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Front Desk- Open To Public => General Discussion => Topic started by: Akitakoi on July 22, 2009, 02:05:50 pm

Title: Design help request.
Post by: Akitakoi on July 22, 2009, 02:05:50 pm
I have been posting in the welcome section, thought I would post here for some possible design help/advice.

I'm building a large Japanese style garden on my 5 acre lot, once it was a limestone quarry.

Design problem: The entrance to the garden is at the top of a very steep hill. It is also the area I view the lower/pond area from.
I was thinking a dry garden, mass plantings and natural steps and stepping stones.  I have included some pictures, I did not include my idea's as I would like to see what you all come up with.

Thanks in advance,
Title: Re: Design help request.
Post by: Akitakoi on July 22, 2009, 02:07:21 pm
Another picture of the area.
Title: Re: Design help request.
Post by: don on July 22, 2009, 06:40:18 pm
Scott, do you have an aerial view or a plot plan that gives the overall layout and topography?
Title: Re: Design help request.
Post by: Akitakoi on July 22, 2009, 09:53:03 pm
This is the best I can do at the moment, a satellite view. It's the area directly in back of the home, see car for front of home.

Title: Re: Design help request.
Post by: JamesT on July 23, 2009, 08:42:44 am

At the limited glance provided, here's a few rough thoughts.

-create a level space for your garden (probably need to remove some trees and add retaining walls to rear, install drainage)  Take time to evaluate best garden floor elevation in relation to rear veranda (read about engawa proportions)
-increase size of engawa and eave
-link engawa to path through left side of garden to unseen staircase to quarry, well sunk into grade of slope (quality of stones in path is very important to appearance.)
-enclose garden with wall/fence and layered evergreen plantings, keeping forground clean
-if there's budget left, create stroll garden around quarry


Title: Re: Design help request.
Post by: edzard on July 23, 2009, 11:01:21 am
first determine the Atmosphere desired = descriptive words..
determine the Atmosphere there is, which is 'water' + ?? (you have several dichotomy's in evidence that obviate a single clear thought)

then the solution would be to create a 'hide and reveal' water garden that brings the plane of the water to the deck height.. make it seem that the water is actually at the step height = done by revealing and duplicating certain attributes that are in the main water surface.
in other words, the steps cause the water level - dry or wet, your proposed pond level to be too low, or the pond area you have dug/flattened is too close in toward the house...
the angle of visual incidence needs be comfortable and between 10 to 15 degrees down from horizontal.

regardless of details employed wishes or wants, what atmosphere would you like? what are the buzz words the place will induce you to feel.. then you can get around to figuring out what kind of garden that leads to. Then you can choose what 'likes' fit the categories you have selected and work with only those.
Title: Re: Design help request.
Post by: Akitakoi on July 24, 2009, 08:28:53 am
James & Edzard,

I took both your thoughts into careful consideration and still "digesting" them.
This afternoon I am going to a couple stone suppliers about 90 miles away to look for stepping stones and step material and also boulders.

I'll post early next week hopefully with a little progress in the design.

Thank you,


P.S. Can anyone Identify this garden?

Title: Re: Design help request.
Post by: Jando on July 25, 2009, 06:55:37 am
Scott I have not had much time but wanted to find a photo that would show you what I had in mind.  Yours does in a way.  I would not have a path leading down to the pond directly off your deck.  The view from the deck would not reveal mans foot print on the land.  The path would lead through the wooded area off the left of your deck and perhaps wind across and through your open viewing area at a lower level that you may not see from the deck.  A rest area with bench for a closer or highlighted view of the water.  I would also have a larger deck so I could use that area more and create a living out door area to dine and entertain.  Perhaps room for a Hot Tub so I could enjoy the view in winter.  These ideas would fill my use for the area not particularly yours.  I will continue to look for a photo that represents what I envision for the space, which may or may not be what you have in mind.  What ever the outcome your land is very special.

Title: Re: Design help request.
Post by: Akitakoi on July 27, 2009, 08:52:08 am
Hi June,
There are already steps to the pond, but they are partially if not mostly obscured from view.
I have a concrete pad that's not in the picture/s for a hot tub at some point.

