Visionary Landscapes: Japanese Garden Design in North America

December 3rd, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

A curving, dry stream at the Hoeschler Garden. Design: David Slawson. Photography: David M. Cobb, courtesy of Tuttle Publishing.

The calming nature of Zen gardens and the allure of Japanese-style has been enchanting and seducing landscape designers and gardeners throughout the wider world for well over 150 years. Stepping into a Japanese-inspired courtyard is the perfect antidote to a day spent in crowded subways, noisy streets and stressful work environments. We crave quiet and order —two areas where traditional Japanese garden designs excel— as a counter balance to our increasingly chaotic lives. But how can a North American gardener successfully integrate elements of the Japanese design aesthetic without feeling forced or veering toward kitsch?

Visionary Landscapes: Japanese Garden Design in North America, Kendall Brown’s latest book —featuring the work of five contemporary garden designers; Hōichi Kurisu, Takeo Uesugi, David Slawson, Shin Abe and Marc Peter Keane— addresses this question. Filled with beautiful and inspirational photographs by David M. Cobb, Brown’s book highlights Japans’s design influence upon North American public and private gardens in settings ranging from urban corporations and penthouse rooftops to community hospital gardens and secluded forest clearings.

Sculptural ranges and serene expanses: a garden of stone at the Education First Building in Cambridge, MA. Design: Shin Abe. Photography: David Cobb, courtesy of Tuttle Publishing.

Shin Abe’s work (pictured above), which may be seen in many public spaces, including The United Nations’ Peace Bell Courtyard in Manhattan and the Education First building in Cambridge, MA, is striking in its natural, calming-effect within urban hardscape. The designer’s sculptural use of natural stone shapes and textures, paired with disciplined plant selections, creates a sense of serenity in noisy, chaotic, city environments. It is within these urban spaces where the Japanese design aesthetic often works so well; bridging the hard-edged and the man-made to the balancing, grounding forces of nature.

Although all five designers push Japanese-inspired garden design forward —distilling and fusing Asian inspiration into the North American landscape— the work of David Slawson (top image), and Marc Peter Keane (image below), seems most successful in the more natural environment.

From a design perspective, I often find it more difficult to successfully introduce man-made elements to nature, than to introduce natural elements to man-made environments. Knowing which aspects of Japanese garden design will translate to natural, North American environments demands a solid understanding of both. Marble chips, clipped azalea and lanterns? Risky. Moss-covered paths, local stone, artfully-pruned, native trees and reflective water bowls? Right on. Lawson and Keane have found a contemporary balance.

The sensation of movement, captured in stone. Bridge view: Tiger Glen Garden, Ithaca, New York. Design: Marc Keane. Photography: David M. Cobb, courtesy of Tuttle Publishing

Visionary Landscapes: Japanese Garden Design in North America is an excellent introduction to the history and art of blending Japanese-inspired design ideas into urban and rural gardens on this continent; a beautiful book and a great gift for the gardener on your list who is looking for a bit of contemporary, Japanese-style landscape inspiration.

Visionary Landscapes: Japanese Garden Design in North America. Kendall H. Brown, with Photography by David M. Cobb

A copy of this book was provided by Tuttle Publishing in exchange for independent, un-biased review. No other compensation was received. The Gardener’s Eden is not an affiliate of Tuttle Publishing, but is an affiliate of Amazon.com.

Article copyright Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden, all rights reserved. All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used, reproduced or reposted elsewhere without written consent.

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Crystal-Coated & Sugar Plum Kissed . . . . Late Night Garden Party with Jack Frost

November 29th, 2012 § Comments Off on Crystal-Coated & Sugar Plum Kissed . . . . Late Night Garden Party with Jack Frost § permalink

The Entry Walk and Ledges, Sparkling in Sunlight After Jack Frost’s Midnight Ball

I love surprises. A life lived predictably seems terribly boring to me and a garden kept under tight control leaves little room for romance. For months now, I’ve been encouraging readers to leave seed pods and other garden remnants standing over winter for the sake of wildlife. But I have an ulterior motive of course . . . Beauty! Whenever I design a garden, I like to keep the work of the great artist, Mother Nature in mind.

Mountain Laurel and Maiden Grass, A Sparkling Duo on the Rocks (Kalmia latifolia & Miscanthus sinensis)

November is often a spectacular month for hoar frost, and this year has been exceptional so far. Why bother cutting back the garden and then decorating for the holidays, when Mother Nature and her seasonal assistants are more than happy to do the work for you? Have I been late to meet you this week? Well now you know why! I just can’t help but stop and admire the work of Mother Nature’s coolest apprentice, Jack Frost! At this time of year, Jack’s handiwork is simply a masterpiece in the early morning light. Care to sneak a peek at his beautiful surprise?

