Thursday, 20 August 2009

Return to the Japanese Garden.....!

After all the fun of our French holiday, I had to come back to earth with a bump and get on with treating and sealing the wood for the tea house ... so I decided to do another tea house themed post in the hope that I might actually move the blog into real time, rather than flirting with the work we did last summer!

However, in order to get us there, let me take you back in time .......... yes, to last summer, 2008.
The top pond was done - the rocks were all in place and I'd snuck a bit of planting in when Himself wasn't looking! The majority of the stream was completed to our satisfaction, but the last couple of feet below the bottom bridge to the bottom pond still only had rocks plonked on them to keep the slabs from moving.

My next task was to finish moving the vast pile of top soil that I had dug out of the pond and dumped by the laurel. This had made the land at the side of the stream way too high, so the soil had to go - again! One day I'll work out where I'll ultimately want soil or rocks or whatever and put the stuff there in the first place rather than shift it all several times!

In the first photo I'd begun digging out - but I was being a bit cautious about the soil near the streamside rocks. I didn't really move that bit of soil very far - surprise, surprise! I backfilled behind the pond liner that edged the stream and made sure the stones were securely in place. I then pushed soil down all the gaps and made it level with the tops of the rocks so that they looked more bedded-in and permanent.

I shifted about 8-10 inches soil depth over an area of about 15 feet by 8 feet. That's a LOT of soil! I only went as far as the pile of stones by the tree - but it was plenty far enough! Today I've been digging out and moving (sigh!) the last of the soil by the tree.

The pile of tree slices with the red box on top are Himself's solution to keeping the pond filter out of direct sunlight ......... I'd have just put a bag over it, but hey!

Although many things have changed in the Japanese garden since this time last year, neither the stream below the bridge nor the bottom pond have - yet!.............. they STILL aren't finished and STILL look exactly the same as in this photo!!!

Once I'd moved most of the soil I was able to level out what was left and put the stepping stones in place. I carefully placed them all, took the photo, dug the holes, sunk each one into place and got them all nice and level. The next time I looked, some idiot had put them all in a straight line!!!

Can't have been me .......... I don't do straight lines!

Japanese gardens are supposed to take you on a journey of discovery, with new things being revealed as you go along. You're not supposed to see it all immediately - a staight line of stepping stones meant that we'd be able to see the tea house from the bottom path. I knew full well that I'd have to dig 'em all up and reposition them ....... but it turned out that they were quite useful as a short cut as they were - so we left them like that until this spring!

Not a lot was done on the garden over winter - because it was cold and wet with lots of snow and we were doing the renovations on the inside of the house then. You know, I've heard about this thing called 'time off' ............ Anyway, by this spring (- yes, we've made it into 2009!!) we were ready to start again. I set a deadline for completion by my birthday in April. HA HA ! but then we looked at what there still was to do - it was never going to happen by my birthday, not this year's one anyway! Still ... ever the optimist!

We had to clear the topsoil from where the tea house is going to go. This coincided with having some huge laurels chopped right back lower down the garden nearer the house and me taking the opportunity to reshape the border which had expanded along with the laurel. Most, no - ALL the plants, shrubs and bushes in the border had died because they had been smothered by the laurel so the dead remains had to be cleared out - which I did during the week.

We roped in Calamity and the BeanPole to help. I marked out the new border with my trusty hose pipe and transplanted all the plants that were growing in what was going to be grass back into the border area. ( I confess - I also had a trip the the nursery earlier in the week and bought a few goodies so that the border didn't look too empty!)

They dug out the soil from the tea house base and transfered it down the garden to raise the level of the soil next to the new border. Somehow Calamity managed to persuade the BeanPole to do most of the digging and hauling the wheel barrow while Calamity did the easy job of spreading and leveling the soil!

The area was then seeded and Himself borrowed the brassica cage (which wasn't yet in use) and made a cage to protect the grass seed from the pigeons - and very successful it was too!

Whilst all this was going on, we also moved the fruit cage back about a foot to give us a bit more room at the back of the tea house - but there are no photos of that as it took me, Himself, First-Born, Last-Born, Calamity and the BeanPole to shift it, so there was no one to play photographers!

But look what I found in the pond that day - a natural frog spawn heart!

I was quite tired by the Sunday night!


Anna said...

This sounds like a challenging project but great fun I would imagine. I have only ever seen a couple of Japanese gardens but was most struck with the one at Tatton Hall in Cheshire. Look forward to hearing more about your progress.

Nutty Gnome said...

