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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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“Breach” – Live Koto Jazz & the SyntHorn @ The Royal Room; NW FOLKLIFE Next

Here is a live recording of a tune I first played at Stone Way Café’s Fremont Art Walk on April 1st, then recorded live at The Royal Room on April 13th with Koto Jazz accompaniment by Patrick Wilson on the SyntHorn –

🎶  “Breach”, by Chris Kenji & Patrick Wilson.

 

Koto Jazz on soundclick.com

 

Join me and Koto Jazz partners next week in Pioneer Square and Northwest Folklife –

April 29th, 7-8:30PM, Saturday, Koto Jazz @ FREDERICK HOLMES AND COMPANY Art Gallery, 309 Occidental Ave., Occidental Mall, Pioneer Square, dowtown Seattle; #206-682-0166.

May 27, 4:30- 5:10 PM, Friday, 2016 NORTHWEST FOLKLIFE;“Koto Jazz – Sounds On the Coast” by Chris Kenji, Center Theater, Seattle Center, Seattle WA. No cover

Koto Jazz 85: Next Wednesday @The Royal Room

Take a mid-week break next Wednesday and relax by stopping by The Royal Room at 7:00-9:30pm, April 13th as Patrick Wilson and I demo our experimental session of Koto Jazz with bossa nova rhythm and beat on the Steinway and Patrick’s invention, the SyntHorn. We’re attempting to further refine it to make it truly stage worthy in preparation for Northwest Folklife opening day. We perform for Northwest Folklife on Friday, May 27 at 4:30pm-5:10pm. The Koto Jazz will be stage worthy with bossa nova fusion. The Royal Room is located in south Seattle’s Columbia City neighborhood at 5000 Rainier Ave South, Seattle. See http://theroyalroomseattle.com for quality dining and drinks. This will be part of a donation of $100 I plan to give to the Royal Room and Wayne Horvitz toward piano repairs!!     

Patrick Wilson’s SyntHorn on the koto jazz tune

For the off beat eclectic innovator, the SyntHorn is an amazing, fun and crazy instrument. One of my neighbors and friends Patrick Wilson in Seattle created a digital instrument he calls The SyntHorn (short for synthesizer horn). The horn itself produces an unique, distant echoing cavernous sound effect. The SyntHorn includes the horn, a mini- digital keyboard, Oscillator, Chaoscillator, Monotron delay unit, two Internal Horn speakers, and one external speaker. Since the the features and function completely run on rechargeable batteries, it can played anywhere at any time. A carrying strap fits over the shoulder. All this resides in one unit.

Here is a sampling of Patrick live on the SyntHorn –

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Join me in my next performances at C&P Coffee, Columbia City’s Royal Room, and Stone Way Café to hear our progressive electronic jazz. Patrick, a former DJ at a local college radio station, will join me in jazzing up my koto jazz tunes and offer up a few of his own originals with my accompaniment on the keyboard.

It makes sounds and rhythms you’ve never heard before.

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Egan’s Jam House – Another Cool Koto Jazz night in Ballard

I really got into a zone rockin’ the piano. Sometimes it feels like I’m connecting to the true “Seattle Sound”, an almost eclectic, grunge sound on the keyboard. . . if that is possible. Live recordings will be coming soon. The feedback I have from a handful of attendees last night at Egan’s Jam House tells me these were the most well received tunes:

1) The Hummingbird song (no surprise, I rocked it; Hatchidori wa Hana Kara Hana e Tobu);
2) Tide Pools @ Waves (no surprise, this one reached the top 10 out of 80k songs on soundclick.com);
3) Odds & Endings (same as Tide Pools);
4) Ripples on Creek Rocks (surprised, this is the one that aired on KSFK NPR jazz radio, in S. Alaska, and I still don’t know why)
5) Mount Index Ice Caves (surprised, an acquired taste; haunting sounds)
6) Thanksgiving (surprised, this one by Peter Kater)

Worth a listen here @ Chris Kenji Beer on Soundclick.com

Thanks so much y’all for coming. (no more singing, I promise, except by Marie. Lol.)