Beautiful Throughout the Garden Year, Sedum rupestre ‘Angelina’ adds a Spectacular bit of Neon to the Ground in November. Isn’t She Just the Definition of Fire & Ice?

Sugar Plum Kisses: Jack’s Lips Leave their Mark on Violet Leaves and Citrus Blades (Heuchera & Carex)

With Many Shrubs Already Stripped Bare by Hungry Birds and Rodents, the Frost-Coated Red Berries of This Cotoneaster Really Catch the Eye (C. horizontalis var. perpusillus)

The Gift of Beautiful Surprise: Why I Encourage Über-Tidy Gardeners to Leave Seedpods Standing! (Agastache & Rudbeckia)

Creeping Blue Rug Juniper and Fallen Oak Leaves Sparkle in Icy Blue and Rust (Juniperus horizontalis ‘Wiltonii’)

Spiked Remnants of Black-Eyed Susan and Fluffy Goldenrod Capture the Crystalline Spirit of Wintry Festivities (Rudbeckia hirta and Solidago)

Lupine Leaf: Green Star in a Sea of Sparkling Crystals 

Delicate, Sparkling Lace: Heath, Heather & Juniper on the Rocks (Erica carnea, Calluna vulgaris, Juniperus horizontalis ‘Wiltonii’ and Juniperus x pfitzeriana ‘Sea Green’)

Native Labrador Violets with a Shimmering, Sugary Coat of Ice (Viola labradorica)

A Prelude to Winter: Siberian Cypress (Microbiota decussata), Canadian Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) and Juniper (J.x pfitzeriana ‘Sea Green) 

Garden Design: Michaela Medina Harlow

Photography and Text ⓒ Michaela Medina/The Gardener’s Eden. All images, articles and content on this site (with noted exceptions), are the original, copyrighted property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be reposted, reproduced or used in any way without prior written consent. Contact information is in the left side bar. Please do not take my photographs without asking first. Thank you! 

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Late November’s Smoldering Hues: Radiant Rust, Shimmering Copper, Burnished Bronze & Winter Blonde

November 28th, 2012 § 2 comments § permalink

Tea Viburnum (V. setigerum) Berries, Dangling Against a Backdrop of Honey-Hued Maiden Grass (Miscanthus sinensis)

It’s late November, and the garden is growing quieter now. Gone are the high chrome colors of October, but the show is far from over. Late night visits from Jack Frost and the Sugar Plum Fairy are just beginning; coating the skeletal remains of summer in a fresh coat of crystal and lace. Copper, bronze, gold, silver and rust hues dance in the late afternoon light. And by early morning, paper-thin petals, ruby berries and feathery boas shimmer as the day breaks. It’s a glorious time of the year . . .

Even More Spectacular with a Coat of Ice Crystals, Allegheny Spurge (Pachysandra procumbens) Glows in Autumnal Shades of Marbled Copper  on the Garden Floor (Here with Wind-Strewn Hydrangea Blossoms)

My Long-time Love, the Coral Bells (Heuchera), Hold Delicate Seedpods into the Early Winter. I Adore the Way They Catch the Light and Bronze Up in Late Fall (Planted Here Along the Entry Walk with Carex morowii variegata)

Rust Never Sleeps in the Late November Garden. Here, Siberian Cypress (Microbiota decussata) Catches a Dusting of Late-Day Snow.

Blondes Definitely Have More Fun in the Late Autumn Landscape. Just Have a Look at This Fountain Grass (Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Hameln’). Isn’t She Sexy, Surrounded by All of the Black Pom-Pom Seed Heads, Ruby Sedum and Green Velvet Conifers? She’s Such a Bombshell.

Speaking of Bombshells… Is There Ever an End to Hydrangea’s Beauty? (H. paniculata ‘Limelight’)

November Does Have a Reputation for Being Grey and Dreary, But Some Mornings Shimmer in Golden Glory. Bare Silverbell Branches (Halesia tetraptera)  in Radiant, Early Morning Fog.

Photography and Text ⓒ Michaela Medina/The Gardener’s Eden. All images, articles and content on this site (with noted exceptions), are the original, copyrighted property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be reposted, reproduced or used in any way without prior written consent. Contact information is in the left side bar. Please do not take my photographs without asking first. Thank you! 

