Tag Archives: Japanese garden design

Koto Jazz 64: Balance in Japanese Gardens

Japanese gardens seek to bring out the balance of the natural world. A key intent of Japanese gardens today is to replicate the natural world in smaller spaces; re-creating miniaturized versions of serene natural landscapes. In that re-creation, there are a few principles that bring across that image of balance, such as boundaries and regions that reflect the natural world.

Boundaries include regions divided by grass areas, or dry gravel areas. These can be divided by pathways, borders, or water. These borders can be rounded or straight edged, but remain consistently one or the other within the same region. These also include water borders, such as waterfalls, dry creek beds, flowing streams, ponds, and lakes.

A common number to create balance in the garden is the use of threes- three stones or three clumps of grasses. As a general rule, taller trees and plants are placed in the background, while shorter plants such as ornamental grasses and flowering plants are placed in the foreground.

So long as the plants create a natural flowing space, the garden can be minimalist with very little foliage, or it can be lush with carefully placed grasses and flowering plants and shrubs. Both can be accented with lanterns in the foreground, or off to the side.

A taller Japanese maple tree is always a good background for either approach, as are tall pogodas.

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Koto Jazz 59: Stones & Rock Gardens

The Way of Zen and Zen values of simplicity (kanso), naturalness (shizo), and refined elegance are similar values expressed in the Japanese garden, and defines Japanese rock gardens. Stones and rocks derive from the natural banks of rivers and creeks. They provide accents for distinctive garden areas, including walkways, waterfall bases, creek borders, ponds and lakes, and garden sections. Rocks and pebbles of rock gardens are raked into patterns of flowing streams, undulating waves, and accents around larger stone island or bonsai trees, and other features. Other patterns can be checkered or angled or alternating lines.

Large feature stones are grouped by themselves or they are grouped in threes with a taller boulder standing regally behind two shorter boulders, presenting balance. All three stones are generally vertical, with the taller stone in the center representing The Buddha (one who has become enlightened), and the two other stones on each side representing two Bodhisattvas (one who is “bound for enlightenment; the two stones are called sanson). They are placed next to water, a body of water or water feature, as images of water features, natural hills and/or mountain scenes.

Bodies of water are represented in the Japanese garden by a pond or lake. In the case of dry Zen rock gardens where sand and gravel represent the sea or ocean, the stones would be placed next to or in the sand/ pebble garden. The scene of ocean and sea occupying the majority of the garden space (“chisen”) originates from China, as does the garden aesthetic and spirituality of Zen Buddhism. Groups of rocks on one or more sides of the body of water in the garden may represent the seashore.

Koto Jazz 58: Song Stories- Raindrops Fall from Trees (Ki Kara Amei No Shizuku)

This “Raindrops Fall from Trees” song is special as it originated with a fun music exchange with my daughter as we traded turns playing my keyboard one rainy spring day. She came up with a basic melody which is the basis of this song. The song conjures up the likeness of gentle raindrops falling on leaves and tree branches, then coalescing to slide off leaves and land on the moist earth below. It is like the gentle hands of the sky extending its reach to the earth to give us peace in solitude.

While I added to it, the original melody remains, on of the relaxing meditative tunes. It is a beautiful spontaneous expression my daughter came up with and she just as quickly and easily named it. “Why its raindrops falling from trees of course.” Yes, of course.

KotoJazz 55: Song Stories – Kozan No Kaze (Alpine Winds)

My Alpine Winds (Storm) piece has an interesting origin. Much of my years growing up in Colorado were spent in the Rocky Mountains and its hard coming away with anything short of awe at the power of Nature.

Though written in the summer of 2014, Kozan no Kaze (Alpine Wind (storm)) was inspired by a camping trip I took with my childhood friend Rex off the Peak-to-peak highway just west of Boulder Colorado. Our plan was to hike in at timber line and wake up to a glorious view of snow-capped mountains and a winter wonderland. The camping trip/ hike up was magical with tranquil lakes and flowing springs from snow laden summits.

