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KotoJazz 84: Low Budget Area Garden Design

A work- in- progress of my Japanese garden in the front yard, including a dry creek rock garden, featured stones, lantern, bamboo borders, Japanese lace maple, yellow, black and red grass, various ground covers and mosses, irises and crocosmias, succulents, smoke tree, salvia, asters, rhodedendrums, 3 types of helleborus, 4 types of heucheras, painted ferns, razer and licourish ferns, and the featured "dragon" weeping blue spruce pine.
A work- in- progress of my Japanese garden in the front yard, including a dry creek rock garden, featured stones, lantern, bamboo borders, Japanese lace maple, yellow, black and red grass, various ground covers and mosses, irises and crocosmias, elderberry, succulents, a smoke tree, salvia, asters, rhodedendrums, 3 types of helleborus, 4 types of heucheras, painted ferns, razer and licorice ferns, and the featured weeping “dragon” blue spruce pine.


60-80% of a garden’s beauty can be made from resources already available around your home or among friends. Remember, nature offers its own beauty that may only need minor enhancements. I personally don’t care for regularly maintaining a yard, especially constantly mowing lawns. It just brings out the sneezing in me. Lawn mowing is among the world’s biggest wastes of water and consumes unnecessary time in my lazy, stubborn opinion. Frankly, it offers no creativity or inspiration of natural beauty.

AREA GARDENS:

We start with creating a garden image in your head. Imagine an idyllic beautiful scene in your head. Then, dig a space of dirt, any shape you want it to be. Apply that idyllic scene to this bare space. First, simply turn over the grass and put it upside down, occasionally scraping off the loose dirt to further expose the grass roots, so the grass is certain to die. Then, take cedar droppings from underneath cedar trees in the back yard and spread it throughout the dug out space. Cedar is highly acidic and will largely reduce if not eliminate the need for weeding the area garden space. Not much of anything can grow under cedars; maybe a few rhodies (rhododendrons) which thrive in acidic soil.

In the case of the above pictured garden, I dug out the entire side of the front yard off of the concrete path. I left a few “accents” of grass to provide lining for the area garden’s borders. These can be easily held at bay with an occasional weed whacking. If you want you can raise the garden, which I did for the area garden beyond the concrete path toward the top of the above photo. You can raise it as much as you like by simply adding more soil to the area and more mulch. I moved the rhody from another part of this house where it was hidden away, and is now featured in the raised garden. A general rule when creating your own garden is to place the larger items –  bushes, trees, or stones – toward the back, while shorter smaller flowers and plants should be placed toward the front. As a taller, larger bush, the rhody serves as an attractive back drop to this area garden.

BORDERS & HIGHLIGHTS:

Here is a dry creek pond around the tree, beginning a dry creek meandering along round stone steps which continue along the side of the house to the back yard. We have a fucia in full bloom and a japanese maple in blue pots in the foreground, a reddening sumac to the left, three hydrangeas (white, pink and blue), a Japanese anenome next to the sumac, a light evergreen bush next to the featured stone creating the affect of an island, a white drooping Japanese pine to the right along the mound, sword fern, and five different types and colors of heucheras.
Here is a dry creek pond around the tree, beginning a dry creek meandering along round stone steps which continue along the side of the house to the back yard. We have a fucia in full bloom and a japanese maple in blue pots in the foreground, a reddening sumac to the left, three hydrangeas (white, pink and blue), a Japanese anenome next to the sumac, a light evergreen bush next to the featured stone creating the affect of an island, a white drooping Japanese pine to the right along the mound, sword fern, and five different types and colors of heucheras.

