A little bit of Japan (and Widnes!)

In January 2011 we took the trip of a lifetime to Okayama, Japan for the wedding of our eldest son to a lovely Japanese girl he had actually met in Brighton.  Before the wedding we spent a few days visiting the shrines and temples of Kyoto and saw the most beautiful Japanese gardens.  We all fell in love with the serenity and simplicity of these gardens and vowed to try to recreate a small part of them at home.

Japanese garden in Kyoto

Japanese garden in Kyoto

An  opportunity came about following a disastrous bit of garden design. We had decided to improve our very tatty patio and rockery area at the back of the house and had a new design done professionally.   Actually there was nothing wrong with the design – it was the implementation that went wrong.

The designer had some good ideas, though he was rather miffed that we wouldn’t remove a cherished ornamental cherry  to fit in with his path design.   We ended up moving the paths a little – I’m sure no-one else has noticed they are not exactly where they should be.

The other idea he came up with was a shallow reflective pool , about 4 ft by 2 ft,  at one end of the patio.  He allowed us to have a small bubbling fountain in the centre, but no fish, weed or anything else to distract from the design.  We approved the design and happily went out one day leaving the builder digging the hole.  When we came back though the shallow pool was at least four feet deep!!!   The builder’s excuse was that he couldn’t get a pump to fit anything less deep.   Don’t ask me why we didn’t make him fill it back in to the specified depth, but we didn’t . . .

So now we are left with this wonderfully reflective but very deep pool in the middle of our patio.  I couldn’t sleep at night for worrying that some drunk would wonder through our garden and fall into the water.  We don’t live in a bad area, but you just never know. I couldn’t stop worrying what I would find in the water in the morning.  All we could do then was to make a wooden cover for the pool  at night.  It was amazingly awkward to lift the cover on or off the pool so then we added a handle to help the process.  This, of course, made the cover look like some sort of trap-door.  You could even see this door in the middle of our patio on Google Earth!  Visitors got very perplexed when they saw it thinking we had some sort of secret bunker  under our patio.

The final straw to my nerves was when our granddaughter, by now a toddler, was due to visit from Japan.  At that point we decided the  pool would have to go.  We had this brilliant idea that we could make the space into a little Japanese garden.   We filled it in, buried a big pot with a beautiful maple at one side and placed a small Buddha at the other.  It was finished off with some lovely white chukkies and lovingly raked with a trowel to make it more authentic.

(Compare and contrast with featured image of  Zen garden in Kyoto!)

patio pond filled in and norton park

A little bit of Japan – and Widnes

We were  delighted with our creation  – that is until a good friend of ours came by and asked us who was buried there!

Please do let us have suggestions what we can do with this area next – perhaps it will be third time lucky.

Oh I nearly forgot – the rather beautiful grey planter, at the back right of the pictue, containing – er – grass is very special to my husband.  We call it Naughton Park.  It is a piece of hallowed turf from Widnes Rugby League Club  that was sold off to make way for an artificial pitch.

Next garden blog The sad tale of my little plum tree

15 thoughts on “A little bit of Japan (and Widnes!)

  1. I think it will look better when the tree matures and grows ,its early days so give it time ,being a builder myself I laughed at your builders story .
    Regards David

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  4. What a story! Have you considered darker stones (blacks and greys) of different sizes from pebbles up? River stones with a mix of smooth and rough might be nice. Perhaps a very low bamboo fence along the back side edge behind Buddha would help it look less like a plot. 🙂

    • Different sized stones is a really good idea. Not sure about the fence as it would hide the rockery, but maybe OK if very low. The maple really isn’t doing well and has hardly grown. I think it is too windy. I might try an azalea next and prune it like they do in Japan. Actually maybe I could have a few azaleas to make the wave shapes. Thanks for reminding me to do something with this area.
      We have since built a much nicer Japanese garden against the garage, but I have yet to blog about it. It is on my list.

      • Another idea with the stones… did you get to Ginkakuji in Kyoto? That garden has large mounds of sand and little pebbles looking like Mt. Fuji. I’ll look for a pic if not.

        I’ll see if I can find a picture too of what I envision with the fence. 🙂 It would be about a foot high at the most using narrow slats of bamboo tied together near the top and bottom.

        The azalea sounds like a lovely idea. Do azaleas grow smallish in your neck of the woods? The bushes in Japan are enormous!

        I’m very much looking forward to your post about your Japanese garden #2!

        • That all sounds very promising. No we didn’t see Ginkakuji – at least I don’t think so. We saw so many beautiful places that they all kind of merged into one at the end. Yes Azaleas do stay small, especially if they are grown in a pot as this would be. I don’t think they are generally pruned hard here either, so that will be an interesting experiment.
          I am very behind with my general gardening posts having been away and also with the photo course, but I will try to start the Japanese posts soon. I have lots of photos, both of my own garden and from Japan.

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  6. Oh, I’ve always wanted to visit Japan. I’ve been to China three times. But Japan is on my must visit list. Probably have to wait until both girls have finished uni. That’s taking all our spare cash at the moment.

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