Michelle, Earl, Rob & Matt hanging out after the show @ Egan's Jam House Ballard
Michelle, Earl, Rob & Matt hanging out after the show @ Egan’s Jam House Ballard
Ed Yakuzawa, photo by Allan Camhi after the show @ Egan's Jam House Ballard
Ed Yakuzawa, photo by Allan Camhi after the show @ Egan’s Jam House Ballard
Chris Kenji on piano
Chris Kenji on piano
Egan's Jam House in Ballard from one of Marie's friends.
Egan’s Jam House in Ballard from one of Marie’s friends.

Join Me This Saturday, Nov. 21st in Ballard @ Egan’s Jam House

Come join me, Chris Kenji, Saturday, November 21st, 9:00 pm – 10:30pm, at Egan’s Jam House in Ballard, northwest Seattle. I will bring you new songs on the piano, including Odds & Endings, Seascape, and my new Koto Jazz piece, Motto Midare (More Chaos).

I will also sing a few popular classic rock/ folk songs with an eclectic alternative style. In between these vocals, I will play my “Koto Jazz- Sounds from the Coast” tunes. $5.00 cover. For directions and map, visit map here: 1707 NW Market Street (Ballard), Seattle; Call or text: 206-200-2733.

Marie Bolla & Chris Kenji Beer @ The Royal Room

It was a relaxing night of playing at the Royal Room on Tuesday night, and the modest- sized audience was very generous with their contributions. To friends and fans, thanks so much for coming on a weeknight. The donations were solid, so I call it a good night. It means they either really liked your music, or they really, really felt sorry for you. Lol. I say it means you “approve this message”, so thanks. It is also possible we found an introduction to Paul Simon in the audience. 😉

The evening started with a few original works that will be included in my second CD, and a Koto Jazz tune include:
– Falling Leaves
– Seascape
– Haystack Horse Trot
– Protective dissonance

Marie chimed in with vocals for the following ballads:
– Fragile by Sting
– Rivers & Roads
– Make You Feel My Love
– Goodnight Irene

Marie Bolla & Chris Kenji Beer with Marie's friends.
Marie Bolla & Chris Kenji Beer with Marie’s friends.
Marie singing and on keyboard.
Marie singing and on keyboard.
Rob Ingram & Jay Gray at the Royal Room, Columbia City, South Seattle
Rob Ingram & Jay Gray at the Royal Room, Columbia City, South Seattle
Marie Bolla with Victory Music members David John and Ed Yakuzawa @ The Royal Room.
Marie Bolla with Victory Music members David John and Ed Yakuzawa @ The Royal Room.
The Royal Room, November 27 @ 7:30 - 9:30pm, Columbia City, South Seattle.
The Royal Room, November 27 @ 7:30 – 9:30pm, Columbia City, South Seattle.

KFSK Radio, NPR Syndicate Airs Koto Jazz, “Ripples On Creek Rocks”

It’s nice to have one of my songs airing on NPR syndicate KFSK Radio in Petersburg, Alaska’s Rainforest Festival music playlist (September).

Here is that song, at Amazon Music: Ripples on Creek Rocks,

and a link to the same song on Soundclick.com: http://www.soundclick.com/bands/page_music.cfm?bandID=1382715

Marie Bolla and Chris Kenji on Stage @ Royal Room, October 27th

Marie Bolla will sing beautiful classic folk/ contemporary jazz songs with Chris at the keyboards. Marie has played piano and sang nearly her entire life, and has received local awards for her performances. She has played with the popular Seattle area bands. The first half of the show will feature Chris Kenji’s new piano instrumental tunes for his second CD “Sounds from the Coast”, to be followed by Marie Bolla and Chris Kenji in a keyboard duet with Marie singing solo.

Come join us OCTOBER 27th, 7:30-9:30pm (Tuesday),“Sounds from the Coast”, by Chris Kenji and Marie Bolla at the The Royal Room, Seattle’s Columbia City neighborhood ; no cover charge. “Koto Jazz- Sounds from the Coast” by Chris Kenji and Marie Bolla. For directions and map, visit map to Royal Room, Seattle. Address: 5000 Rainier Avenue, Seattle, WA 98118; Call or text: 206-200-2733.

Plants Use Neurotransmitter To Signal Stress | IFLScience

In other blogs on this site, I talk about how the natural world connects with and replenishes us, performs a balancing of our energy, such as through the negative ions emissions of moving water – waterfalls, streams, and ocean waves – and also deep forests such as old growth forests. We become stressed and toxic by the fact that downtown areas have very little natural life surrounding it, have a deficiency of negative ions, and carry an excess of positive ions.

