Talkin’ bout green revolution

The strange case of guerilla gardener Henry Docter who planted perennials and harvested tweets.  Does his work remind authorities too much of a country going to seed?  Via Metro Shuts Down Dupont Circle “Phantom Planter’s” Comeback Attempt | Local News | Washingtonian

Henry Docter’s illegally planted flowers livened up the side of the Dupont Circle Metro station before the transit agency ripped them out. Photograph by Flickr user Julie Meloni.


Top 10 Japanese Gardens in N. America (2013)

Sukiya Living (The Journal of Japanese Gardening) published the latest list of the top 10  Japanese gardens in North America in its September / October 2013 issue.  The list is based on a survey of Japanese garden specialists and covers the more than 300 public Japanese gardens in the continent.

10.  Tillman Water Plant Japanese Garden (Van Nuys, California) Located in the premises of the Donald C. Tillman Reclamation Plant, the Suiho En ”garden of water and fragrance” is a 6½ acre authentic Japanese garden fashioned after stroll gardens constructed during the 18th and 19th centuries for Japanese feudal lords. It incorporates three classical designs: a dry kare sansui, a wet garden with promenade, and an authentic tea ceremony garden incorporating a 4.5 tatami mat tea room.

Photo from

9. Missouri Botanical Garden (St. Louis, Missouri) Seiwa-en, “garden of pure, clear harmony and peace,” is located on 14 acres at the Missouri Botanical Garden, one of the oldest botanical gardens in the nation. The Japanese Garden, dedicated in 1977, was designed by the late Professor Koichi Kawana, a native of Japan and lecturer on environmental design and landscape architecture at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Photo courtesy of Missouri Botanical Garden

8. Carleton College Japanese Garden (Northfield, Minnesota) The Jo Ryo En ”garden of quiet listening” was designed and constructed by  Dr. David Slawson between 1974 and 1976. Dr. Slawson, who received his doctorate in Japanese literature and aesthetics from Indiana University, studied for two years in Kyoto with Kinsaku Nakane, one of Japan’s foremost garden designers.

Photo by Margit Johnson

7. Seattle Japanese Garden Located within the Washington Park Arboretum in Seattle, Washington, this is a 3 1/2 acre formal garden designed and constructed in 1960 under the supervision of world-renowned Japanese garden designer Juki Iida who has designed more than 1,000 gardens around the world.

Photo from Parks and Recreation

6. Bloedel Reserve Japanese Garden (Bainbridge Island, Washington) Located within a 150-acre arboretum and national reserve, this garden was designed by Seattle landscape designer and nurseryman Fujitaro Kubota. Professor Koichi Kawana, who teaches landscape architecture at the University of California, also designed a dry garden, which evokes meditative moods with its elements of stone and sand.

Photo from

5. Garvan Woodland Gardens (Hot Springs, Arkansas) The “garden of the pine wind” is a four-acre, majestic rock and stream garden.  This garden was also designed by Dr. David Slawson and features approximately 300 varieties of Asian ornamental plants, including 60 types of Japanese and other Asian maples and Oriental dogwoods. Key features include the Sunrise Bridge, the Joy Manning Scott Bridge of the Full Moon, three major cascades, a 12-foot waterfall, two springs, four pools, and a half-acre koi pond.

Photo from

4. UBC’s Nitobe Garden (Vancouver, British Columbia) This is a traditional Japanese tea and stroll Garden located on the grounds of the University of British Columbia. It was created out of two-and-a-half acres (one hectare) of pristine forest by landscape architects and gardeners recommended by the government of Japan. The garden honours Inazo Nitobe (1862-1933), a prominent Japanese agricultural economist, author, educator, diplomat and politician.

Check out my visit to this Japanese garden here.

Photo: Grace R Morrissey

3. Shofuso Japanese House and Garden (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) This traditional-style house and nationally-ranked garden reflects the history of Japanese culture in Philadelphia from the 1876 Centennial Exposition to the installation of its contemporary paintings in 2007.  A viewing garden with koi pond and island, a tea garden, and a courtyard garden comprise the 17th century-style Japanese walled and fenced garden of this historic site.

Photo from

2. Anderson Gardens (Rockford, Illinois) The second best garden for 2013 was built in the late 70′s around a naturally-occurring spring-fed pond on the estate of John Anderson, whose lifelong fascination with Japan started after college. Garden designer Hoichi Kurisu spent many years studying under Kenzo Ogata, one of Japan’s most renowned landscape designer. The strolling pond garden includes several waterfalls and ponds, streams, rock formations, winding paths, and a tea house and guest house.  The “garden of reflection” is a contemporary Japanese-inspired garden with bronze angel sculptures.