Bring on the pictures :)

I have included a picture of the type of stone I picked out.
They have more color then I was looking for but they have the worn/old feel and believe they will weather nicely.
Title: Re: Design help request.
Post by: edzard on July 27, 2009, 09:53:35 am
Scott... nice stone.. hopefully you are leaving the pointed ones with the tape around the points behind...                               edzard
Title: Re: Design help request.
Post by: Akitakoi on July 27, 2009, 10:25:16 am
The ones marked are a few of the pallets I picked out, not necessarily for the stones on the top. The angle showing in the picture amplifies the points a bit.
Title: Re: Design help request.
Post by: edzard on July 27, 2009, 12:35:01 pm
too pointy for my taste unless in a specific application..:
it is more difficult to strike in a one stone width pattern and the longer ones, longer than wider, if there are many, require a smaller cobble set beside them so that they can run long rather than wide. (horizontal ground)
Depends on your application.. if horizontal then needs cobbles beside and inset; or in a few cases good for going down terraces in a turn, though still need pivotal inset higher stone within the arc to provide the comfort railing.

how will you be using them?             edzard
Title: Re: Design help request.
Post by: Akitakoi on July 27, 2009, 01:21:19 pm
Most of them do not have a pointed corner, just a few of them. Remember there are, I believe 15 more stones not pictured.
They are going to be used as steps and stepping stones across a gravel area. Similar to the picture below.
Title: Re: Design help request.
Post by: Akitakoi on July 27, 2009, 01:32:00 pm
Also this picture, they will be spaced a little closer to make it easier to navigate.
Title: Re: Design help request.
Post by: edzard on July 27, 2009, 04:07:51 pm
in your precursors, there are no pointy stones, and depending on the stone shape, we leave many in the quarry or supplier. Or, separate them so that they are not used for the incorrect uses - determined by the pathway atmosphere we are trying to achieve.

all I wished to suggest was that the shape of a stone indicates what type of setting the stone would be used in. Stones with points, any points are not in the pathways you have indicated...  stone: pointy stone/angled stone/one straight line on the stone, these appear as signposts, and a pathway should be readable such as -> <--- or / or | or a \ or 0 or 0.. all are lines of force or pressure that indicate what the walker should do on a subconscious basis, so that they only 'respond'.

the worst examples I see of walkway step stones are long stones going sideways across the path for 'ease of walking' or something akin to that notion... when it really means stopstopstop...

think of the highway and a passing lane. we understand solid line to mean do not pass, and the dotted line to mean 'passing at high speed'.
Now compare the 'safety crosswalk' with lines across the walkway ->||||||||||||| -> 
and - firstly this is a dotted line saying 'go fast and pass here' to traffic in line with the 'line of force' and to the pedestrian this means !STOP! !STOP! !STOP! at every line encountered.
we tell people- kids to not step over the line figuratively and in reality, at trains, in banks, in 'line-ups', at sidewalks.... crossing the line is having gone to far.. then why create 'lines to cross'... this is fundamental in why gardens work or do not work.

a pathway, as I'm sure you know and mentioned here and above for the conversational insight, is a narrative, such that a pathway to the beach is really a pathway that leads from the sea, the sailor coming ashore -> onto the land, and the staggered placement is really the sailor getting his 'land-legs', or another description given when I foolishly asked, "what kind of path?", was '(shrug) make it like a drunken sailor'.
[while I was still a lippy lad, I muttered " drunk to the sea or from the sea????? "- he heard the mutter and commented quite smugly... "now you to use head.. how stone using.."][ps.. he had me take it apart 4 times and i rebuilt it 5 times and the last time was the same as the second time.. shall we say the exercise was not lost on me.]

(:. Enough lip from me, I leave selection and striking of stone to your good taste...)                       
Title: Re: Design help request.
Post by: Jando on July 27, 2009, 05:25:41 pm
Edzard, makes one look at stepping stones with new eyes.  So many little things we think are fine and then learn more about all the thought given to the smallest details that really matter in a Japanese Garden.  But when everything is right our eyes tell us so, even if we do not understand or know why. Thanks for another tiny piece of the puzzle.

Title: Re: Design help request.
Post by: don on July 27, 2009, 10:30:22 pm
Indeed, June.  Although impressed with Ed's very accurate instructions on path stone verification, I am somewhat insulted because I have tested this from my woods to my back door in such a state as he describes and discovered my misplacements anew.  The insult is taken because, being sober the next morn, I cannot remember the corrections needed!