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Beauty by Design: New Gardeners Plant A Welcoming, Four Season Entryway …

October 27th, 2012 § 3 comments § permalink

Mary Kay & Greg’s Entryway Garden, One Year After Planting. Garden Design: Michaela M. Harlow

Season-Spanning Color Lights Up the Stone Entry Steps & Landing. Stonework: Alec Goldschmid. Garden Design: Michaela M. Harlow

With Properly Prepared, Edged & Mulched Planting Beds —Provided Here by Turner & Renaud— As Well as Diligent Weeding and Adequate Watering (Soaker Hoses Here Provide Water at the Root Zone; Preventing Evaporation and Delivering Moisture Only Where Needed) This DIY Entry Garden Planting Has Grown to Impressive Proportion in Just One Year. Garden Design: Michaela M. Harlow.

 I enjoy taking on the challenge of DIY projects in my own home and garden. But DIY projects with garden clients? Why not? As a garden designer, I frequently work with DIY landscapers at all levels —from absolute beginners to midlevel plant connoisseurs and fellow hortimaniacs— to create beautiful gardens. There’s no better way to learn how to garden, develop new landscaping skills, or brush up on rusty technique than by planting a garden of your own. Of course, taking on a big landscaping project can be intimidating, no matter your level of gardening experience. Knowing what you can realistically accomplish yourself and what might be best left to professionals, as well as deciding how and when to begin, are things we all need to consider before starting a DIY home project. In need of some inspiration? The garden pictured here was planted by my design clients —both relatively new gardeners— one year ago. Curious? Read on …

Windflowers (Anemone x hybrida cvs.) Blooming in Mary Kay & Greg’s Garden in Mid October, 2012. Garden Design: Michaela M. Harlow

Over the past few years, with revived interest in homesteading, victory gardening and self-reliance, the number of gardens I’ve designed for do-it-yourself landscaping clients has increased dramatically. I’m extra proud of these new friends and their projects, because they involve two of my favorite things: designing gardens and teaching others how to garden. Over the years, I’ve discovered that anyone with desire and dedication can learn to garden. I simply do not believe in “black thumbs”; those rusty digits just need a little polishing and training, and they will be verdant in no time!

This Photo of Mary Kay, Watering in Ligularia ‘Britt Marie Crawford’, Was Taken in the Summer of 2011. Stone Steps by Alec Goldschmid. Site work & Perennial Bed Preparation by Turner & Renaud. Plants from Walker Farm in Dummerston, Vermont.

One of my favorite, recent DIY projects came about when I met Mary Kay and Greg at Walker Farm in Dummerston, Vermont, after presenting a Four Season Garden Design seminar last year. I’d stayed on at the farm for an hour or so to answer questions after my talk, and Mary Kay and Greg happened to be simultaneously shopping for a Japanese Maple (one of my favorite trees). As fate would have it, Greg’s mother —an experienced horticulturalist and plant hybridizer— struck up a conversation with me about Acer palmatum. She mentioned that Mary Kay and Greg wanted to plant a new garden for themselves, but were in need of some professional guidance in the form of a garden designer. She introduced us and we discussed the possibility of a designing/garden coaching arrangement. My spring schedule was already filled with full service garden design projects, but I really liked Mary Kay and Greg’s DIY enthusiasm, so we spontaneously arranged  to meet at their place for a garden design consultation later that day.

Meanwhile, Greg Plants Hakonechola macra ‘All Gold’ and Ligularia ‘Britt Marie Crawford’ on the Opposite Side of the Stone Steps, According to the Planting Plan.

When I arrived at Mary Kay and Greg’s home, I had the opportunity to meet a few additional members of their family. Although the couple were relatively new to ornamental gardening at the time, they’d been successfully growing edibles at their place for a couple of years. I’d already learned that Greg’s mother is a retired, professional horticulturalist, and I soon discovered that Mary Kay’s father is also an avid, and experienced gardener. I was encouraged to know that my new clients would have plenty of gardening support and advice available from “green thumb” parents on both sides. As all DIYrs know, one-on-one assistance and tips from an an experienced helper are truly invaluable when you are learning a hands-on skill.

My first step with Mary Kay and Greg was to have a look at the big picture of their landscape, in order to develop long term plans/goals and prioritize immediate needs/desires, as well as to assist in determining what parts of various projects they could do for themselves, and what they might need professional help with. I sketched out a few design ideas and we decided that with a garden design, planting plan, materials/shopping list, together with a bit of coaching and some help selecting contractors for hardscaping, they would be able to take on the entryway as a first DIY landscape project. Once I drew up a plan, we were ready to roll on our next steps together …

Mary Kay & Greg’s Garden Design, Planting Plan, Materials/Shopping List on Layout Day 2011

