Saturday, April 19, 2014
Small but nice
Because gardening gets a lot of attention nowadays, a lot of people are busy with their garden. Also the city garden gets more and more attention. We are overloaded with ideas and materials and this makes it hard to choose.
Our gardens get smaller and smaller, think about the city garden, but the offer in materials gets bigger and bigger. Often you achieve more with less, but carefully chosen products than buying products without thinking. This applies for every kind of garden.
Characteristics City Garden
Many times a city garden is enclosed by walls and fences of surrounding houses. This privacy is the main characteristic of a city garden and creates a patio-like atmosphere. The atmosphere in such kind of gardens is different than in gardens outside the city. In the summer the heat will stay longer between the walls and in the winter it will be less cold because the walls will give off heat. The dimension of a city garden might vary a lot. Just like gardens in outside areas there will be small and big city gardens.
For a small garden it's important to make a clear design. When you don't do that the garden will always look a little 'messy'. Clear lines in the paving will give the garden an extra dimension. It's also important that the garden looks nice when viewed from above, this give an extra value to your garden.
In a small garden the choice of plants is very important. That's why you should choose plants that will flower a longer time and which still have ornamental value after flowering. Green details are indispensable in a winter garden. Therefore it is wise to consult some special books before buying your plants. There are a lot of books with good explanations about the properties of certain kind of plants. You need some more time, but you will see that your garden will become more of yourself.
It's also important to think about the work that has to be done in your garden. In a small garden container plants and flower pots might give you a lot of work. Not only the dimensions of your garden determines the maintenance your garden needs.
If you have a garden with ugly walls or fences it's better to camouflage them. You can let ivy grow against them or paint the walls. By using pergolas and creepers you can use the space in your garden in an even better way. Vertical gardening gives lots of extra possibilities and a shady atmosphere. Against painted walls you might put a wooden frame in a nice color and shape, this will create a great effect. It's also possible to put a rose bow against a wall and between the rose bow you could put a mirror. Because of the reflexion of the garden in the mirror your garden will suddenly look bigger. For this you can use an ordinary mirror, but take care that you cover the backside of the mirror with red lead first.
A gargoyle or bubble stone are also nice elements in a small city garden. The sound of splattering water will drown the noises of the city and it works refreshing. Another advantage of water in your garden is that it attracts birds and other animals.
Tuesday, April 1, 2014
Gardens are not just places where one grows plants and vegetables. To complement the amount of effort you put in here, you should try and improve your garden decor so that your garden looks beautiful, even without flowers. Here are some tips to help you work on it:
1) Singular focus
One way to make a difference to your garden decor is to focus on one part of the garden and build the rest around it. This can be done by building a gazebo, an arbor, a rose pillar or any statues or sculptures of interest.
2) A sense of architecture
You can provide an architectural form and a sense of style to your garden decor by adding a bit of iron gate work, elegant metal topiary forms or concrete statuary to the garden. Simple garden ornaments and artful decor contribute tremendously to the aesthetic value to your outdoor living garden spaces.
3) Adding water features - a waterfall or a fountain
Building a waterfall or a fountain can add a lot of value to your garden decor. In fact, most Japanese gardens have a water feature, and the ones without water features have something that represents water, like grey gravel or sand. If you would like to be a little innovative, you can turn your whole garden into a water garden.
4) Collect and scatter
After having collected a variety of art and ornamentation to add to your garden decor, make sure you scatter it throughout the landscape. Some people place topiary, sculpture or tuteur forms in distant small landscaped garden spaces for maximum viewing impact. Try and frame ornamental pieces of art with easy-growing shrubs and low-growing flowers.
5) Correct use of planters and containers
For an elegant garden decor, you may need to carefully choose the planters and containers to hold your plants. Many kinds of containers are available, the popular ones being made of concrete, fibre stone, fibreglass and plastic. For earth tones, you might choose terracotta. Correct use of planters can also add height, shape and life to your garden.
Lighting up a garden nicely also enhances the garden decor. Other than lighting up the pathway in your garden, you can also light up a specific tree by focusing light beams on it. Make sure you keep safety concerns in mind for lighting options.
7) Define your place - use varieties of height
Garden ornamentation will define garden spaces. Taller garden decor and sculpture can create pleasant and sprawling visual architecture in small spaces. Always try and place taller plantings toward the back of the garden. Try and use varieties of height to beautify your garden.
8) Block what you do not like
Block a part of the garden with climbers like ivy or vines if you do not like the way it looks. A trellis or obelisk can also be combined with the climbers to block the view. It will only end up enhancing your garden decor. You can also add a birdbath to your garden.
9) Temporary additions for special purposes
If you organize parties in your garden, they are some ways to improve on your garden decor. If you are on a shoestring budget, you could light the garden by candles, lanterns or string lighting. Clean up a certain area within the garden to provide a tidy place for your guests. Addition of fragrant containers would fill the garden air with a pleasant smell. Also, do not forget to get comfortable garden chairs for your guests.
Finally, no matter how you wish to decorate your garden, you should make sure that everything is harmonized. Utilizing all your resources with perfect balance can enhance your garden decor and make it your own piece of paradise.