But seriously, once the thing is done right, you can see your steps comfortably before attending the path.  And the path does influence the experience greatly, both physically and mentally.  Diligence in selection, design and setting is indispensable.
Title: Re: Design help request.
Post by: Akitakoi on July 28, 2009, 07:55:08 am
Edzard, that was a much better explanation then "too pointy" and well taken. Thank You

I dove into my books, JOJG and pictures I have taken last night.  In my haste to get the stones picked out and delivered I believe I have made more bad choices then shape,  color and size may be incorrect also.

I have been looking at the big picture to long and need to look more into the details.


Title: Re: Design help request.
Post by: edzard on July 28, 2009, 10:23:19 am
Scott.. in my experience offering advice is most often taken as an insult, therefore I hesitate and wait for the question... basically if one does not ask, then it is presumed that the other knows already. Therefore one hints/alludes to things and waits for the question. No question / no answer. In this case, I think the information is useable by many, whether you know or not...

As Don has experienced with his muddy shoes (dusty? do you have water yet??), the/a path should to some degree, be walkable in the dark almost as though with your eyes closed.

I'll venture that you already purchased this stone and it is now yours, points and all... which is the tangent question I was asking.*

if so, then it would ease my mind to hear a question...
- though, I'll try this:
-- also purchase a stone saw blade for a circular saw, place the stone over a 1" lip, score the bottoms at the place where the stone is a 'useable shape', vibrate the stone along the score on the 'take off' part and then strike off with a sledge - from the bottom!...   From the top when finer fitting work is done, and sledge carefully the edges to soften them,..
(some stone score both sides and use a feather to split)

--this can be done when you get to installation - or ahead if you see a likeness or pattern taken from "1 good stone".
Save the points, and use them for the pathway that requires smaller inset stones that creates the 'man' glyph T - wherein no three points come together, always 2 and a bypass.

Though many people wish to see some stone as 'bad' stone and others as 'good' stone...
I prefer to see stone as stone, for specific uses,
and if it is 'not useable', then I know I have not thought hard enough to figure out what the pattern is yet or, where this stone belongs that would make it 'good stone', finding the pattern in which the poorer stone becomes good stone.

This would make the idea that if one stone is used for an alternate use, and is not suitable, then someone could say it is poor/bad stone.. but in reality, the installer of stone is not taking responsibility for not thinking the installation and materials through. He blames the stone, rather himself for not finding the right place for its use.

quite often, it happens that one can see later that "I used the wrong stone for that use", and that is fine to realize if you build a lot of gardens and can improve oneself, yet if you are only building one garden it is a garden-life frustration.. and this is where flexibility in design, serendipity comes into play.
The idea of 'seeking solutions' and using other materials around the stone to 'make it the right stone' and the right pattern for that place is a concept that is worthwhile adopting. Often one gardener asks another.

-- what would make your stone the right stone? what was it supposed to be? if needed, what solutions can one apply?

and aside question asterix'd from above:
* if you have a large body of water, why are you (if you are?) forecasting a karesansui of 'historic religious aspect' in front of a natural space? (pond body)
What message to the viewer are you trying to convey?
(ie: what is the relationship between the dry garden and the wet garden? Are you saying that when you see the pond, please think of Buddha and the ?? to Buddhahood?
- religious gardens are somber for good reasons, yet your lake bespeaks 'lively Life' rather than austure eyes closed inner vision.....)     iow's "I don't get 'it'". What are you saying?

Title: Re: Design help request.
Post by: Akitakoi on July 28, 2009, 03:50:30 pm
Yes the pointy stones arrived today. ;D

""""I don't get 'it'". What are you saying?"""

Took me a couple readings,  do I understand that the "dry/ gravel area" above the "wet" pond may not be appropriate? Is that correct?

I have thought that a few times but,,,

Most pictures of Japanese gardens/houses I have seen and have been in, have a gravel area off the veranda. Usually this is an enclosed space with the borrowed scenery above.
I want to keep the view yet have the Japanese garden feel. Could you show some pictures please of a Japanese house on top of a hill with a Veranda? The picture I posted above asking if anyone could identify the garden, I would like to see what is near the house. What would be an appropriate,,,,, feeling? Style?
P.S. I do have a diamond blade and sledge hammers. I'm going to lay out the stones soon and post some pictures.
P.S.S. I never liked asking question because I usually get the answer I knew already but did not want to hear. ;)
Title: Re: Design help request.
Post by: kobold on July 28, 2009, 07:34:34 pm
not some, please make plenty! It is such a rare opportunity to see a garden from the beginning, during "creation" when you can still correct mistakes. We have a few members on the Forum who recorded their work, it is very interesting and educational for everybody ( almost).

