Concentration of nature in a Japanese garden


Introduction - garden for rest and contemplation in nature
A natural part of the
cottage for cultural recreation should be an ornamental garden , as a place for pleasant moments of rest in nature, thinking, contemplation. If there is enough space to establish or modify such a garden, more options are offered - for example, a garden in English or French style with flowers, ornamental shrubs and trees. Especially beautiful is the Chinese-style garden with ponds connected by a stream, with waterfalls, arched bridges and pavilions in the shade of ornamental trees (upper part of the following picture).
  However, in the case of small spaces, the possibilities are considerably limited. For a person oriented to Eastern philosophical directions and aesthetic sense, it can then be the optimal optiongarden in the Japanese style . The art of Japanese gardens ( teien , niwa ) has evolved from the original Chinese style for centuries in a confined space and in conjunction with Shintoism and the Japanese offshoot of Zen Buddhism (see also "
Japanese Traditional Music " and " Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism "). Chinese aesthetics was combined with man's respect for the powerful forces of nature, personified by the deities kami .

Chinese style garden
Japanese "Dry" Zen Garden (Ryoanji, Kyoto)

  Several variants of Japanese gardens were created. Until the 7th and 8th centuries, during the Nara and Heian periods , Japanese gardens were similar to Chinese gardens, typical for their lakes, streams, waterfalls, bridges, lamps and pavilions (upper part of the previous picture). Later, after the 11th century. " dry " Zen gardens ( karesansui ) were also established , consisting only of dug sand and gravel with a few suitably spaced stones (bottom picture). Such an abstract Zen garden was actually a meditation tool and environment.
  Also interesting are the miniature "table" gardens ( Saikei ), symbolizing the whole landscape scenery with mountains and lakes, using carefully selected natural stones of special shapes -Suiseki ( sui = water, seki = stone ). These stones were formerly placed on trays filled with water, now water is mostly replaced symbolically by sand; can be possibly supplemented by bonsai
  Another type is a tea garden ( rodji ) with a stylish stone well ( tsukubai ) with a bamboo ladle ( hishaku ); through this garden, a stepping stone leads to the teahouse for a Japanese tea ceremony
(see " Japanese traditional music ") . The aesthetic aspect of Japanese garden architecture combines the concept of wabi-sabi (see " Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism ")- the spirit of cultivated simplicity and unpretentiousness, a shabby charm acquired by the "passage of time".
  In addition to specific plants and garden architecture, the Japanese garden generally has two basic elements :
¨ Stone as a symbol of permanence, immutability, eternity.
Water as an element of variability, instability, life course. The water can be real (ponds, reservoirs, streams) or just symbolic - indicated by areas or strips of sand and gravel.   Our solution was created on the basis of inspiration from both a "dry" stone garden and a tea garden, with an emphasized element of water and a number of our own designs ...

Location of oure Japanese garden
The place where we have been planning the establishment of a Japanese-style garden for several years is the courtyard or atrium of our cottage in Bořenovice, on one side of which is a
pergola with a fireplace and a smokehouse . The following picture is a temporary solution, lasting about 8 years - a grassy area with Chinese lamps and a large solitary ("meditation") stone, around a strip of flowers :

View of part of the original backyard (atrium) of the cottage with a temporary Japanese-style garden

A certain problem here was difficult maintenance, when mowing the grass it was necessary to move the lights; after all, due to drought and irregular watering during our absence, it was not even possible to grow a quality lawn.

Japanese garden - project and technical solution
We therefore decided to build a new Japanese garden , the main part of which will be "dry" with sand and stones, supplemented by garden lamps and smaller water tanks; the remaining area around will be green ground cover plants and Japanese conifers. The garden is carefully prepared, thoroughly and precisely executed not only in parts that are "visible", but also in hidden parts (eg in the subsoil) affecting longevity. The following picture is a plan of our own design of this Japanese garden :

Top view

Plan of a

Side view

Note: From the drawn plan, it may seem at first glance that this is a technocratic concept, which is not in line with the simplicity of the Japanese style *). However, it is only an optical appearance. Some schematic elements are clearly drawn on the schematic plan (electrical wiring is not drawn, however), which are hidden under the surface or inside the individual parts of the garden. Nothing "technical" or modern is reflected in the final look, when the fountain is turned off, the garden looks completely natural and traditional ...
*) Some may laugh and ironically remark: "This is what it looks like when a physicist builds a Japanese garden!". I admit that there is a certain "professional deformation" here, but the resulting work should be the "opposite" of it all, it should create simplicity and harmony.

