Zen Gardens and Temples of Kyoto: Planning Garden-Destination Travel

April 29th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

A Tea Garden at Koto-In, from Zen Gardens and Temples of Kyoto. Photograph: John Einarsen

Almost every passionate, ornamental gardener has a dream destination file; a box, drawer or folder filled with clipped photos, articles and maps of exotic landscapes waiting to be explored. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been caching field notes to the Zen Gardens of Kyoto, Japan. From Ryoan-Ji’s world renown Dry Garden and Koto-in’s glorious maples to the famed Moss Garden of Saiho-ji and the Temple of Poets, Konpuku-Ji; there are so many ancient and alluring places to see, that I can hardly imagine where to start. But if we want to make our dream garden-tours reality, a plan is needed and a great guide book is a good place to begin.

Zen Gardens and Temples of Kyoto

With travel planning in mind, I recently selected a copy of John Dougill’s Zen Gardens and Temples of Kyoto for review.  While I can not deny that John Einarsen’s gorgeous images drew me in and held me spellbound, I found Dougill’s detailed descriptions and the book’s format —with and introductory section devoted to Zen and Japanese culture, followed by a chronological listing of Kyoto’s Zen temples— has really helped me to prioritize my itinerary. My itinerary? Yes, I said that. The time has come. Now the clock is ticking and my date book is open. It’s time to get serious about this trip.

Stone Water Basin. Photograph: John Einarsen 

I am particularly interested in Moss Gardens and Tea Gardens. The connection between these spaces and the Zen practice of traditional, Japanese Tea Ceremony is especially intriguing to me. Moss-covered, stone basins, so often seen in Japan, inspired my Secret Garden’s water bowl. I find the hypnotic power of a shady, cool, reflective surface to be peaceful, calming and centering. Koto-In, famous for its Tea Gardens, Moss and Maples, is the first garden I flagged to visit. However, the author mentions that this place can be over-run with tourists in autumn. I love this kind of insight, as it helps me to consider when and how to see this special place without missing out on my reason for being there. I am also drawn to the suggestion of water in stone. With this in mind, dry gardens —such as Ryoan-Ji— are must-see stops on my list. I have waited a long time to make this extended trip and I want to thoroughly plan it, without destroying the spontaneity I love. Dougill thoughtfully mentions many of the little tips I like to know in advance when doing a lot of sightseeing; such as where to find a good restaurant.

Where do your garden travel dreams take you? Do the Zen Gardens and Temples of Kyoto call your name? I am loving my hardcover copy of this guidebook, and plan to download the Kindle version for my iPad as well. I’m sure I’ll want Dougill’s valuable tips and advice in my backpack as I explore Kyoto’s treasure trove of ancient gardens.

.At my request, a copy of Zen Gardens and Temples of Kyoto was provided by Tuttle Publishing for independent, honest review. No other compensation was received. All opinions are my own.

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Photography copyright John Einarsen, provided by and used with permission of Tuttle Publishing, all rights reserved. All other content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden Online Journal and may not be used, reproduced or reposted elsewhere without written consent.

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Inspiration: The Japanese Tea Garden… Water Bowls Reflect Quiet & Calm

July 24th, 2010 § 1 comment § permalink

Image ⓒ Linda Younker from Gardening with Stone by Jan Whitner

Calm, cool and serene; even the tiniest pool of water can create a quiet, contemplative mood in the garden. In summer’s sweltering, mid-day heat, a few stolen moments in a shady oasis can refresh and rejuvenate the spirit. Whether constructed from hypertufa, carved from natural stone, or assembled from man-made materials, small water features can attract wildlife and provide birds, bees and other creatures with a cool drink. However unless the pool is sloped and very shallow —like the one above from Jan Whitner’s inspirational book, Gardening with Stone— be sure to provide an escape route to prevent the drowning of bees and small mammals.

Building a small water feature from stone is a relatively simple project, even if the pool will be recirculating. Helpful tips can be found in the final chapters of Barbara Pleasant’s Garden Stone (see image excerpts below), a beautiful title with many creative ideas for both small and larger stone and water combination projects. The author has included a useful plant list for water bowls, which includes water lettuce (Pistia stratiotes), lily (Nymphaea), lotus (Nelumbo), iris, water clover (Marsilea mutica), and more. Foliage and flowers add an extra touch of beauty to miniature water gardens, and they also provide a handy resting spot for dragonflies, honeybees and butterflies…

Image ⓒ Dency Kane from Barbara Pleasant’s Garden Stone

Image ⓒ Dency Kane from Barbara Pleasant’s Garden Stone

In my search for Japanese-inspired water features, I turned up several beautiful books filled with creative hardscaping and layout ideas for even the smallest courtyard. Pocket Gardens by James G. Trulove contains both stylish, urban, modern and classic, traditional design-inspiration for small gardens – including many miniaturized water gardens. And one of my all-time favorite garden books, Haruzo Ohashi’s stunningly beautiful title, The Tea Garden, (currently out of print, but available used) features ritual water bowls on nearly every page…

Image ⓒ Roger Foley from Pocket Gardens by James G. Trulove

Image ⓒ Haruzo Ohashi from The Tea Garden

Image ⓒ  Haruzo Ohashi from The Tea Garden

On days when a dip in the lake or splash-down at the river isn’t possible, a shady garden room provides cool respite. A glistening pool surrounded by ferns and moss calms the eye and soothes the senses. Below, positioned at the corner of my Secret Garden, a reflective water bowl mirrors the sunlit wall…

Secret Garden Reflecting Bowl at Ferncliff ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

Many solid bowls and vessels can be filled with water to create a tiny pool. Adding steady movement to the water will require the installation of a pump. Below are some pretty, pre-made water bowls and fountain kits I found online at Amazon…

Stacked Slate (lightweight stone veneer) Fountain at Amazon

Laguna Water Bowl Fountain available via Amazon

Water Fountain available at Amazon

Click here for Gardener’s Supply Company’s Organic Mosquito Control Rings for Still Water Features

**Mosquitoes will breed in rain barrels, bird baths, water bowls, and untreated still pools. Mosquito dunks are a safe, biological control utilizing Bti, a naturally occurring bacterium (Bti targeted usage is OMRI (Organic Materials Review Institute) approved. See site linked above for more details. For more information on Bti and it’s usage, please click here to read this well-written article with an explanation of Bt strains from Colorado State University**

Image excerpts from reviewed publications and/or products are copyright as noted and linked. Article and all other photographs © 2010 Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden.

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