Photo from

 1. Portland Japanese Garden (Portland, Oregon) Adjudged once more as North America’s best Japanese garden, this is a garden museum featuring five styles of Japanese garden (strolling pond, natural garden, tea garden, sand-and-stone garden/flat garden) on a 5.5-acre hilly area overlooking downtown Portland. Designed by Prof. Takuma Tono of Tokyo Agricultural University, it is celebrating its 50th year anniversary this year and has expansion plans in place in the next few years, including the creation of a public tea house and a center for Japanese gardening education.

Check out the “Festival of Souls” at the garden here.

During the recent O-bon festival at the Portland Japanese Garden. Photo: Grace R Morrissey


Vertical gardens breathe new life into densely populated Asian cities

Apart from the environmental benefits, urban plantings also make us feel better, said Hassell, citing biophilia, a hypothesis that suggests there is an instinctive bond between human beings and other living systems.

“Scientists are not quite sure why but it seems to have a measurable effect. People love gardens,” he said.

via Vertical gardens breathe new life into densely populated Asian cities | South China Morning Post.

Campaign to save historic Sayes Court garden

Local schoolchildren look at a model of Evelyn's garden, based on a plan from about 1651.

“Sayes Court garden was built more than 350 years ago. In 1651, Evelyn was granted a 99-year lease on a parcel of land by his friend, Charles II. Here, on the banks of the Thames, he built a legendary garden, world-famous for its use of French and Italian features. Yet nothing has survived, and the only inkling we have of its past glories comes from Evelyn’s writing.”

via Campaign to save historic Sayes Court garden – Telegraph.

Monk’s House, the garden that inspired Virginia Woolf

“I often think that when you create and live with a garden, part of you is embodied in it. It reflects how you live, what you like, your character. Monk’s House, in the village of Rodmell in Sussex, is a fascinating example of this, with much of Virginia Woolf’s spirit living on.”

Oasis of calm: the full garden vista at Monk’s House Photo: Caroline Arber

via Monk’s House, the garden that inspired Virginia Woolf – Telegraph.

Update: Fresh off the press is the book “Virginia Woolf’s Garden,” available in hardcover through Amazon. The blurb says this “chronological account takes the reader through the key events in the lives of Virginia and Leonard Woolf and their deaths. This is allied to an account of the garden and its development.”

Oudolf’s cosmology of perennials

A cosmic tale of birth, growth, fortitude, mortality and rebirth. Perennials in the garden have a way of impressing upon us how the big wheels of the universe turn in a way that stolid evergreens and even deciduous shrubs and trees cannot.

Photo via

One of their biggest champions in the garden design scene right now is probably Dutch designer Piet Oudolf who is known for his painterly compositions of perennials as blocks of color and texture in the open landscape.

Photo by Herman Wouters for the New York Times

Photo by Herman Wouters for the New York Times

He imbues his perennials with a cosmological persona, departing from the mundane categories used by botanists for classifying flower heads for example, (i.e. raceme, panicle, umbel) to invoke themes of  heaven and earth — much like an ikebana floral arrangement would in a more concise format.

In his 1999 book “Designing with Plants” (co-written with Noel Kingsbury), he offers the following observations:  

  •  SPIRES “thrust our vision skywards, reminding us of other realms, connecting heaven and earth. Spire-shaped flower heads add lift to the garden, severing its bonds to the earth.”

  • UMBELS “are, in a way, the opposite to spires, their gently rounded shapes counterbalancing the energy of the sky-seeking spires.”

  • DAISIES “remind us of the sun, not just because of their shape but also because they are so often found in sunny places: meadows, fields, and prairies.”

In seeing other-worldly meanings in the physical structure of perennials, Oudolf also invites us to contemplate the changing nature of their beauty.  A summer garden with perennials is easy to love but just as easy to dismiss if you’re only looking at the brilliance of the flowers. Oudolf believes that like a truly beautiful human being, a perennial can be just as interesting in its other stages of becoming.

“The sensitive gardener will observe that there are many more stages in the life of a perennial that are deserving of study and appreciation than simply the flowers — buds, unfurling leaves, seed heads, autumn foliage, winter’s skeletal remains.”

An Oudolf landscape is then capable of transforming from a colorful impressionist painting to something reminiscent of a monochromatic landscape work from China’s Song Dynasty era where only the forms matter.


Garden Visit:Nat’l Bonsai & Penjing Museum


This gallery contains 9 photos.

This museum, located in Washington DC’s US National Arboretum,  literally grew out of a symbolic donation from Japan of 53 venerable bonsai trees during the US Bicentennial in 1976. The original donation of 50 trees (to represent the 50 states … Continue reading