This article about nature emitting neurotransmitters takes it to a new level. It seems the premise of the blockbuster movie Avatar (by James Cameron) and its premise is pretty close to how things really are in the natural world. This is a good read:

Plants Use Neurotransmitter To Signal Stress | IFLScience.

KotoJazz 78: Top 10 on Soundclick – Tide Pools & Waves

  • Tide Pools & Waves reached as high as #2 and #4 in the “World” ranking (out of over 80,000 songs) and “New Age” (out of over 13,500 songs) categories over the weekend, respectively. It remained for a week at #26 and #10. Other Koto Jazz tunes reaching the Soundclick.com charts are:
  • Ripples On Creek Rocks in the top 10 of the “Acoustic Piano” category of nearly 9,000 songs.
  • Gratitude in the top 40 of the “Acoustic Piano” category of nearly 9,000 songs.
  • My Sakura reached top 5 and Tori No Yo Ni reached the top 10 for two weeks in the “Traditional Asian” category of 13,500 songs in the World charts.
  • Koto Jazz by Chris Kenji Beer Reaches Top 10 in New Age charts, Top 26 in World charts of over 80,000 musicians!
    Koto Jazz by Chris Kenji Beer’s “Tide Pools & Waves” Reaches Top 10 in New Age charts, top 26 in World charts of over 80,000 songs!
    Koto Jazz by Chris Kenji Beer Reaches Top 10 in New Age charts, Top 26 in World charts of over 80,000 musicians!
    Koto Jazz by Chris Kenji Beer Reaches Top 10 in New Age charts, Top 26 in World charts of over 80,000 songs!
    Ripples on Creek Rocks, Koto Jazz song by Chris Kenji Reaches Top 10 in Acoustic Piano charts.
    Ripples on Creek Rocks, Koto Jazz song by Chris Kenji Reaches Top 10 in Acoustic Piano charts.
    Like A Bird (Tori No Yo Ni), Koto Jazz song by Chris Kenji Reaches Top 10 in Traditional Asian, World charts category.
    Like A Bird (Tori No Yo Ni), Koto Jazz song by Chris Kenji Reaches Top 10 in Traditional Asian, World charts category.

    Koto Jazz 77: Kawabe House Annual Reception

    There are good folks volunteering at the Kawabe Memorial House, a senior center in Seattle. Here are a few pics from the annual reception. There was good food, good company, and I hope everyone enjoyed my music. I played for about a half hour, mostly Koto jazz pieces and their lovely Korean upright piano. Thanks to all the staff and volunteers for your wonderful hospitality.

    kawabe memorial house annual volunteer reception with koto jazz by Chris Kenji.
    kawabe memorial house annual volunteer reception with koto jazz by Chris Kenji.

    <a href="https://kotojazz.files.wordpress.com/2015/06/wp_001032.jpg"><img src="https://kotojazz.files.wordpress.com/2015/06/wp_001032.jpg?w=300" alt="kawabe memorial house annual volunteer reception with koto jazz by Chris Kenji." width="300" height="225" class="size-medium wp-image-2308" /></a> kawabe memorial house annual volunteer reception with koto jazz by Chris Kenji.
    [caption id="attachment_2308" align="alignnone" width="300"]kawabe memorial house annual volunteer reception with koto jazz by Chris Kenji. kawabe memorial house annual volunteer reception with koto jazz by Chris Kenji Beer.

    Koto Jazz 75: @ Stage 7 Pianos, Kirkland

    My first performance was a video recording session thanks to my good friend Ed Yakuzawa of Victory Music. Some of the koto jazz tunes have been uploaded to YouTube. Here are a few:

    1) Tide Pools & Waves (Shiyodamari To Nami)

    2) My Sakura

    Koto Jazz 74: playing @ 101 Public House pub

    Half time playing a piano gig at the pub in South Bend/ Raymond, the oyster capital of the world. And two Koto Jazz fans! This was so much more relaxing than a few weeks ago when I played at the Seattle Center. Ahhh, the taste of the ocean air , a couple koto jazz tunes . . .. and more oysters . …