The work procedure was roughly as follows:
1. Measurement of the position and shape of the base and its drawing on the surface of the land (lawn).
2. Excavation of the marked area to a depth of approx. 50 cm, removal of soil.
3. Measurement and concreting of the foundation under the main water tank. Built-in drain.
4. Measurement of water circulation pipes and drains. Laying water and electricity pipes in concrete.
5. Concreting the entire surface of the oval
(consumption of approx. 2m 3 of concrete) , installation of stone curbs.
6. Insertion and concreting of the main sump, its lining with slate.
7. Alignment, balancing and seating of other elements (container, lamp, stone, etc.) on the feet.
8. Connection of circuits with water, installation of the pump, routing of cables through prepared pipes.
9. Backfilling of the oval surface with sand and pebbles, setting of stepping stones and bowls with plants.
10. Exchange of clay in the surrounding area, excavation of a garden pond, planting of ground cover plants.
11. Excavation of the surrounding strip, pouring of gravel, making of bamboo railings, planting of plants.
12. Planting of bamboos, reeds and special grasses in a "bamboo nook", planting a pond.

At the lowest point of the bottom of the garden fountain, a massive, precisely ground stainless steel drain (diameter 15 cm) is built in.


Gradual construction of a Japanese garden Concreting the foundation under the garden fountain
Tiling the garden well-fountain with green-gray slate

We will now describe the basic elements of our solution.

Area of the Japanese garden
The central part of the Japanese garden consists of an oval surface , concreted at the bottom *), topped with gravel and pebbles . In the perimeter of the oval, stone curbs are set into the concrete, about half covered with gravel. The entire surface is slightly sloping to one place at the narrowest end, where waste with a siphon is built in. Rainwater thus flows freely under the gravel into the waste (siphon waste is covered with a dense nylon mesh against sand clogging). Pipes for water (circulation circuits, drain from drains) and for electricity (supply cable, low voltage distribution 12V for lighting) are built into the concrete foundation
- the plan does not show). Individual elements are placed on this concrete foundation, pebbles are covered all around. Several bowls of bonsai are spread over the sand-lined area.
*) For this purpose, instead of concrete, only plastic insulating foil is usually used. Our solution was chosen in accordance with the above principle of maximum thoroughness, sophistication and longevity.



The main reservoir - a stone well - with a fountain   Japanese garden electronics control panel

The main reservoir with a fountain - "ido"
The main reservoir with water - a kind of elevated small garden well ( Ido ), or rather a "fountain" - is sunk into the depth of the concreted area. It must be made of high quality waterproof concrete , or from a walled plastic or metal container. In our design, well-made concrete "rings" were used, embedded in a massive base of waterproof concrete (picture on the right). The inner diameter is 80cm, the outer 1m, depth 90cm, protrudes about 50cm above the surface. It is lined on the outside and inside with a green-gray slate glued to a flexible waterproofing putty. A massive, precisely ground stainless steel drain is built into the lowest part of the bottom . At the upper edge is brassoverflow pipe maintaining a constant level, which drains excess water out
- through a swaying bamboo pipe shishi-odeshi (see below) flows into a bowl built under the gravel and from there this water is led through a hose to a moss pond in a "bamboo corner", where it provides water change in the pond and irrigation of moisture-loving plants .
Two thinner hoses fitted with a dense protective net also open into the tank below the water surface :
¨ 1. Hose of the " connected vessels " balancing the level in the small "drinking" vessel and the main sump;
2. Hose for possible controlled slow draining, eg in winter when the temperature drops below 0 ° C.
  Two pumps are located at the bottom of the tank: from the more powerful the hose is led to the main fountain above the tank, from the weaker pump the hose is led under the surface into a bamboo pipe, from which water flows into a smaller tsukubai tank (this circuit can be switched off so that only drinking water flows into the cleaning tank) water from a well - see below).
  A control box is lined on the outer rear side of the tank , in which electrical wiring and switches for pumps and lighting are located
(see the previous figure on the right) , as well as connections and valves for water circuit pipes. At the top of the rim of the tank is a smaller Japanese garden lamp of the Rankei type , which is unconventionally used as a fountain.- a tube from the main circulating pump opens into it, the swirling water flows out of the window of the lamp and falls from a height of approx. 50 cm to the level of the tank. This original solution proves to be not only stylish and aesthetic, but also practical (it is not necessary to find and settle drilled stones, etc.) .
  The Japanese Ido Fountain is especially impressive in the evening. In the seemingly mysterious depth of crystal clear water, flashes of bluish light shine ...