It’s always nice to have borders for the area garden so as to define its space. Borders can be stone, bricks, slate, wood, bamboo pieces, even plants. In this case, I used stones found in the ground when digging out the garden area. As for the larger boulders highlighted around the rock creek, I was fortunate to find a friend who was excavating a part of his property and was trying to get rid of these beautiful blue-hued boulders (with more to come in later phases).  These boulders give the impression of a mountainous terrain with a valley carved  out by a rolling creek. Reinforcing this mini- mountain  scene is the meandering  creek. I place various types of sheet moss, tree moss, and fern moss on the north, more shaded side of the garden area. Eventually, all dirt areas you see in the garden will display a plant, fern, moss, or ground cover of some type to add personality.

DRY CREEK:

The dry creek appears to naturally flow between the larger boulders. Each boulder enforces a bend in the creek, as it does in natural creeks. Large creek rocks are generally placed toward the outer borders of the creek, while smaller rocks are toward the center, again mimicking these natural occurrences in nature. The creek narrows and appears to flow into a small lake in the foreground toward the street. I recommend using black creek rocks if available; otherwise, the varied colored rocks will do. To make the dry creek, I dug out the space and put in a thin layer of cedar mulch, then a thick layer of sand to prevent weeds from growing in the creek rock. Soon to come will be a natural stone recycling water feature at the beginning of the dry creek.

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FLOWERING PLANTS & THINGS:

As for the flowering plants and things in this area garden, I looked for anything that might complement the “bones” of these area mounds. Fortunately in the Pacific Northwest, there are lots of plant life growing everywhere, some considered weeds in some circles. For example, ferns, wild white flowering heuchera, crocosmia, and wild blue bells grow like weeds in this region, but one can never get enough of their natural beauty.  I placed the wild heuchera on the north side and underneath the rhody where it thrives in shady areas. I scatter the wild crocosmias, blue hyacinths, and blue bells unevenly throughout the area gardens to reinforce the natural look. The blue bells and hyacinths  will flower in the spring while the crocosmias flower in late summer into autumn. I also have a relative of the ‘lamb’s ear’ ground cover which grows wild here and flowers a gorgeous deep magenta flower at the ends of each antler-like stem. I also have another ground cover that emerges a bouquet of hundreds of tiny white bulbous flowers during the summer and autumn seasons. I plan to add various types of ornamental grasses in addition to the Japanese red grass and the yellow bamboo grass clumps around the garden areas.

I have shoots of Japanese red grass planted to the side of the weeping blue cedar, tulips and other bulbous flowers not yet blooming scattered around the area gardens as well. I was gifted a rosemary to add a year round pungent aroma and a gorgeous orange rose bush.

A work- in- progress of my Japanese garden in the front yard, the garden includes two dry creek rock gardens (one in the foreground of the featured image and the other in the background as a minimalist Zen garden), featured stones, lantern, bamboo borders, a Japanese lace maple, a coral bark maple, yellow, black and red grass, various ground covers and mosses, irises and crocosmias, an elderberry, succulents, a smoke tree, salvia, purple asters, rhododendrons, anenome flowers, echinacea, 3 types of hellebores, 4 types of heucheras, painted ferns, shark tale, razor and licorice ferns, and the featured weeping “dragon” blue spruce pine in the foreground.

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PURCHASED HIGHLIGHTED ITEMS:

The low budget provided for a few highlighted features, such as the Japanese lantern, Japanese coral bark maple, the weeping blue “dragon” cedar, Chinese purple lantern flowers, two red dogwood bushes, and a few ground covers such as English daisies, heucheras, and grasses. Outside of sweat equity, the total budget was a remarkable mere $141! For the future, I plan to add another raised garden across the walkway in the front, mock bamboo, a Japanese purple lace maple, ornamental grasses, and maybe a rare plant such as an aromatic variegated pink daphne, a cone flowering hydrangea, Asian tiger lilies, or a few exotic pink or magenta Japanese anemone flowers. The blue pots can feature beautiful maples such as local vine maples, or anything that requires a controlled environment such as bamboo.

