Creating an Asian feeling in your garden

Discussion in 'Garden Design' started by toni, Feb 7, 2008.

  1. toni

    toni Mistress of Garden Junque Staff Member Moderator Plants Contributor

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    The class today was really good, the lady giving the lecture was a little, make that a lot, 'heavy' on slides. The first 45 minutes and the last 20 minutes was nothing but slides. But we did get some question and discussion time.

    I did get some ideas for the back corner of my yard that is under the large spreading Hackberry tree where I have been wanting to create some sort of private area for sitting in privacy and meditating.

    She gave us a list of native plants that can be substituted for the plants commonly found in Asian gardens since many of them just will not stand up to the hot and dry conditions in Texas. The eastern philosophy is to work with nature instead of forcing nature to do things our way, working with plants native to your area is more in keeping with that philosophy than fighting to keep non-natives alive, the added expense of creating proper growing conditions and added water to keep them alive in a place where they are not native.

    She did say that not being Asian or living in an Asian country we could never really creat an Asian garden, but she would explain how to give a garden an Asian feel/influence.

    Most likely a picture of a gravel Zen garden comes to mind when thinking about Asian gardens, but those are very special meditation gardens and more maintenance than gardeners want to handle.
    Asian gardens are not loaded with flowers, they might have plants that flower but the flower is not the objective, the greenery is. A garden of green plants creates harmony, flowers would disrupt that by taking your mind elsewhere.
    Geomancy, another name for Feng Shui, the Chinese art concerned with the relationships between humans and the energies of nature. Have you have heard the phrase "the ley of the land" ? That refers to the natural lines of earth energy and power and the placing of buildings or gardens, and objects inside or outside the house along those lines for the best use of that power, what some call magic.

    Stones, she called them living stones as opposed to dead stones. She was talking to a group that basically laughed when she called them that, but I think live stones, in this context, would be ones that have been left in their natural shape or shaped by natural forces instead of ones that have been carved by human hand. Also, people who are especially attuned to stone, such as sculptors, can tell when a stone has lost it's life force and would be considered dead, if all things in nature have a life force then they can certainly die

    Water or the illusion of water. Real water, be it in the form of ponds, natural streams or even containers with water plants and possibly fish. The illusion of water would include native grasses, i.e. prairie grasses not bermuda or other lawn grasses....it gives the illusion on flowing water when the wind blows. It could also be a replica of a river bed or stream created by stones if you don't have the real thing.

    Berms or boulders that substitute for mountains. Berms can be built with a load of soil and planted with ground cover . Commonly used in suburban areas of the west for noise control, they are built in Asian gardens to replicate mountains which are an important part of their spiritual belief But the berms must not be just "tootsie rolls" (as she called them) she showed an example of some that had were a tear-drop shape that were very pleasing.

    She showed a Japanese silk painting with a maiden reaching for a Morning Glory flower and what looked like a fence made from sticks. I asked about that and she said that yes, fences would be made from either Bamboo or tree twigs/branches tied together. I have been saving the branches and limbs from the Chinaberry tree prunings which she said would be perfect since they are native to our area. Bamboo screens are also used.

    Paths. The garden must have paths, whatever they are made from. Paths that slow a person down so they can enjoy what they are seeing and help them take the time to absorb the atmosphere. Make them wide enought to be comfortable to walk without feeling closed in. But they must never be made from wobbly stones, the stones must be secure in their connection to the earth so a person never has to fear for their safety as that would take their mind away from their purpose. Paths to a tea house or meditation area especially should be made to serve that purpose....to remove the person mentally from the 'everyday' life and help them prepare for the ritual to come, be it the tea ceremony or meditation.

    Lanterns in the garden would be placed where they would light a path or a special plant or a place to sit. They would not just be set out like a 'pink flamingo to decorate the yard'......she showed a picture of her neighbors front yard with one used in that manner. Even if they are not going to be used as a light source they should still be placed in what would be considered a useful location and not just as a decorative item.

    The class gave me many things to think about, plans are running thru my mind at the speed of light. I am really excited about making my own version out back.

    Next weeks class will be Shade Gardening and boy do I have a lot of questions for that lecturer.
     
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  3. Droopy

    Droopy Slug Slaughterer Plants Contributor

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    That garden sounds like a dream, I'm transplanted to the far East while reading... Thank you for taking the time to share your class, Toni.
     
  4. Frank

    Frank GardenStew Founder Staff Member Administrator

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    That was a very interesting and informative read Toni, thank you for the summary. I was nodding my head as I read, it makes a lot of sense when explained as such.

    I hope her neighbour wasn't taking the class :)
     
  5. Sjoerd

    Sjoerd Mighty Oak

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    This post made intersting reading. It is an aspect of gardening that I am not familiar with...well at least not in the same way as your teacher has outlined. This is a good aspect of your course, I think, because there are all sorts of gardners and this particular dicipline certainally has a place in garden design. It will spreak to those who are open enough to listen.
    There are techniques enough when making this sort of garden that are applicable to other types of design too.
    You are embarking on a very interesting course, Toni, that will broaden you horizons as a gardner. When you have completed the course, you will have a wealth of background knowledge from which to draw in the development and maintenance of your own gardens.

    Keep up the good work...and keep us posted.
     



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  6. Biita

    Biita Arctic-ally Challenged Forager

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    That was very intresting, and the techniques used i can associate with. I'm not a big flower person, but i'm also a naturalist, when it comes to a garden. but with control. I like the idea of meditation in the garden area or the feel of it, that appeals to me. the rocks i can relate to, because i believe all things in life have a spirit.

    there is a saying that my dad taught me, and he being saa'mi, goes like this.

    If you listen to the wind and don't understand, ask a tree. if you don't understand the tree, ask a rock.

    I liked that 1st class.
     
  7. toni

    toni Mistress of Garden Junque Staff Member Moderator Plants Contributor

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    Most of the good info had been given during the slide show in a totally dark room. I did manage to scribble keywords down and then ask her about them during the discussion time.
    I have always been a visual learner, so the memory of the slides has helped me remember what she said and she said a lot more than I had first thought as I left the class. I did hear some grumbling from others as we left, I don't think they heard all that I heard.

    I know there were Buddhist and Hindu aspects of the garden designs that she wanted to explain but I don't think most of the class members would have sat still for that part. Which is a shame really, we all could have learned so much more.

    I agree Biita, all things have life. A stone comes from the earth and the earth is alive, therefore stones have life. I had never really thought about the possibility of dead stones, but it would explain some of the stones I have found in my yard over the years. I like that saying you learned from your Dad.
    I talk to just about everything in my yard and some of the responses have been amazing. ;)
     
  8. glendann

    glendann Official Garden Angel

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    Very interesting toni.I'm sure as your classes go along you will have lots more knowlege for us too.I will be watching and taking notes .Thanks for sharing toni.
     
  9. Netty

    Netty Chaotic Gardener Plants Contributor

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    Thanks for sharing your class with us Toni. You have me thinking about a corner in MY yard.
     

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