Shishi-odshi - "scarecrow on deer"
Water flowing from the main tank-fountain through the overflow pipe is "driven" by a somewhat curious element of the Japanese garden - around the transverse axis of the rotating periodically swinging bamboo pipe . Its front end is filled with inflowing water, the weight of which then lowers it to the ground, the water suddenly flows out, after which the rear part of the pipe is transported and the pipe is straightened again for further water filling. This water-driven rocker bamboo rapper in Japan called Shishi-odoshi ( Sisi odoshi) - "deer scarecrow", according to its original purpose for scaring deer, hares, wild boar and other game that could cause damage in the garden. The animals are frightened by a sharp audible knock, emitted by a periodically tilting and straightening bamboo tube, the back end of which hits a stone.
I made Shishi-odoshi from two basic parts :
1. A bamboo pipe of suitable length and thickness, one end of which I cut obliquely - water flows into it. The volume of the cavity from the cut end to the first "elbow" of the bamboo determines, together with the flow of the inflowing water and the balancing position of the pipe, the perimeter of the tube oscillations . In the appropriate place, carefully measured and balanced, a hole is drilled transversely through the pipe, into which brass bushings are inserted - a metal axis then passes through them , around which the pipe tilts and straightens.
2. A turned wooden post , into which I cut a groove for mounting and moving the swinging bamboo tube. Here, too, holes with metal bushings are drilled transversely.
  The bamboo pipe is inserted into the groove in the post, a 4 rod is inserted through all 4 holes and the metal rod - the axis of rotation is fastened (it is suitable to lubricate it with vaseline). The column with a bamboo tube is mounted on a metal pin, embedded in the concrete base. Everything is measured so that the water from the overflow pipe flows into the cut hole of the upright bamboo pipe and after the pipe is lowered, the water flows into the collecting container, from where it is led through a hose to a pond in a bamboo corner.
  As the product is exposed to the weather (although it can be easily removed from the metal pin and hidden inside), all parts are properly impregnated with luxol and provided with a top layer of quality waterproof varnish (matt, with a silky semi-gloss).

Tsukubai - a stone reservoir with constantly flowing drinking water Swinging water-powered bamboo tube Shishi-odoshi - "scarecrow for deer"

Cleaning reservoir with drinking water - tsukubai
Next to the main tank or well with a fountain there is a small stone vessel on the pedestal - a "purification tank" with constantly flowing water (called tsukubai * in Japan ), above the surface of which a hollow bamboo tube opens. water falling on the surface. Two hoses lead into it :
¨ 1. A secondary hose from the fountain circulator (usually switched off);
2. Thin hose supplying drinking water from a well .
At the bottom of this tank is a connecting hose with the main tank (balancing levels - connected vessels), through which water flows out of the bamboo pipe
(flows into the main tank with a fountain) . In the case of a stopped inflow from the fountain pump, only drinking water flows in, so that the container can then be considered as a " drinking water well ". A bamboo ladle hishaku (hishaku) is placed over the container on a bamboo mat for drinking or rinsing hands, even before drinking tea.
  From the spring of water falling on the surface, a small part of the droplets is sprayed and irrigated the outer walls of the vessel, which are covered with moss.

*) The name tsukubai comes from the Japanese word tsukubau , which means to bend down - the cleaning tanks were originally placed in front of tea houses low to the ground. (approx. 20-30 cm), so the visitor (who had previously put down the weapon) had to humbly bow to them. However, these tanks are often also made of higher stones excavated at the top, or they settle on stone bases . Higher stone water reservoirs are generally called chozubachi - a water reservoir .