A winter wonderland we got. As we were hiking in we were literally stopped by a blinding wind storm. Nevertheless, the trip was stopped short by an abrupt blinding wind and snow storm, which forced back to “civilization”. Since we could only see a few feet ahead, we decided to try to stake down the tent and call it a night. That didn’t happen either, as the wind blew over our tent and rolled us around inside the tent, and so we succumbed to the power of the wind storm and headed back to the trail head.

The Alpine Wind tunes came out of this glorious experience.

Kozan no Kaze (Alpine Wind (storm))

Koto Jazz 45: Water Garden Ponds

Ike (池), or garden pond, has been accepted as an assumed part of the Japanese gardens, symbolizing a larger body of water, such as the sea or ocean. There are no restriction as to the size a pond can be; it really depends upon space availability. The pond or still body of water in a garden originates from China, where it is thought to represent feminine elements in the natural world, or the “yin” of yin-yang. Adding koi to the pond may presents a dramatic natural feel to wataer garden.

The spiritual pond or body of water, or kami-ike (divine ponds), represents the Japanese Shinto spiritual belief that the pond in Japanese gardens are sacred. It has been a special place of prayer and meditation. As mentioned in KotoJazz 9: Islands of Japanese Gardens, the scene of ocean and sea occupying the majority of the garden space (“chisen”) originates from China. Groups of rocks on one or more sides of the body of water in the garden may represent the image of a seashore and/or mountains. If an island or stone island is placed in the pond, it represents a special divine place from where the kami came hahaguni (妣国).

The pond is the centerpiece of numerous other Japanese garden features, including the following:]

  • Koto Jazz 24: Waterfalls/
  • Koto Jazz 40: Stream Gardens
  • KotoJazz 9: Islands of Japanese Gardens
  • Koto Jazz 18: Japanese Garden Bridges
  • Koto Jazz 7: Water, Water Everywhere
  • Koto Jazz 43: The Moon Gate

    As mentioned in my last blog, Kotojazz 42: Shapes in Design & Music, I visited a number of Chinese gardens which featured rounded garden entry gates outside of Shanghai and Shenzhen.

    These pedestrian passage ways, often entry gates to the garden, are known as Moon Gates. There are a number of spiritual meanings behind each part of the Moon Gate, such as the symbolic image of the moon in Chinese culture. Just as the moon rises out of the sky, the Moon Gate rises out of the earth. The harmonious shape of the moon creates an inviting spiritual, Zen-like feel to your garden entrance.

    Historically, the Moon Gate had been relegated to the gardens of the wealthy, as an entry to a special place. The circle is a symbol of perfection in Chinese culture. The Moon Festival celebrates the moon at its fullest and brightest illumination. Today, the Moon Gate is available to everyone. 🙂

    Songs about the Moon and the shape of the full moon:

  • Circle, Sea Gull album
  • Circle of Friendship, by Joanne Shenandoah with Peter Kater; Life Blood album
  • The Circle of Life, The Best of New Age Piano
  • Share The Moon, Off The Record Instrumentals
  • The Circle, Circle album
  • Blue Moon– Rogers & Hart, The Smooth Jazz Instrumental Band
  • Sunday’s Moon, Theme song to movie “Coma”
  • Alternative Instrumental:

  • Red Moon, by Steve Jones Band
  • Moon X
  • Koto Jazz 42: Shapes in Design & Music

    Shapes in designs are key to our expression and creativity.  There are the sharp shapes, sharp angles such as pyramids and squares (see the above photo’s stone walk way behind the water feature).  Traditionally, this is associated with the manhood and the west. It is common to find square stone walk ways, squared off gate ways, even pyramidal shaped trellises, and square- shaped garden areas. Substantial changes have taken place in the modern era to include rounded shapes and designs. This is not something you think about in the daily neighborhood dog walk. You don’t pass by the Jones’ house and say, “my, what a nicely manicured, squared off hedge outlining their nicely square-shaped yard.” However, it does influence your psyche over time, and if this is all you see and all you grow up with, it influences how you see things and see the world. I would argue, it narrows your vision.