 

Japanese style rock creek garden
Japanese style rock creek garden in the making.
The "Before" photo - What the garden looked like before moving into the house.
The “Before” photo – What the garden looked like before moving into the house.
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Wildlife and Nature Pictures – A True Respite from the Daily Grind

I find refuge and inspiration of the photos of the “Wildlife and Nature Pictures” website on Facebook. As a pretty new member of Facebook, I highly recommend this site for viewing all the beauty of nature that the world has to offer. Here is a picture of a corridor of blooming pink Cherry blossom trees in Japan:

An Evening of Elegance: 55th Anniversary Garden Party at the Japanese Garden

This anniversary party was filled with positive interactions with the attendees between breaks and after my performance. It’s always a wonderful opportunity to meet new people intrigued by and find enjoyment from my music, but on a broader level, Japanese culture. It’s so good to be connected to such a wonderful, kind, generous, forgiving, and loving community in Seattle.

As I played the third song of the night, Tomio Moriguchi, otherwise known as “Mr. Uwajimaya”, came up to me and said he loved the first piece I played, Sakura, and of course I obliged to play it again. A true honor to have known you Tomio through the years, first meeting you in the early 90s karaoking with you and the late Joyce Yoshikawa at Bush Garden, getting caught up at the Bon Odori through the years, your reminders of how much you appreciated my sister Kimberley’s summer JAS programs with your family (yes Kimberley, Tomio asks about you every time!) and now, how could one not play a song for your memory in such a magical setting as Seattle’s Japanese garden! For the person who quite possibly brought more Japanese food and gifts to America than anyone in America! Domo, domo, domo. The people of Seattle’s Japanese Garden, so many of the attendees such as Tomio, The Sasakis (Cherry Blossom Festival and Fujima Fujimine Dance Ensemble) have colored this city of Seattle with the beautiful wonders of Japanese arts and culture for which I am eternally grateful.

Seattle Japanese Garden, University of Washington Arboretum
Setting up at the Seattle Japanese Garden, University of Washington Arboretum

University of Washington Arboretum Japanese Garden
University of Washington Arboretum Japanese Garden

The koto tunes I played at this event were:

  • My Sakura,
  • Haru No Umi (The Sea in Springtime),
  • Tori No Yo Ni (Like A Bird),
  • Aki No Hou (Toward Autumn Season), and
  • Tide Pools And Waves (Shiyodamari to Nami).
  • Seattle Japanese Garden 55th Anniversary garden party, University of Washington Arboretum.
    Seattle Japanese Garden 55th Anniversary garden party, University of Washington Arboretum.


    I was immediately followed by a traditional Japanese dance by Fujima Fujimine Dance Ensemble (pictured here):

    Seattle Japanese Garden 55th Anniversary garden party, University of Washington Arboretum.
    Seattle Japanese Garden 55th Anniversary garden party, University of Washington Arboretum.
    Seattle Japanese Garden 55th Anniversary garden party, University of Washington Arboretum.
    Seattle Japanese Garden 55th Anniversary garden party, University of Washington Arboretum. I saw familiar faces at the event, including Tazue Sasaki of the Fujima Fujimine Dance Ensemble, her husband Yutaka Sasaki, and members of the Japanese Consulate.

    Koto Jazz 73: Kubota Gardens

    Spring into Summer has sprung and it’s time to visit your favorite outdoor places! The Kubota family created a stunning beautiful Japanese garden with mountainous waterfall landscapes, serene koi ponds, and a Zen garden in South Seattle. It is a gardens where many of my musical pieces were first inspired (Kubota Birds Water Dance and Raindrops Fall from Trees, for example). To me, the legacy leaves us much more. Fujitaro and family, including Tak and Tom, were interned at the Minidoka camp in Idaho during World War II, and came home to Seattle to say “I forgive” by presenting the City of Seattle with one of the premiere Japanese gardens in the Northwest. It is the former home of the Kubota family and their landscape business. Kubota Gardens may be the largest Japanese garden in North America and offers 22 acres of rolling hills, natural springs, and hiking/ walking trails, and of course, beautiful landscaped gardens. More information is available at http://www.kubotagarden.org/.