Monday, June 10, 2013
Things to keep in mind for a beautiful garden
Main principles on the garden's design
Bring the Japanese feeling into your garden with these basic steps. First of all, embrace the ideal of nature. That means, keep things in your garden as natural as possible, avoiding to include things that could disrupt this natural appearance.
For example, don't include square ponds in your design as square ponds are nowhere to be found in nature. Also, a waterfall would be something closer to what exists in nature if we compare it to a fountain. So you also have to consider the Japanese concept of sumi or balance. Because one of Japanese gardening design main purposes is to recreate large landscapes even in the smallest place. Be careful when choosing the elements for your garden, because you don't want to end up filling your ten by ten courtyard with huge rocks.
As a miniaturized landscape, the rocks in the garden would represent mountains and the ponds would represent lakes. A space filled with sand would represent an ocean. By that we assume that garden masters were looking to achieve a minimalistic approach, best represented by the phrase "less is more".
The elements of time and space
One of the things westerners notice at first are the many portions of empty space in the garden. In fact, these spaces are an important feature in Japanese gardening. This space called ma, relates to the elements around it and that also surround it. The concepts of in and yo are of vital importance here, they are best known to the Western civilization by the Chinese names yin and yang. If you want to have something you have to start with having nothing. This is an idea quite difficult to understand, but it is a rule of thumb in Japanese gardening.
An important clue in the development of a garden is the concept of wabi and sabi. There's no literal English translation for those words. Wabi is about uniqueness, or the essence of something; a close literal translation is solitary. Sabi deals with the definition of time or the ideal image of something; the closest definition might be time strengthened character. Given the case, a cement lantern that might appear unique, would lack of that ideal image. Or an old rock covered in lichens would have no wabi if it's just a round boulder. That's why it is important to find that balance.
Ma and wabi/sabi are connected to the concepts of space and time. When it comes to seasons, the garden must show the special character of each one. Japanese garden lovers dedicate time to their gardens every season, unlike the western gardener who deserts in fall just to be seen again in spring.
A very relaxing view in spring is given by the bright green of new buds and the blossoms of the azaleas. In summer, the lush foliage in combination with the pond offer a powerful and fresh image. The vivid spectacle of the brilliant colors of dying leaves in fall are a prelude for the arrival of winter and its white shroud of snow.
The two most important gardening seasons in Japan are spring and winter. Japanese refer to the snow accumulated on braches as Sekku or snow blossoms. Yukimi, or the snow viewing lantern, is another typical element of the Japanese garden in winter. The sleep of the garden in winter is an important episode for our Japanese gardener, while for the western gardener spring is the beginning of the work at the garden. Maybe because of the eastern point of view as death like part of the life cycle, or perhaps the western fear to death.
About garden enclosures
Let's see the garden as a microcosm of nature. If we're looking for the garden to be a true retreat, we have to 'set it apart' from the outside world. Because of that, fences and gates are important components of the Japanese garden.
The fence and the gates have both symbolism and functionality. The worries and concerns of our daily life have to stay out of this separate world that becomes the garden. The fence protects us from the outside world and the gate is the threshold where we leave our daily worries and then prepare ourselves to confront the real world again.
The use of fences is based in the concept of hide/reveal or Miegakure. Fence styles are very simple and are put in combination with screen planting, thus not giving many clues of what hides inside. You can give a sample look of your garden by cutting a small window in the solid wall that encloses your garden if that's the case. Sode-gaki, or sleeve fences, are fences attached to an architectural structure, that will only show a specific view of the garden from inside the house. Thus, we're invited to get into the garden and enjoy it in its entirety. That's what makes the true understanding of the garden, to lose in it our sense of time and self.
Despite the fact that certain rules are applied to each individual garden, don't think that there's just one type of garden. There are three basic styles that differ by setting and purpose.
Hill and Pond Garden (Chisen-Kaiyu-skiki)
A China imported classic style. A pond or a space filled with raked gravel fronts a hill (or hills). This style always represents mountainous places and commonly makes use of vegetation indigenous to the mountains. Stroll gardens commonly use this style.
Flat Garden (Hiraniwa)
It derives from the use of open, flat spaces in front of temples and palaces for ceremonies. This is an appropriate style for contemplation and that represents a seashore area (with the use of the right plants). This is a style frequently used in courtyards.
Tea Gardens (Rojiniwa)
Function has a greater importance than form in this type of garden. The Roji or dewy path, is the main point of the garden, along with the pond and the gates. This would be the exception to the rule. The simple and sparse plantings give a rustic feeling to the garden.
Formality has to be taken in consideration
Hill and pond and flat styles may be shin (formal), gyo (intermediate) or so (informal). Formal styles were to be found usually at temples or palaces, intermediate styles were suitable for most residences, and the informal style was used in peasant huts and mountain retreats. The tea garden is the one that always fits in the informal style.
The garden components
Rocks (ishi in Japanese) are the main concern of the Japanese garden. If the stones are placed correctly, then the garden shows in a perfect balance. So here are shown the basic stone types and the rules for their positions.