    Then there is the circle or rounded shapes.  Traditionally, this is associated with the Buddhist circle of life and the yin- yang symbol of the east. The rounded water features (see above photo) rounded walk ways, rounded stone steps, rounded gateways (more common in China), rounded bridges, are not commonly seen in North America but are more readily available garden features in Asia. For example, I visited a number of Chinese gardens which featured circled garden entry gates outside of Shanghai. This is a generalization of course, but it offers insight into the role of shapes in garden design that can provide you options on how plan your own garden.

    The Shapes of Music:

    Likewise, music presents its own shapes. There are the common, chordal structures perfected by the west featuring linear patterns, and melodies that take sharp turns. Then there are the often meandering, circular flow of chords and progressions, even non-chords and non-progressions, and musical patterns of the east.  The synthesis of the two are at times attempted to be expressed in modern jazz.  However, western jazz maintains its biases from its origins and while it proposes a best effort to synthesizes the two, it tends to de-emphasize the meandering nature and musical flow of the east (e.g., traditional Koto and east Indian music) without even knowing it. Thus, the concept of koto jazz rears its creative head– a melodious journey, but not beholden even to modern jazz progressions!

    Thus, koto jazz tunes can often fit more appropriately into the genre commonly known as new age.  While new age has taken a popularity hit with the closing of society and its mis-representation of new age as being connected to some type of religious agenda, even cult, this is only a temporary passing misappropriation. From what I’ve observed of the new age movement, there is no agenda, except to offer people some peace of mind with soothing sounds and melodies! How’s that for an “agenda”. That said, eastern styles of music are finding their way into the North American and European music worlds quite independent of the new age trends.

    Indian Bollywood:

    Take for example, my friend Prashant’s Bollywood Dreams Entertainment and the dance style of modern east Indian Bollywood music. I could not help but notice the circular and meandering motions of this invigorating, high energy dance style. This is consistent with the musical melodies of many popular Bollywood songs (see Bollywood Dreams Entertainment), which likewise meander, wander and move in circular melodic motion.

    While this koto jazz blog does not concern itself with business achievements, it’s no accident that the likes of Larry Ellison and Steve Jobs admitted to having strong eastern influences in their lives. This, I believe, is where there is a collision of creativity into real world situations, such as high end physics, engineering, architecture, and various sectors of business ventures.

    Koto Jazz 41: Duality

    Everything in life can have its duality.

    Personally, it’s engrained in my blood and DNA. I am bi-racial, bi-cultural, once bilingual (not currently), and definitely bi-spiritual, among others.

    In addition to “bi-“, there’s a duality in general, a duality of perspectives, a duality of existence. There is a duality in the political arena, a duality in social arenas too.  You walk down the street and some people are more interested in suburban convenience and others are more interested in access to the entertainment, arts and culture that the big city provides. There is a duality of east and west. There is a duality in science- one that believes in a supreme order and the other believes that all sources of life derive from chaos and chaos theory.

    For me,  the great experience of life is its collision of the unknown into a synthesis of something more, which in its social form could be the defining characteristic we call “the great American experiment”. It doesn’t offer answers to the unknown, but it does offer freedom from needing to have answers. It is in the “process” of life that we achieve complete immersion in the present moment; that we achieve “understanding” which is quite different from “knowing”. Knowing has definition and finality; understanding neither seeks nor achieves either.

    In gardening, the minimalist Zen garden contrasts with what we can call “maximalist” English garden. The maximalist English garden style offers a plethora of colors and floral varieties; mostly perennials. I love low maintenance, constantly flowering perennials (see the above photo)! At the same time, too much variety and color can be overwhelming.

    On the other end of the gardening spectrum is the minimalist Zen garden. Again, a minimalist Japanese Zen influence can be settling with the scene of open space, simplicity and elegance. It offers room for the eye to appreciate the simple elegance of a single stone, a purple iris, or bonsai tree. It offers the opportunity for the mind to experience space, and fill the gaps with one’s own creative options conjured up in their own minds; and yes, even freedom from the need to fill in the space and find the beauty in open, uncluttered, undefined space.