A well from which drinking water flows
into the Tsukubai reservoir
Left: Power and water distribution board
In the middle: Ionex column for water demineralization

Harmonious sound of water
An important part of a Japanese garden is water . Not only "standing" water in a pond or chozubachi stone reservoir , but also flowing water - a fountain or a small waterfall, water flowing over stones into the pond, or just a thin stream of water flowing from a bamboo tube into the tsukubai purification reservoir .
In order to amplify the sound effect of running water, in Japanese gardens, special ceramic vessels of suitable size, a kind of resonant chamber, into which the water flowing from the tsukubai flowed from a height, were sometimes built into the subsoil under the tsukubai tanks . At a suitable height of the water level in the underground vessel, a certain resonance occurred and thus to amplify the sound of running water, resp. certain harmonic tones. This arrangement was called Suikinkutsu
( suikinkucu ), water koto cave *) - "underground water harp or zither". From the underground resonant tank, a bamboo tube is sometimes led above the surface, serving as a sound pipe for better penetration of water sound out.
*) Koto is a Japanese table zither, see "
Japanese music ".   
  We did not implement this element in our garden - on the one hand it would be difficult to build it into the concrete subsoil, on the other hand there would be problems with the slope of the water drain and maintaining the optimal level (there is not enough terrain). Above all, however, the sound of water flowing out of the lamp holes rankei and falling from a height of about 50cm on the surface of the fountain, is in itself sufficiently intense and harmonious.
  The picturesque sound of running water, together with an aesthetic visual view of the sober shapes of garden lamps and water tanks, the unpretentious greenery of mosses, ferns, woody plants and other plants, has a very calming, magical and psycho (or even psycho-somatic?) Healing effect . The shishi-odeshi bamboo trumpet sometimes taps the music of running water with a hollow wooden sound . Such a garden is a suitable environment for meditation in nature at any time of the day or year, even in winter the quiet beauty of snow-covered plants , lamps and wells has a calming effect.

Quiet winter mood in the "bamboo corner" of the Japanese garden

Japanese garden lamp - Rankei
An important aesthetic part, which completes the style of the garden, is a raised Japanese garden lamp made of stone (or artificial sandstone), type Rankei . Its shape looks nice even during the day, in the evening it creates intimate to magical lighting, especially when we use a candle *) in the "house" of the lamp , the flame of which casts a flickering play of light and shadow. Under the hanging garden lamp Rankei is placed in the gravel a larger bowl of water as a "mini lake" and in the middle as an "island" is built a formation of stones - Suiseki style .
*) In addition to the now frequently used electric lighting, tealights can be recommended- lasts to burn min. 4 o'clock. In case of windy weather, I use a large natural quartz crystal illuminated from below by LEDs (as shown in the picture below).
  We let the upper part of the roofs of Japanese garden lamps grow with moss , which contributes to the natural appearance of the garden.

Japanese garden lamp Rankei Solitary stone in bamboo still life Suiseki - "water and stone" - a miniature pond under a Rankei lamp

Solitary stone
A large oval stone (weighing about 250 kg), which was found during sand mining, is built in a bamboo corner, above the pond. In order to keep the stone firmly in a vertical position and not to overturn, a metal pin is drilled in its lower part, embedded in the concrete base; it is lined with smaller stones, including travertine, from the holes of which water springs. In addition to this main stone
(with a bit of exaggeration we called it a "meditation stone" years ago) there are several smaller nice stones of interesting shapes.

Surrounding greenery, ornamental trees, mosses, stepping stones
The surrounding area around the "dry" sand garden is planted with ground cover plants , especially periwinkle (2 species - with dark green leaves and with lighter brindle leaves) and moss. Unlike ordinary grass, such vegetation, once well rooted and densely grown, is still green and practically maintenance-free , only once a year it is slightly pruned so that it does not grow further than necessary. In the upper part of the garden around the main well with a fountain are planted some Japanese ornamental trees - silver fir Abies Koreana 'Silver Star' , small-flowered pine Pinus Parviflora and pine-like conifer Sciadopitys verticillata with beautiful long and stiff needles creating a kind of "umbrellas" at the end of the twigs - see picture below. Furthermore, low dense azaleas .
  The curbs of the oval surface, as well as the tsukubai tank , are lined with moss . The tsukubai cleaning tank and the roof of the Japanese rankei garden lamps are also covered with moss . In order not to burden the ground cover with pedaling, stepping stones , also lined with moss , are deposited here .