The basic stones are the tall upright stone, the low upright stone, the curved stone, the reclining stone, and the horizontal stone. These must be usually set in triads although this doesn't happen always. Two almost identical stones (by way of example, two tall verticals or two reclining stones), one a little quite smaller than the other, can be set together as male and female, but the use of them in threes, fives, and sevens is more frequent.
We have to keep away from the Three Bad Stones. These are the Diseased stone (having a withered or misshapen top), the Dead stone (an obviously vertical one used as a horizontal, or vice versa, like the placement of a dead body), and the Pauper Stone (a stone having no connection to the several other ones in the garden). Use only one stone of each of the basic types in any cluster (the rest have to be smaller, modest stones also known as throwaway stones). Stones can be placed as sculptures, set against a background in a two-dimensional way, or given a purpose, such as a stepping stone or a bridge.
When used as stepping stones they should be between one and three inches above the soil, yet solid underfoot, as if rooted into the ground. They can be put in straight lines, offset for left foot, right foot (referred as chidori or plover, after the tracks the shore bird leaves), or set in sets of twos, threes, fours, or fives (and any combination thereof).
The pathway stands for the passage through life, and even particular stones by the path may have meaning. A much wider stone placed across the path tells us to put two feet here, stopping to enjoy the view. There are numerous stones for specific places. When observing the basic design principles, we can notice the exact character of the Japanese garden.
Water (mizu in Japanese) plays an important part in the composition of the Japanese garden because of Japan's abundant rainfall. Water can be represented even with a raked gravel area instead of water. A rushing stream can be represented by placing flat river stones closely together. In the tea garden, where there isn't any stream or pond, water plays the most important role in the ritual cleansing at the chozubachi, or water basin. As the water fills and empties from the shishi-odoki, or deer scare, the clack of bamboo on rock helps mark the passage of time.
The flow of water, the way it sounds and looks, brings to mind the continual passage of time. A bridge crossing the water stream is often used as a landscaping complement. Bridges denote a journey, just as pathways do. Hashi, in japanese, can mean bridge or edge. Bridges are the symbolic pass from one world into another, a constant theme in Japanese art.
Plants or Shokobutsu may play a secondary role to the stones in the garden, but they are a primary concern in the design too. Stones represent what remains unchanged, so trees, shrubs, and perennials have to represent the passing of seasons. Earlier garden styles used plants to make up poetic connotations or to correct geomantic issues, but these have little meaning today.
As the the Heian style diminished under the Zen influence, perennials and grasses fell out of use. So, for a long time, there were only a few plants that tradition allowed for the garden. However, in modern Japan, designers are again widening the spectrum of materials used. It is highly recommended that native plants are chosen for the garden, because showy exotic plants are not in good taste. Be aware that native plants are used in the garden, because it is in bad taste to use showy exotic plants. Although pines, cherries and bamboo immediately remind us of Japanese gardens, we encourage you to use native plants of your locality that you can find pleasing. If we choose evergreens as the main plant theme and combine it with deciduous material that may provide seasonal blooms or foliage color we can recreate the look of the Japanese garden.
Now the next thing taken in consideration in a Japanese garden are the ornaments or Tenkebutsu. Stone lanterns are, for westerners, a typical impression of Japanese gardens.Stone lanterns are not important components of the Japanese garden. The reason is that ornaments are subjected to the garden's design. Lanterns, stupas, and basins are just architectural complements added when a point of visual interest is necessary to the design.
A good way to finish yor garden design could be a well-placed lantern. The three main styles (although with many variations) are: The Kasuga style lantern, is a very formal one featuring a stone base. In the Oribe style lantern, unlike the Kasuga style, the pedestal is underneath the ground. The Yukimi or Snow-Viewing lantern is set on short legs instead of a pedestal. Consider the formality of your garden setting to choose the appropriate lantern.
When possible, elements from outside the garden can be included in it. For instance, you can work a far away mountain including the scenery in your design, framing it with the stones and plants existing in the garden.
The borrowed scenery (shakkei in Japanese) can be: Far (as in a far away mountain); near (a tree just outside the fence); High (an element seen above the fence) or low (like a component seen below a fence or through a window in the fence).
As much as it is perceived to contradict our sense of enclosure, it reminds us of how all things are interconnected.
The feel of your garden
The Japanese garden is a subtle place full of contradictions and imperatives. Where firmly established rules are broken with other rules. If you meet the Buddha on the road, you must kill him is a Zen paradox that recommends not to stick so tightly to rules, and the same goes for Japanese gardens.
When building a Japanese garden, don't get too attached to traditions that hold little meaning for you. It would have no function to recreate a Buddhist saints garden. This also applies to trying to remember the meaning of stone placements, as this method is no longer used in Japan, or even in the United States, due to the lack of meaning for us in the modern world.
That's why we have selected a few gardening suggestions that do hold relevance and integrate them into a garden. These three ideas on gardening will give direction to achieve perfect results.
The overall setting of the garden should always be right for the location, not the other way around.
The stones should be placed first, next the trees, and then the shrubs.
Get used to the concepts of shin, gyo, and so. This is of great help to start working on the garden.
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