    In music, Koto jazz is in itself a bi-cultural duality. It proposes a piano synthesis of eastern influences sounds, melodies, and themes with western style jazz embellishments, rhythm and beat. Traditional Japanese nationals and westerners may be offended by their perceived in-authenticity of koto jazz as it takes from the purity of traditional music and modernizes it with new sounds, rhythm, and embellishments. In these cases, koto jazz music is not a fit for them. For those interested in exploring this duality in music and collision of two cultures and musical styles, koto jazz is an ideal genre for you.

    Koto Jazz 40: Stream Gardens

    The “winding stream garden”, otherwise known in Japan as yarimizu– is a key part of Chinese and Japanese gardens. The stream represents in Taoism the permanence of impermanence, ever flowing water that still remains the same. It has also been part of the other creative arts, such as poetry and painting in China and Japan. An important element of the stream garden are the creek rocks on the creek beds and aligning the shore lines, as well as stones and occasional bonsai- shaped pine trees and bushes, as shown in the photo above. This is an excavated and revived archaeological site of the Kyuseki stream garden in Nara, Japan. A natural stream or one recycled by a pump naturally leads into a pond, the image of a larger body of water such a lake or the sea.

    The Kyuseki stream and pond garden near the Imperial palace in Nara (Japan’s original capital), dates back to the 8th Century, according to the Bowdoin University website (see Bowdoin’s Japanese garden website. This suggests the origins of “a stream banquet” (kyokusui no en) during which guests attempted to come up with an original poem before cups of wine, set floating from a point upstream, and arriving at their position along the riverbank”, according to the Bowdoin University Japanese garden website.

    The Japanese garden is also derived from Buddhist divination principles, with the intention of carrying away evil while attracting good. To do this, the original Japanese garden design publication, Sakuteiki (Records of Garden Making), says the stream should cross the garden from East to West.

    In college at Sophia University, I remember reading Genji-monogatori (源氏物語 The Tale of Genji), about the Heian period festival which featured the kyokusui-no-en, the Feast of the Winding Stream. It is an annual springtime event even today at Mōtsū-ji Temple, Hiraizumi.

    More often than not, the Japanese garden stream is not a raging force, but a soft and gentle water flow for the contemplative nature of this type of stroll garden. Again, this offers a more meditative environment for reflection and connection to nature.

    Here is sample song I wrote with the same intention called Kuriku Iwa No Hamon.

    and Black Pine Bonsai

    Koto Jazz 38: Japanese Maple Varieties

    There are hundreds of varieties of Japanese maples. They tend to be divided into dwarf, green leaf, red leaf, and large tree varieties. The Japanese maple tree often refers to maple tree cultivars from Acer palmatum, Acer japonicum, and Acer shirasawanum. Japanese maple varieties feature feathery and weeping brightly colorful leaves that turn to even more resplendent colors in the fall.


    Acer Palmatum, Higasayama Japanese Maple

    The dwarf Japanese maple has predominantly yellow leaves with occasional pink pointed ends. In the fall, the Japanese maple leaves turns brilliant orange-red colors. The Higasayama dwarf maple has pink buds in the spring that spread into shades of cream, pinkish, and/or green.


    Dwarf Japanese Maple

    The Green Cascade Japanese maple is a mid-sized maple tree with drooping green leaves that turn to deep orange- red in the fall.

    The Autumn Moon Maple and Moonlight Maple varieties show a brilliant golden color, which can turn into bright orange, pink and red in the fall.


    Moonlight Maple

    Hogyoku is a sturdy green leaf variety. It is also a mid-sized maple that grow to 15-feet. From a fairly pedestrian green, it can turn to glorious yellow, orange and red colors in the fall. It handles the heat better than most Japanese maples.

    Beni Kawa is another Japanese green leaf maple variety, although these smaller, lighter leaves bring out a delicate, lighter green color as well. It thrives in colder weather than the Hyogoku, which is one of the few Japanese maples that withstands a hot climate.


    Beni Kawa Japanese Maple

    The Katsura maple is likewise a small leaved, light, pale yellow-orange when emerging. Toward the summer, leaves turn light yellow green, then yellow into orange in the fall.

    The Emperor Japanese maple varieties are also mid-sized trees that are named for their deep red or purple colors.


