Gardens change over time, as do gardeners. The quest for less maintenance if not zero maintenance becomes a mantra as age is a loudspeaker in ones mind looping a message to think about the future of garden chores as abilities slide into oblivion. There is a spot in the Fairegarden that had become a weed haven. Behind the knot garden at the top of the property, one of the only level spots that exists here, there is a space between the boxwood hedge that rings the quadrants and the split rail fence that helps to hide the chain link fence. Curly willow trees started as cuttings taken from a tree in our gardens in Texas had grown quickly to shade the area while sucking up the scant moisture during the last two drought years. Only one tree peony out of four planted survived in this inhospitable place. Rhododendrons were planted and died, large pots of lavender cracked with the frost and the lavender inside died, heucheras spread as a ground cover have all but disappeared. A row of Osmanthus fragrans was planted to replace the too messy zebra grass, Miscathus sinensis ‘Zebrinus’ behind the rails. One grass was left at the end in a flash of sympathy for the floppy cultivar. The willows were pollarded with a chainsaw.While traveling recently to Nashville and Chicago, Japanese Zen Gardens grabbed our imagination with swirling ideas of bringing something similar to life back in southeast Tennessee. The first step was to move the few desirable plants from the bed and clear cut the weeds. Scrap lumber from the garage helped show the size and shape to come. A generous visitor, Christopher from Outside Clyde, had brought two large rocks from his mountain in North Carolina. They were the perfect addition to the Japanese style plot, suggesting a boat and sail. The stones were partially buried after being lifted and toted effortlessly up the hill by The Financier. Several layers of newspaper were laid over the smoothed soil as a weed preventative. Most weeds are from air born seeds but the clover and other unwanteds hiding under the soil should be smothered by the papers. Research was done about the meanings of the elements of the zen garden. A good site with photos and explanation was found here. Ten bags of pea gravel carried up by the faithful Financier filled the five foot by four foot space to a level of three inches. Cedar sideboards with concrete edgers in front complete the rectangle with a treated two by six board at the back to help hold the slope. A dwarf mugo pine that will be pruned to an interesting shape as it grows was planted behind with the four heucheras rescued from the area. Scotch moss, Sagina subulata ‘Aurea’ is the groundcover under the pine. Black mondo, Ophiopogon planiscapus will fill in to form a border around the front and sides. On to the fun part, the raking of the gravel to suggest water movement with curves and circles. After looking online for appropriate rakes, it was remembered that such a tool hangs on our wall already with the homemade brooms and other odd paraphernalia. During the extensive research it was learned that the raking of the zen gardens is not something to be taken lightly. Training can take ten years. Scoffs were uttered as the rake was carried up the steps of the steep slope. How hard can it be to rake a bunch of waves? Above is the first attempt at raking proving that ten years of training is not nearly long enough for some overconfident types of zen gardeners. A humbling experience, and not surprisingly part of the art of zen. Stepping back with new respect for the raking technique seen in public gardens, we looked in the nearby shed for another tool. The gravel base of the small space was oh so carefully shaped and formed with a bamboo stake. Much time and diligence was required to form rivulets that suggested waves of water caressing the stone boat and sail. If the raker had not been so tired and hot from the construction process, the proper mind set would have been easier to achieve. As it was, the pulling of the stick through the gravel made a pleasing sound, soothing like the surf lapping the shore at the beach. The beauty and intricacy of each pebble began to stir our thoughts. The colors, the shapes, the sizes, how they must have been formed over time crept into our mind as the bamboo went back and forth to form ripples in the gravel. On the opposite side of the space between the boxwood and the split rail a bench was placed for contemplative meditation. A newly planted pot of a gold Monterey Cypress, Cupressus macrocarpa surrounded by golden club moss, Selaginella kraussiana in hopes of becoming a Bonsai sits on the seat. A basin to cleanse our thoughts and hands before beginning the serenity search was added. This hand carved granite koi bowl was picked up on recent travels to upper east Tennessee to visit friends and family. A lantern of the same material was purchased at the same time and has found a home near the pond. A bamboo ladle is still needed, resting on two bamboo sticks bound by black cord across the basin, according to research done. An ever so small and miniscule splinter in the door to enlightenment has been opened thanks to the new zen garden. There is much to learn.
The first photo is a late blooming Papaver somniferum.
Yes, the title alludes to the recent passing of a famous singer/dancer. For the record, my favorite video was Black Or White. R.I.P.
My name is Frances and I am a lifelong gardener, having lived in various parts of the USA over many years. I am now gardening in USDA Zone 7a east Tennessee. From 2000 to 2014 I was gardening on a slope in a small town in Tennessee. I have been blogging about my gardens since December of 2007. Thank you for visiting!
The slope in spring
The slope in fall
The slope in winter
Visit The Hop Ice Cream Cafe When In Asheville, NC
640 Merrimon Ave.
or The Hop West
721 Haywood Rd.
Asheville, North Carolina
Older Posts Of Interest:
The story of the day a throng of cedar waxwings descended upon the garden, shown in the header image. (2009)
An awkward title that explains about making those very tall asters, mums and others shorter by cutting them down by half in May. Now is the time! (2011)
A book inspires the growing of lilies from seed. (2009)
How ten lily bulbs became hundreds. (2010)
A rant about the mistaken thoughts of non-gardeners. (2009)
There was something hidden in the forest and we were lucky enough to be able to see it. (2011)
Dreams turn into reality, in a way. The Green Man/Leaf Man faces live well in my garden now. (2011)
A yard without a lawn. (2010)
A history of all of the faire gardens and a couple of choice tidbits about me. (2009)
Very difficult to only pick your six favorite plants, some of us bent the rules a bit. (2009)
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