beautiful Chinese gardens. Its a magnificent ensemble, with water as its focus: the areas next to its ponds are covered with ornaments of summerhouses and pavilions, the ponds themselves are covered with islets, which can be reached by refined bridges and narrow stone dykes.

Lingering Garden (Liu Yuan) is dominated with a high rock, pavilions are rather big, and its main landmarks are the Yuanyang (mandarin duck) Hall and the luxurious Wufengxian Hall. The garden’s attractions are connected with a corridor 700 meters long. Hundreds of windows with patterned guards are overlooking the rocks, plants and water.

Master of the Nets Garden (Wang Shi Yuan) is Suzhou’s smallest garden. However, its small size is compensated with its elegant layout, which set a good example for other Chinese gardens. Names like the Hall of Captured Grace will help you get inspired with the atmosphere of calm contemplation which former owners created here. In summertime the garden is opened till late. It is illuminated with lanterns while musicians and dancers entertain visitors.

The nine-storied North Temple Pagoda (Beisi) was built in the end of the X century, then reconstructed several times. Visit the pagoda for unforgettable views over the city suburbs. Another city landmark – the leaning Yunyan Pagoda – can be found on the Tiger Hill (Huqiu). It is in fact taller than the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

Xuanmiao Guan, or the “Temple of Mystery” is thought to be one of the best local Taoist temples. Built in 276 AD, it was later demolished and rebuilt again. And, finally, a spot not to be missed is the Suzhou Market street, covered with restaurants, shops, stalls, theatres, snack bars, silk stores and confectioner’s.


Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Tatyana_Kogut

Bonsai, a balance with nature

Bonsai ZenThe Japanese regard bonsai as a union of very old beliefs and Eastern philosophies regarding harmony between man, his soul and nature.

Much focus and patience is required to carefully prune the roots and branches to prevent unwanted growth. The best bonsai specimens portray nature accurately in miniature form.

It’s important to remember that the goal of bonsai is not to duplicate nature, but instead to communicate its spirit and essence.

Monks began using bonsai for meditative purposes as they tried to join the elements of earth, water and sky. Making bonsai is therefore a Zen Buddhist practice which helps the gardener become closer with nature and more importantly with one’s self. The process is never-ending as the tree requires constant attention in order to flow harmoniously and naturally. With the appropriate love, a well-cared for bonsai can live for hundreds of years.

So what are the main styles for growing bonsai that resemble that balance with nature?

1) Formal upright – this form looks like a human standing upright. It is grown straight with balancing symmetry.

2) Informal upright – this technique is meant to resemble windswept trees that remain upright despite their conditions.

3) Slanting – this shape is similar to dense forest trees that lean toward the light over streams.

4) Cascading – this style reminds the viewer of waterfalls as nature pulls the water down.

5) Semi-cascading – this final method evokes a picture of plants and other vegetation that grow on cliff faces, yet stretch toward the sun.

As you can see, this ancient horticultural art form allows the gardener to become like the creative forces of nature. Through much contemplation and meditation one can produce the mysteries of nature in a living thing which then embodies these quintessential qualities.