    Koto Jazz 72: Koi (carp) & Nishikigoi (colored carp)

    Here is a mini garden with a good mix of color combinations, land and sea image to create a balanced look and feel.

    The highlight of this garden of course is the flowing carp swimming in the foreground.

    The word ‘koi’ literally means carp, but also describes wild varieties of the common carp fish. Carp are a very hardy species and can withstand long travel. Around 1000 years ago, the carp made it’s way into Japan via China. Keeping koi was most popular with Japanese farmers who kept them as a source of food.

    Sometime in the 1800s koi were kept in a closed breeding area to create colorful variations by the mutations over time. Out of personal interest, these new colored varieties were bred further and maintained as a hobby rather than as the traditional food source. These new ‘colored’ koi were called Nishikigoi.

    The creation of these beautiful color variations in the early 1900s, brought about an explosion of koi caring as a hobby in Japan, and then worldwide. The Japanese turned the artistic form into a science. Japan is recognized today as the best koi breeders, today boasting as many as 13 color varieties!

    You may source the koi symbol from Chinese legend about a carp that successfully swam to the top of a large waterfall on Yellow River became a dragon. Thus, koi symbolizes power and bravery, and overcoming adversity. The koi and Samurai have been a symbols of bravery for similar reasons. Like the Samurai facing death by the sword, the koi likewise, lies still beneath the knife.

    KotoJazz 69: Yellow Ornamental Grasses

    Probably due to their unique and resplendent colors, I would say there are two top Japanese ornamental grasses that rival each other in popularity – the Japanese red blood grass and Japanese yellow forestgrass.

    Of the two, only one is indispensable to a complete Japanese garden image – the forestgrass. In addition to its bright yellow hue, the Japanese forestgrass displays as a flowing cascading ornament unmatched in the world of grasses.

    Varieties of yellow hairgrass and sedgegrass are more hardy versions. They can be used to accent a garden or garden area with a simple placement in the foreground of any garden area as pictured above.

    KotoJazz 27: Bamboo

    Bamboo has diverse applications in a Japanese garden, including the plant itself ranging from short ground cover bamboo to tall bamboo with distinctive black, yellow, even orange colored stalks. Bamboo is also used for wind chimes, water spouts, ground cover, wind breaks, garden furniture, trellises, and privacy screens.

    There are three main types of bamboo, and the two most common images of bamboo in gardens are the clumping bamboo and running bamboo. The third, tall timber bamboo, is not so commonly used in gardens due to their size- they grow to over 40 feet tall.

    Clumping Bamboo: One bamboo type more commonly used in Japanese gardens is the clumping bamboo, which prefers the heat and tropical climates, but can survive elsewhere. The clumping bamboo is ideal for all gardens because it tends to grow slowly and can be relegated to limited areas as the name implies; maybe only a couple of inches per year and no more than 10 feet range and more commonly 2-5 feet. Gardeners be forewarned that in the right environment, clumping bamboo species are known to spread uncontrollably despite its name and reputation.

    Running Bamboo: The running bamboo must be contained in a pot or other barrier in order restrict its growth in a garden, or it will take over the garden. It will do this by send out runners not too far under the surface to take root and expand outward. It virtually has no limit on its range of potential expansion. It is very important to create barriers for these types of bamboo and the runners are know to climb over and under barriers if they are not deep enough or high enough.

    Some of the most visually resplendent dwarf ground cover bamboo can be the most invasive runners, so it is recommended you restrict them to containers. These include the following dwarf species – white stripe, golden yellow stripe, green stripe, and fern leaf.

    I found these websites to be the most useful for learning more about gardening with bamboo:

  • Bamboo Inspiration
  • Bamboo Garden (Oregon)
  • Bamboo fences- Zen Japanese Landscape (Washington)
  • List of Bamboo Species, Wikipedia (technical information guide only)