Local stoneworker, Alec Goldschmid was contracted to construct new drystone steps and a landing area for the front entryway. In the future, a stepping stone path and patio may be added, so the garden was designed and planned with this in mind. Once the stone entryway steps were completed, Turner & Renaud Landscaping came in to prepare the site for planting a new perennial garden. Poor-quality fill is often used at building sites when homes are constructed, and after examining and testing the soil, we decided to have Turner & Renaud remove the existing topsoil in the planting area and bring in a high quality mix of 50% compost and 50% screened loam. The crew used a tractor to scrape away the old base and build new beds. English edging was used to define the raised bed and separate the planting area from surrounding lawn. With the site work completed, Greg and Mary Kay went shopping at Walker Farm, where they found the majority of plants on their plan. I always advise my clients to buy locally when possible, and other tri-state garden centers —including Bay State Perennial, Rasheds Garden Center and Dynamic Landscaping— filled in the remaining gaps on the shopping list. Once they’d collected all of their plants, I returned to the site to help coach Mary Kay and Greg on the final layout and give them some planting tips and advice. As you can see, they did a fantastic job! Later, Turner & Renaud returned with enough natural bark mulch to spread a 2+” layer on the newly planted beds. Using some form of mulch is essential to conserve moisture, keep down weeds, and moderate temperature at the root zone in summer, as well as prevent heaving in winter. Soaker hoses were also set up to keep the new plantings well watered during the growing season (more newly installed plants die from dehydration than any other cause).

A Close-Up View of Mary Kay & Greg’s Entryway Garden, One Year Later

Inspired by Mary Kay & Greg’s success story? Autumn is a great time to design, plan and prep sites for new gardens. In an upcoming post, I’ll share more tips on how to begin a landscaping project on your own, or with the help of a garden designer and/or contractors. Although there are challenges, the rewards of hands-on-involvement in the creation of your landscape far outweigh the difficulties. Now’s the time to get outside and assess your site. Grab big a pad of 1″ graph paper, a pencil and measuring tape. I’ll meet you back here next week and we’ll get started!

A Glorious Stewartia Lights Up Mary Kay & Greg’s Front Entryway in the October Sunlight 

Garden Design & DIY Coaching: Michaela Medina Harlow

Site Work, Hardscape & Perennial Border Preparation: Turner & Renaud

Stonework: Alec Goldschmid, Vermont

Perennials & Shrubs: Walker Farm (VT), Baystate Perennial (MA), Rasheds (VT) & Dynamic Landscaping (NH)

Installation by Homeowners & Gardeners, Extraordinaire: Mary Kay and Greg

Photography and Text ⓒ Michaela Medina/The Gardener’s Eden. All images, articles and content on this site (with noted exceptions), are the original, copyrighted property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be reposted, reproduced or used in any way without prior written consent. Contact information is in the left side bar. Please do not take my photographs without asking first. Thank you! 

Do you enjoy The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through affiliate links. A small percentage of each sale will be paid to this site, helping to cover web hosting and maintenance costs. Thank you so much for your support!

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In Late September’s Low Sunlight, Autumn Dons Her Golden Crown . . .

September 26th, 2012 § 1 comment § permalink

The Garden’s Golden Hour: Miscanthus sinensis purpurascens & Rudbeckia subtomentosa ‘Henry Eilers’

Sunset to twilight: a favorite window of time for a slow garden stroll. Quick, grab a sweater to throw off the chill, and a camera to capture the beauty. Early autumn and the golden hour —a garden drenched in honey-hued light— sweet moments to savor and share …

Chocolate-Colored Pom-Poms: Rudbeckia Remnants with Sun Spots. In My Garden, Seed Heads Remain Standing to Provide Winter Sustenance for Birds and Add Textural Interest to the Garden

The Entry Garden in Late September Sunlight: Maiden Grasses are Positioned to Catch Morning & Early Evening Light

Warm Hues of Early Autumn in the Entry Garden: Plantings Include; Amsonia illustris, A. hubrichtii, Miscanthus sinensis purpurascens, Betula papyrifera, Clethra alnifolia, Aster oblongifolium ‘Raydon’s Favorite’, Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Summer Wine’, Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’

Sun-Washed Seed Pods: Butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa)

When designing a garden, I usually make several site visits, scheduled at different times of the day. Observing sunlight helps me to position certain plants –such as ornamental grasses or Japanese maples– for maximum effect. When planning your garden, watch the sunlight and plant accordingly to take advantage of backlight in morning and early evening. You will be rewarded for your efforts with luminous garden rooms filled with ‘stained glass’ windows.

Garden Design & Installation: Michaela Medina Harlow

Photography and Text ⓒ Michaela Medina/The Gardener’s Eden. All images, articles and content on this site (with noted exceptions), are the original, copyrighted property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be reposted, reproduced or used in any way without prior written consent. Contact information is in the left side bar. Please do not take my photographs without asking first. Thank you! 

Do you enjoy The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through affiliate links. A small percentage of each sale will be paid to this site, helping to cover web hosting and maintenance costs. Thank you so much for your support!

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