Zen and the art of Gardening

The last two weeks involved a lot of traveling for Christina and I. We first spent a week in Kyoto for training in Umekoji Park.

Umekoji Park. We came a too early to Kyoto to appreciate autumn color.

Umekoji Park. We came too early to Kyoto to appreciate autumn color.

Pruning a Quercus phillyareoides (Ubame oak) hedge.

Pruning a Quercus phillyareoides (Ubame oak) hedge.

Deadheading Eupatorium japonica.

Deadheading Eupatorium japonica.

That weekend we attended a garden display competition. 16 teams of two had 11 hours to create a Japanese garden display.

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The early stages of development.

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The (almost) finished display of my favorite display. The team created the curved bamboo rails by using a tool that slit the bamboo in the center which allows it to be flexible.

We tried to visit as many gardens as we could with the free time that we had.

Kinkaku-ji, the Golden Pavilion. Each floor of the temple represents a different style of Japanese architecture.

Kinkaku-ji, the Golden Pavilion. Each floor of the temple represents a different style of Japanese architecture.

So far, my favorite use of tobiishi, stepping stones found at Tenjuan. When stepping stones are placed in the water, they're called Sawatobi.

My favorite use of tobiishi, stepping stones, found at Tenjuan. When stepping stones are placed in the water, they are called sawatobi.

Autumn color! But still too early for a really impressive display.

Autumn color! But still too early for a really impressive display.

Ginkaku-ji, the Silver Pavillion. Founded more than 100 years after Kinkaku-ji, is much more subtle in its beauty.

Ginkaku-ji, the Silver Pavillion. Founded more than 100 years after Kinkaku-ji, is much more subtle in its beauty.

Hakusha, white sand, is used in zen temples signifying purity. No leaves or debris is allowed on the sand by cleaning it every day.

Hakusha, white sand, is used in zen temples signifying purity. No leaves or debris is allowed on the sand by cleaning it every day.

Aristolochia salvadrensis in the Kyoto Botanical Garden's conservatory.

Aristolochia salvadrensis in the Kyoto Botanical Garden’s conservatory.

One of my favorite plants! Furcraea foetida var. Mediopicta! A perfect geometrical sphere!

One of my favorite plants! Furcraea foetida var. Mediopicta! A perfect geometrical sphere!

The following week we stayed at a Buddhist temple in Kumamoto to learn and work in the construction of a garden by landscape architect Takahiro Inoue.

Check out the sweet bed!

Check out the sweet bed!

The Buddhist temple. Every day we woke up to observe the morning chant.

The Buddhist temple. Every day we woke up to observe the morning chant.

The pagoda in which a new garden is being constructed for.

The pagoda where  the new garden is being constructed.

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Construction of the waterfall for the garden. Stone placement is very important as it affects the direction of flowing water.

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Christina and I were taught how to properly chisel stone and to place it underneath the larger stones that were already place. Its much harder than it looks, and everyone working on the project makes it look very easy.

A finished section of our work. Sure, no one will really care to notice our stone placements as there will be water up to my shoulder...

A finished section of our work. Sure, no one will really care to notice our stone placements as there will be water up to my left shoulder…

Kumamon, Kumamoto's mascot. Each prefecture of Japan has a mascot. For some reason, Kumamon is the most popular one of Japan. I think he's really scary.

Kumamon, Kumamoto’s mascot. Each prefecture of Japan has a mascot which is used everywhere you go within that prefecture. For some reason, Kumamon is the most popular prefecture mascot of Japan. I think he’s really scary.

Nightmare inducing.

He’s EVERYWHERE. Creating nightmares for many years to come.

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