A low bamboo railing symbolically separates the Japanese garden's own space from the surrounding sidewalks, with passages on stepping stones

The whole area around the Japanese garden is lined with a narrow strip strewn with stones and gravel, with sunken pots with low heather, cranberries and some other modest plants. A low bamboo railing is set in the edge of this strip , symbolically separating the space of the Japanese garden from the surrounding sidewalks, with passages on stepping stones.
Note : The walls, doors and windows surrounding the atrium still need to be adapted to a style harmonizing with the Japanese garden.

Some less common and rare tree species also fit well into the Japanese garden. The small silver fir
Abies Koreana 'Silver Star' (comes from mountainous areas in Korea) is characterized by irregular and very slow growth, but even relatively small trees are already planting cones.

Another interesting plant is similar to pine Sciadopitys verticillata ( sciadopitys or Umbrella Japanese ). This beautiful tree with long needles is considered sacred in Japan. A typical conifer of the Japanese garden is Pinus parviflora ( Small-flowered Pine ); the picture shows the cultivar ' Glauca ' with blue-silver needles.

Bamboo still life, mossy pond
In one corner of the garden, where there is more shade and moist soil, there are planted bamboo, reeds, ferns, various species of heavier grasses, mosses and moisture-loving plants, surrounding a small "mossy" garden pond sunk into the soil (water volume 150 l).

From the mossy part of a Japanese garden around a pond in a bamboo still life

Beneath the solitary stone in the narrower edge of the garden pond, a travertine stone is set, from the opening of which water springs and flows down a flat stone into the pond. The water in the pond is changed via a hose, which leads the water flowing through an overflow pipe from the main well-fountain (via shishi-odoshi ). This " bamboo still life " suitably completes the intimate style of the Japanese garden.

"Bamboo still life" with a pond, lamp and stones in the shady part of the Japanese garden.
Rock garden in the area around the Japanese garden Bamboo still life in early spring

Problems and pitfalls of our implementation
During the practical implementation of our Japanese garden, some pitfalls appeared that we were not sufficiently aware of before :

Japanese garden: Orthodox "pure" style? - or just Japanese inspiration ?
When establishing and building a garden in the Japanese style, the question naturally arises as to how much to try to consistently implement the "pure" style of one of the traditional types of Japanese gardens. When building our garden, I approached this question in such a way that we are not Japanese and do not live in a remote island country with specific natural conditions and cultural traditions. We live in Europe and consistently "pure" Japanese style could be problematic (after all, which of many styles to choose?). I tried to inspire the style of traditional Japanese gardens , to take the typical and beautiful that enriches our aesthetics and to complete the rest according to my own ideas., possibilities and imagination ...

??? Tea pavilion above the Japanese garden ???

One of the purposes of the Japanese garden is to calm the mind for meditation and to create an atmosphere for tea meetings. We are therefore considering (???) to build a smaller tea pavilion on the terrace above the Japanese garden as a place not only for preparing and drinking tea, but also for pleasant sitting, contemplation and observation of the surrounding nature - including a Japanese garden extending below the pavilion.

There is space on a brick terrace or roof, about 2.5 meters above the atrium with a Japanese garden. The pavilion would be circular, resp. hexagonal shape with a diameter of approx. 3m, made of wooden beams lined with carved boards. Up to a height of about 80 cm, the walls would be full, the windows above them - free air during the summer, in winter the possibility of retracting double vacuumed glass. Possibility of electric heating in winter, walls and roof with thermal insulation. The door is located from the back, coming around the Japanese garden, then up a few steps and a small bridge from the 2nd terrace. 6-sided pyramidal roof with a curved shape of Chinese or Japanese style.
  Under each of the 6 protrusions of the roof hung a Chinese garden lantern with the possibility of full or dim lighting. Interior lighting using a Chinese carved lamp with painted glass hanging from the top of the ceiling. Inside simple equipment - a low table with a cauldron and tea utensils, a bench, a niche ( tokonoma ) with a natural picture and a flower ........
............... all this is so far at the stage of the project ............
............... Unfortunately, this did not happen - due to the disapproval of the family and later the loss of physical strength of the Japanese founder. gardens ........

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