Designing a Japanese-style garden in England

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While I was in England, this big nurseryman found out about me and he got a hold of me and asked me to design a Japanese garden for him at the nursery. And he had this great, big section which was kind of narrow but it had 3 teardrops coming down. And he had water coming down there. So Japanese landscaping is done by freehand. Nothing is measured out. It’s always by sight. You’re looking at the side. This goes here, this goes there. So I designed it with a Japanese bridge, a teahouse, a kneeling pond with 3 waterfalls.

But they didn’t have the stones I needed. I’m always used to working with granite. It’s a harder stone. Their stones are like sandstone and they’re very crumbly. Eventually, it would all dissipate. So we devised a way to color concrete and made our stones out of concrete. And that was very tedious.

I was back in England last year to see my grandkids. The design…the landscaping is still there. My daughter said, “Wouldn’t you like to come see your garden?” I said, “No, it’s ok.” Everything now is matured, the shrubs and everything. And I told the owner, “If you get these pine logs and you kind of rough it up a little bit and take a blowtorch, don’t burn the wood too heavy, just slightly scar it and then lacquer it.” That gave the effect of old timber. So that’s what he did. It’s still there.

Date: December 1, 2005
Location: California, US
Interviewer: Daniel Lee
Contributed by: Watase Media Arts Center, Japanese American National Museum

england gardeners gardening landscaping

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