    Emperor Japanese Maple

    Another popular reddish- purple variety is the lace maple, such as the Bloodgood and Burgundy lace, which feature the reddish weeping feathery leaves.


    Bloodgood Japanese Maple

    The tall Red Filigree lace maple retains its reddish purple color throughout the summer and turns a bright crimson in fall. Overall look is of the weeping effect of the dissectum along with fine twigs.

    The Sango-kaku or Coral Bark maple has a light green throughout the spring into summer seasons, and then a bright yellow glow, even pinkish in the fall. After the leaves fall off the tree, the unique bright red coral bark is highlighted.


    Sango-kaku, Coral Bark Maple

    Koto Jazz 37: Zen “Inspired” Garden

    Here is my first effort at creating a simple zen- “inspired” garden in a narrow side yard of our family home on the coast of Oregon. Since this is a vacation spot, it is intended to maximize simplicity in beauty without the maintenance required for most zen gardens (e.g., raking highlights around the featured rocks, watering, and pruning). More may be added later, such as a tall pogoda toward the back and a sumac to commemorate our family roots in Colorado (which grows wild in Boulder’s green belt, and light up the Flatiron’s Green and Bear Mountains with their fiery- orange and red color images in the fall.


    Sumac in Fiery Red

    TORII GATE:
    It includes the Torii gate, where the objects of its true meaning frivolously dance and sing, “where birds dwell”. It is very common to see birds in our bird house and among tree branches in the back yard, including finches, chickadees, robins, but also hummingbirds, Stellar’s (blue) jays, and an occasional bald eagle perched on the top of one of the large fir trees. The Torii gate symbolizes the entrance to a special place of natural beauty.

    As a basic requirement, this Torii gate has a kasagi, the top beam of the Torii, angled at each end. It also featured a miniature cross beam, the nuki, separate from the upper kasagi beam, but not too far below it. The hashira are the two supporting pillars which hold up the Torii. This is the simplest and most basic form of Torii gate as it lacks additional features common to most Shinto Toriis. In the middle, we intend to add a small gakuzuka support post with our Harada family crest on it. The gakuzuka will connect the kasagi and nuki at the center.

    STONES:
    Two large stones are featured in this zen garden, one symbolizing the crane (in the background) and the other (located in the lower front center of the above image) representing the tortoise. Though the slight bluish colors do not represent anything in zen garden traditions, they do accent the stones quite nicely. Both symbolize longevity. Various mosses are placed around the front of the two stones, including the standard sheet moss, fern mosses, and hair cap or tree moss (a bit hidden on the side as they are more sensitive to sun exposure). The gravel is basic pre-existing standard grey gravel that has been always been in our side yard to reduce yard maintenance.

    Hair Cap/ Tree Moss

    EARTH ELEMENTS:
    The garden also includes a coral bark maple tree already beginning to change colors before the autumn season from bright yellow into fabulous orange and pinkish red colors.

    Coral Bark Japanese Maple

    It also includes two bamboo grass clumps on the left and a meandering white stone path from the front to the back. To the right of the stone path is a clump of naturally growing crocosmia.

    Orange Crocosmia

    There are a couple of wild plants which I left in this zen garden. In the background, you may see a naturally growing wild golden tansy shining resplendent yellow flowers on tall stems behind the maple tree. Also, you will find in front of the lantern, a wild broad-leafed weed with multiple stalks, which I am yet not able to identify.

    Behind the Torii gate is our back yard which features a small circular nature trail highlighted by four large old growth Douglass firs. Crocosmias grow naturally throughout the back yard, which feature honeysuckle-like orange flowers at the end of tall stems (hummingbirds and bees love them!), interspersed by wild purple asters, and a range of fern varieties. There is something special about this back yard as my late father insisted this part of the yard remain in its natural state. So while this Torii is a transition from the zen garden to the wild and natural part of the yard, it is also symbolic of a spiritual transition from the physical to the spiritual worlds.

    LANTERN:
    I have also placed a black lantern toward the back of the garden in front of the Torii gate and to the left of the maple tree. The lantern is elevated on a small hill to make it more pronounced. It is embellished with black pebbles my mother and I picked up from the ocean shores. The pebbles have been smoothed and rounded by the hands of churning ocean waves :-).