Hi Anna - it is great fun .... but I'm quite tired today after lugging soil about again yesterday! I just hope the end result looks like the picture I've had in my head since before I started! :)

Rob (ourfrenchgarden) said...

Ah the story continues.

Moving soil is a job but don't focus on the huge pile, bit by bit.

I gues as things come together you can focus on th eend game:) The planting.

Nutty Gnome said...

Hi Rob - the soil shifting is going well, but I've been in and out like a yoyo today dodging the showers!

I cheat though, I'm too impatient ...I do a bit then plant a bit! Mind you, if I'd waited until the end to plant I'd be wading waist deep through grass and weeds by now :)

Camellia said...

That IS a lot of soil. I think that journey idea is a true one - perhaps even with a garden without a japanese stream...

Take care!

HappyMouffetard said...

"Quite tired" - I should imagine that's a bit of an understatement!

Nutty Gnome said...

Hi Camellia - I've certainly been on a journey of discovery doing the garden. I've discovered muscles I never knew I had, a previously hidden love of getting my hands in the soil and the joy of learning abouts plants! Long may my journey continue :)

HM - you're right, "quite tired" IS an understatement, but I don't know if I'm allowed to put words like 'knackered' on blogger!!! :0

Mrs Robinson said...

I LOVE the heart! Don't you just love how nature continues to surprise and inspire? I think it is a very good omen for the sanctuary you are creating... there is, and will be, much love surrounding you and yours!!

Nutty Gnome said...

Hi Mrs Robinson - what a lovely comment, thank you! Work continues apace on the garden and tea house - and, at some point soon, the blog will catch up with real life!

It already feels very peaceful up there - especially when I have the stream running as I work... that is a lovely sound to work to!

Heather Bell said...

No wonder you were tired. That is a huge job. But you must be so satisfied to see the progress.

Monica the Garden Faerie said...

Wow a lot of work went into that--that IS a lot of soil and I don't like straight lines, either. :) Love the frog eggs shaped like a heart. Am curious as to what your tea house looks like now. :)

Nutty Gnome said...

Hi Heather - nice to meet you! It IS a huge job .... and we've just decided to extend it a bit - no rest for the wicked eh (except when it's raining!)

Hi Monica - the main tea house frame went up this last weekend and the roof rafters are due to go on this weekend. The blog will catch up on the progress in real time at some point soon! :)

Thomas said...

Very impressive project! I can already feel the tranquility growing. Where are you finding inspiration? Any good books or online sources you would recommend for someone interested in starting a Japanese garden?

Nutty Gnome said...

Hi Thomas - wow, your plot has changed a lot since I last had a look at it!

Yes, I'm pleased with how peaceful and calming the Japanese garden is - even though it's surrounded by other gardens it does seem to be a little haven of tranquility!

Erm, I'm not QUITE sure where my initial idea came from - except that I needed a distinct therapy space for my Holistic Therapies practice (reiki/reflexology/Tai Chi/EFT/ massage), I love bamboos and grasses and have always been intriqued by Eastern cultures.

I had the idea of the garden - the shape, the ponds, the tea house - in my head long before I started work on it. I found an old scribbled 'plan' the other day that I'd done ages ago to try to show Himself what I was try/hoping to achieve ......what we've got now looks amazingly similar!!!

A couple of good books to use as starting points are:
- Serene Gardens by Yoko Kawaguchi (ISBN 978-84537-916-2) and
- A Japanese Touch for your Garden by Kiyoshi Seike et al. (ISBN 4-7700-1661-1)

Happy reading :)

HappyMouffetard said...

Hi NG, you asked on my blog about seeing when sweetcorn is ready to pick. The tassles at the end go very brown, and then you peel back the leaves a little to uncover a few kernels. If you stick a fingernail in a kernel and the liquid that comes out is white rather than clear, then the cob should be ripe. It seems to work for me - hope that helps!

Thomas said...

Much thanks for the reading suggestions. I've always wanted to grow bamboo myself but am a bit nervous that they may end up being too prolific (I heard they could be quite vigorous. I was planning on creating little shade garden next to my plot next year...maybe a Japanese theme would be just the thing!

Nutty Gnome said...

Hi HM - thanks for that. I've just been and tried it, but the liquid is still clear so I'll give it another day or two! I'm really looking forward to eating our own cobs! :)

Hi Thomas - you'll be fine providing you choose clumping bamboo rather than running bamboo. Black bamboo 'Phyllostachys Nigra' is a good bet - it stays in a nice neat clump, takes about 10 years to fully mature and looks great in winter with its black stems!

I think a Japanese themed shadey garden would be lovely next to your plot. Go for it!