Tag Archives: ground cover

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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What makes a Japanese garden ?

From garden paths to architecture, fences, gravel patterns, and types of plants, this website details key distinctions of what makes a Japanese garden-

http://www.japanesegardens.jp/

 

KotoJazz 80: Mini Garden Simplicity

Here is a mini garden I started below a pink flowering dogwood that blooms fabulously in the spring (see picture below). In the tradition of Japanese gardens, the intent is to create patterns of paradise scenes often seen in the natural world. I spent a total of $7-8. Much of the splendor of this garden will not be fully seen until next year or the following year when the plants have fully grounded into their new homes [also, the strawberries on the right (photo above) will need to be replaced by moss or ground cover].

Pat'sDogwood

This mini garden features a simple rock creek flowing down from the a tall stone representing a mountain. The “mountain” stone is surrounded by large rocks or rounded mountains/ front range hills leading up to the cathedral- like mountain. Flowing from the “mountain” stones is the dry creek rock bed, with the visual effect of a true flowing mountain stream of water. Note that at each turn there are larger stones which is common in creeks. These help re-direct or guide the creek in another direction, reinforcing the natural occurrences seen in nature. The dry creek spreads wide at its base, suggesting it has reached more level ground, or perhaps a lake.

The white lantern is placed on the side of the hill surrounding by sheet moss I found in shaded areas of the yard. In the spring, I plan to add a stunning gorgeous version of moss toward the background area called the hair cap moss. There are two transplanted ferns, one in front of the lantern, and one behind the stone mountain. Though hardly noticeable today, these ferns will show a full display of leaves next spring into summer. The fern in the foreground is a common tassel fern which will experience minimal growth in size, while the sword fern I planted behind the mountain stone will grow to a size potentially twice the height and size of the mountain stone.

Other plants include a few strawberry plants in the foreground (not recommended; these were pre-existing plants placed there by the owner) and a spider flower to the left which flowers a resplendent deep purple in the late spring to early summer, and is now passed its prime and going dormant for the fall season. Also to the left showing simple iris-like leaves is the common orange crocosmia, which grows naturally throughout the Pacific Northwest. Finally, for effect, I planted the Acorus cascading yellow grass. The acorus next year will be a bright yellow cascade that will contrast nicely with this shaded area. There are two in the foreground. These are off shoots, so will not show their true cascading splendor until next summer.

KotoJazz 79: Japanese Ferns

The most popular of Japanese ferns is the Japanese Painted Ferns (Athyrium niponicum). The fern is known for its resplendent silvery green to misty light blue and maroon colored leaves. The silver green fern leaves meld into a light maroon to purple color toward the center of each fern leaf. It flourishes in a moist, partial to full shade environment. They are ideal for shaded walk ways as ground cover, garden accents, and any foreground features, as they normally do not grow very large nor tall (at most 18-24 inches). Once it takes hold in a garden, it becomes relatively low maintenance so long as it is planted in a nicely shaded area, such as the foreground of a Japanese maple tree.

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 71: Mini Garden 3- Tree Base Mounds

There are creative ways to beautify city tree base mounds and their small spaces.

Here’s a simple yet gorgeous arrangement with two orange tea hucheras on each side of the space. It also features a few mini – ferns as well as ground cover types. The tree mound has a meandering black creek rock dry creek on one side of the tree mound. Large rocks are placed around the mini- garden to give a natural look and feel image.

This offers an attractive alternative to the rather unattractive look of most tree base mounds you see around town; another good example maximizing limited space. This one is located on 15th in Capitol Hill, Seattle.

KotoJazz 70: Water Features in Mini Garden

There are two water features in this mini garden my brother designed which bring his garden to life — a natural looking wood plug-in mini waterfall and the black pebble dry creek and pond.

With the water feature in the background and the black pebble pond in the foreground, he’s created a paradise in his small back yard with three Japanese maples – one purple lace maple to the right, a taller green Japanese maple providing shade to shade plants and flowers below such as hostas and Japanese irises, and a feathery lighter lace maple behind the water feature in the back corner of his space.

The garden also uses a wide variety of ground covers, including one flowering mound of pink in the foreground next to the deck along with blue flowering groundcovers, giving rise to natural imagery. This Japanese mini garden works in this small space because all the plants chosen complement each other, and everything is proportionately sized correctly, including white mini lantern on the side.

Koto Jazz 68: Mini Garden

Simplicity is my theme here in this basic mini- garden in Boulder, Colorado. A total of only $10 was spent on this serene mini scene. While space is not as much a premium in the vast expand of this globally trend-setting Rocky Mountain city, I still brought my creative miniaturization impulses with me from the Pacific Northwest city life. This mini garden replaced a common area lawn that had completely died away.

I seek to capture the surrounding area using local assets such a variation of rock and stones, elegant spacing, mini flowering bulbs such as dwarf tulips and mini- daffodils, along with naturally growing ground covers such as violets and forget-me-nots. Being in this semi-arid region that boasts 320-plus days of sunshine a year, it also helps to add a few desertous (new word) plants as accents to the mini garden image. These include a bonsai-style and shaped juniper in the background, and an ornamental grass off to the left.

I used pinkish- white marble rocks to outline the plants and stones in this mini-garden. I also created a mini dry creek that meanders from one end of the mini-garden to the other to give it a natural flow. Finally, I made a pretty rough but natural lantern out of local stones and a brick. The beauty of mini-gardens is that they fit into spaces of just about any size. 🙂

KotoJazz 67: Spacing in Gardens

Probably the most well known concept around spacing in gardens is Mel Bartholomew’s “Square Foot Gardening”. This first and foremost applies to vegetable gardens, but can be applicable to spacing in ornamental gardens as well. Here is an exploration of spacing for garden designs.

All plants ornamental or otherwise, need space to grow, and a minimum of twelve inches apart is generally a good growing space principal. Open spaces are critical, especially in dry Zen gardens where open spaces represent the open sea. In Japanese gardens, open spaces are often the center piece of Japanese gardens, while plants and stones provide the backdrop or outline.

KotoJazz 48: Japanese Ornamental Grasses

Though there are dozens of varieties of grasses that originate from Japan, there are three primary types of Japanese ornamental grasses. These are – Hakone grasses (also known as Golden forest grass), Silver grasses, and blood grasses.

Hakone Grass:
The golden forest grass can be a bright clump of cascading yellow grasses, or it might be a more light green shade if less exposed to the sun. These are ideal foreground accents for your garden as they remain fairly low to the ground.

Silver Grass:
Silver grasses are more appropriate for mid- to back- ground locations in your garden. They likewise grow in clumps, but much taller to 3-4 feet in height. Their stalks flower feathery seeds ranging in color from pinkish red to light cream or silver.

Blood Grass:
The popular Japanese blood grass gets its name from spiky red tips of these rare ornamental grasses, creating the image of grass on fire. These don’t grow in clumps like the others, but can spread to cover fairly large areas.

StiltGrass:
A fourth grass type worth noting that is not part of the above three primary grass groups, is the stiltgrass. Japanese stiltgrass, has the appearance of mini bamboo, green and growing low to the ground as a ground cover. Like bamboo, it can be invasive.

There are a number of other grass types commonly used in Japanese gardens that fall between the grass and moss categories that are commonly used as nice area ground covers.

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)