    Black Creek Pebbles

    As Shinto – Buddhism are often interchangeable, I have placed this lantern to light up the pathway of this garden Shinto shrine/ zen garden, as lanterns traditionally light up the path way to a Buddhist temple.

    Koto Jazz 35: HanaKotoba (language of flowers)

    Hanakotoba literally translated means “word flower”, and is the Japanese “language of flowers”. In this practice, plants are given codes and passwords that evoke the emotion inspired by the physiological characteristics and colors of the flowers, according to Wikipedia.

    There is a clear relationship between the color of flowers, the most distinctive and resplendent expression of color in the natural world, and its meaning to each individual’s and/or cultural experiences of the color. This can be deeply personal. Artists have long associated moods, feelings and emotions with certain colors. Blue for example, is associated with feeling calm and cozy, while in western culture it represents masculine competence and quality. Blues and purples can also evoke feelings of apathy. Yellow is associated with anxiety. For others, the color yellow can mean warmth, as is the case with orange and red. The color white symbolizes purity and innocence in the west, while it can represent mourning in some eastern traditions.

    Though the scientific research behind it is limited, colors may impact a person’s stress level, blood pressure, metabolism, and eye stress, according to Kendra Cherry in About.com’s “Color Psychology”.

    The Chinese advanced the practice of chromotherapy for healing (source: Kendra Cherry, About.com’s Color Psychology), and here are sample associations between colors and their healing properties:

  • Red was used to stimulate the body and mind and to increase circulation.
  • Yellow was thought to stimulate the nerves and purify the body.
  • Orange was used to heal the lungs and to increase energy levels.
  • Blue was believed to soothe illnesses and treat pain.
  • Indigo shades were thought to alleviate skin problems.
  • Pink expressed the light, quiet, sweeter side of love

  • Below are some of the flowers and their HanaKotoba meanings. See if the chromotherapy meanings or their cultural associations of color match up at all with the Hanakotoba meanings:

    Scientific Name– Japanese Name– Romaji– English Meaning–

    Amaryllis Belladonna
    アマリリス Amaririsu Amaryllis Shy Amarylis Flower

    Anemone Narcissifolia
    アネモネ Anemone Anemone Sincere Anenome Flower

    Aster Tataricus
    紫苑 Shion Aster tataricus Remembrance

    Azalea
    躑躅 Tsutsuji Azalea Patient/Modest Pink Azalea

    Common Bluebell
    ブルーベル Burūberu Bluebell Grateful

    Camellia Japonica
    椿 Tsubaki Camellia (Red) In Love, Perishing with grace Camellia Japonica

    Camellia Japonica Nobilissima
    椿 Tsubaki Camellia (White) Waiting

    Carnation
    カーネーション Kānēshon Carnation Fascination, Distinction, and Love

    Cherry Blossom
    桜 Sakura Cherry Blossom Kind/Gentle Cherry Blossom

    Yellow Chrysanthemum
    黄菊 Kigiku Chrysanthemum (Yellow) Imperial

    Chrysanthemums
    白菊 Shiragiku Chrysanthemum (White) Truth Chrysanthemum

    Four Leaf Clover
    (四つ葉の) クローバー (Yotsuba no) kurōbā Four-leaf clover Lucky

    Daffodil
    水仙 Suisen Daffodil Respect

    Dahlia
    天竺牡丹 Tenjikubotan Dahlia Good taste Dahlia

    Daisy
    雛菊 Hinagiku Daisy Faith

    Forget-me-not
    勿忘草 Wasurenagusa Forget-me-not True love Forget-Me-Not

    Freesia
    フリージア Furījia Freesia Childish/Immature

    Gardenia
    梔子 Kuchinashi Gardenia Secret love

    Habenaria radiata
    鷺草 Sagiso Habenaria radiata My thoughts will follow you into your dreams

