Published on Thu, Apr 28, 2005 by Barbara Wean

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By Barbara Wean

There is an emerging northwest style of gardening that is very dependent on Asian and English influences. And why not? We have the shared legacy of water, protected spaces, steep woody slopes and mountains.

Some design principles and techniques of Asian design include enclosed spaces that protect you from the outside world and provide a place for contemplation, so a fence or hedge around your property or patio is perfect. There is a heightened appreciation of natural forms such as rocks, water, trees and hills with a concern for the ground plane. An important concern in Asian design includes paying attention to every step. Look at the leaves, rocks, pebbles and water features. Pay attention to natural and organic forms and use bamboo screens or fences. Use entrances and gates to mark passages. Contrast smooth against rough, asymmetry and groupings of three. Design from the inside out instead of the western notion of outside in.

Last year I wrote an article about making your very own Zen garden. I thought you would like to see it again if you were not ready at that time to create it or missed reading it.

Firstly, think in terms of simplicity. Plant a Japanese black pine. It is possible that it could grow fairly tall but it has a dense, spreading and irregular growth habit. It grows fast while young but lends itself to pruning and for this garden you will need to prune. Now add a Japanese bloodleaf maple, or a scarlet Japanese maple. The bloodleaf variety is very hardy and can grow up to 20 feet tall. Prune only to keep a view of the garden. The maple likes very rich soil that is moist but not wet. You can add gravel to the space that you will need to rake into patterns like a wave, but if you have carefully raked it you won’t want to walk on it so you can add a stone terrace to about one third of the space. A concrete bench would sit nicely on this surface. Now add five perfect (to you) large stones in an interesting pattern that you just know will be exactly right. Plant dark Japanese holly behind the stones that are toward the back of the site. Among the rocks you might plant medium green ferns and epimedium. This garden will need to be maintained by keeping out of the weeds, pruning the shrubs to keep them smooth and mound like, and raking the gravel. If you install weed barrier under the gravel you won’t have to deal with weeds, but you will need a good four or more inches excavated, add the weed barrier then plenty of gravel. You can cut through the weed barrier with a razor knife to plant your shrubs.
The essential purpose of your beautiful finished garden is to give you a place of respite in the midst of chaos. An added feature is the gravel that is easy care and waterwise. Enjoy and use it often.

Almost all nurseries carry Japanese maples and flowing cherries. Tom’s Bamboo here in Blaine is a great place for bamboo fences and live bamboo. Rocks and gravel are available at many sand and gravel companies locally.

Next week we’ll get serious about vegetable gardening. Get ready!