    Hibiscus
    ハイビースカス Haibīsukasu Hibiscus Gentle
    Hibiscus

    Honeysuckle
    忍冬 Suikazura Honeysuckle Generous Honeysuckle

    Hydrangea
    紫陽花 Ajisai Hydrangea Pride

    Iris
    アイリス, 菖蒲 Ayame Iris Good News/Glad tidings/loyalty Japanese Purple Iris

    Lavender
    ラベンダー Rabendā Lavender Faithful

    White Lily
    白百合 Shirayuri Lily (White) Purity/Chastity

    Tiger Lily
    鬼百合 Oniyuri Tiger Lily Wealth Tiger Lily

    Morning Glory
    朝顔 Asagao Morning Glory Willful promises Morning Glory

    Narcissus
    水仙 Suisen Narcissus Self-Esteem

    Peony
    パンジー Panjī Pansy Thoughtful/Caring Orange Peony

    Red Poppy
    雛芥子 Hinageshi Poppy (Red) Fun-Loving

    Red Rose
    紅薔薇 Benibara Rose (Red) Love/In love

    White Rose
    薔薇 Bara Rose (White) Innocence/Silence/Devotion White Rose

    Koto Jazz 31: Ikebana (Art of Flower Arrangement)

    I like the straight translation of the word ikebana. This includes the merging of the word ikeru, meaning to “keep alive”, with hana, meaning “flower”. The art of flower arranging certainly keeps alive and often brings to life the full range of beauty in color and structure combinations.

    Some sources emphasize the spiritual aspects of ikebana, providing silent reflection on the beauty of color combinations, and emphasis on shape and lines of the non-floral part of the plant such as branches, leaves and stems. The non-floral pieces often bring shape and form to the flower arrangement, and serve as the back drop of the intended image, while the flower is featured in the foreground.

    Silence is important for our ability to be inspired to connect more deeply with the natural forms before us when doing ikebana. We honor the uniqueness of each plant or flower and the flowing lines of stems and branches for back drops. Ikebana can help us appreciate and tolerate our differences, not only in nature, but in general.

    Its origins again date back to China – to a 6th Century Japanese Buddhist missionary who visited China three times and brought the art form to Japan. His name was “Ono no Imoko” and became the grounds keeper, then abbot for Rokkaku-do, a Buddhist temple in Kyoto. He lived in a small house known as the ike-no-bo or the “hut by the pond”, which is the original school of Ikebana.

    Ikebana has become part of various Buddhist ceremonies such as offerings to the spirits of those who have passed away, but also paying honor to the Buddha. While spiritual in its origins, the Japanese today use it to show cultural refinement and for marriage potential.

    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)
  • KotoJazz 26: Water Basins

    Short and wide water basins are for the humble, literally. Water basins of this type moves the user to bend down to the earth in humility to wash or drink the water. Most all Japanese water basins are made of stone and serve both a functional and aesthetic purpose. Like the stone basin pictured above, this Japanese tsukubai water basin can be placed in a dry pool bed of black pebbles for distinctive visual effect. Originating from Buddhist purification basins (called chozubachi), water basins were used to cleanse the temple visitor before entering a Buddhist temple. This is also true of Shinto shrines, and during preparation for traditional Japanese tea ceremonies. A Japanese tea garden ladle is often used to scoop up water from the stone basin to drink or wash hands.

    The kiku (chrysanthemum) granite water basin is popular among the stone basins, as it is shaped like a chrysanthemum flower. To add to the aesthetic beauty, the most common way to add the image and sound of flowing or trickling water is by adding a bamboo kakei water spout (as pictured above). Kakei in this case can mean beautiful view or flowing water system.

    Here are a few pieces about flowing water and water basins:

    Nagare: Stream/ Flow, by Satomi Saeki

    Drawing Water From a Mountain Stream, by Elizabeth Falconer

    Koto Jazz: Kuriku Iwa No Hamon (Ripples On Creek Rocks)- by Kenji (short sample)

    Koto Jazz: Rain drops from Trees, by Kenji

    Koto Salad, by Chin Chin

    The Sound of Water, by Izumi Fujikawa

    The Room: The Water Basin, by Bennett Lerner

    Where Peaceful Water flow, by Chris De Burgh

    Medicine Waters Flow, by Albert Tenaya