Title: Re: Design help request.
Post by: Akitakoi on July 28, 2009, 07:58:06 pm
"not some, please make plenty!"

Plenty of mistakes? I'm sure I will. :)

Another shot of a few of the stones.
Title: Re: Design help request.
Post by: Mark on July 28, 2009, 09:34:54 pm
Study the work of Ogawa Jihei, particularly okochi sanso, tairyu sanso, and of course murin-an. All of these gardens are large estates that will show a selection and arrangement of features more appropriate to your setting.
Also, the view from the Shoin mado at Kodaiji, and some of the gardens of Kobori Enshu (outside of religious setting) might be helpful

Gravel areas are common in Japanese residential construction immediately adjacent to houses- but more often lawn is used where the cost of maintenance can be handled.

Title: Re: Design help request.
Post by: edzard on July 28, 2009, 10:15:28 pm
gravel areas are convenient, and so transformed to a greener version of gravel... shrug. Flat spaces, being horizontal are comforting, our eyes open sideways, then water as a level horizontal space is also comfortable, and gravel often represents water.. though gravel is often used as a cost factor compared to real water.

more importantly is seeking a solution, feeling for the site, seeking the best solution based on the common denominator of the feelings already inherent in the location(s). (rounded things)

It is not wrong to have a gravel area, just that I did not think you to be a religious person and so pondered the religious stonework and its implications. The gravel area could be a beach, a landing place, many different things.. All gravel based but different settings of stone are used, in some cases different stone entirely.

what sounds are there at the best time for you? What natural phenomena happen at that time? is there fog? a swarm of gnats? Reflections? waves? do fish jump there? What phenomena should that space emphasize of the specific inherent beauty of that place?

a dry waterfall works, though the opportunity to bring the water to the deck or from under it, is simply opportunistic on my part, as you have such opportunity that there is no need to use a solution from some one else's problem and call it a 'style' of Japanese feeling. The problem is taking on someone's problem, and building in a problem for the sake of Japaneseness, based solely on 'what one has seen'.
Seeking out photo's precursors of ideas that worked well for gardeners is a good idea in almost all cases I can think of.

Comparatively I always seek precursors for a garden during the design phase and often building as well to focus on the 'method of installation'. The objective with the examples is to notice the similarities and to find/seek the problem areas and how previous gardeners found solutions, keeping a mental file folder of said solutions when problems are encountered.
The question, your current situation is sorting the photo's of solutions from photo's of problems to avoid inheriting a problem for an unknown reason not evident in the photo.

i'll think on examples of dry and wet gardens if that is what you wish for, though, the combination is hardly necessary as the Japaneseness is derived from the ordering of space and installation. (which can be difficult to convey in written form)

(comparatively, one could leave the water where it is, distance + elevation down and create a floating in the clouds feeling) endless opportunity.

- are you happy with the large scale of your place, or are you trying to break it into smaller pieces? (by adding a gravel garden?)   (if the gravel serves a purpose, then use it, if not, don't use it.. only use what is needed for the feelings your guests would like and what you would like them to take home with them of understanding 'you'...)                        edzard
Title: Re: Design help request.
Post by: don on July 28, 2009, 11:39:30 pm
Scott, I think you are receiving a world of good advice and working to understand and apply it.  Mark, can you recommend resources for Ogawa Jihei?   If you have photos or links, that would be much appreciated! 

June, I agree that the path should not be front and center from the engawa.  We can call it what we want, but the initial illusion/perception is so important from that observation point.  Edzard's pointy point is to the point. As he says, find the place for the stone based on the stone.  With your topography, worst case is the pointy ones could be used for steps with the ends buried as fine anchorage.  If you use rubber or other liners for water holding areas, they are also fine submerged topping stones at levels where mechanical or solar damage is an issue.

Gravel:  For me, the difference between live water and karesansui is the difference between an animated point in reaity and one frozen in contemplation.  One is an external awakening and appreciation of live nature's flow, the other is a gradual and internal awakening and appreciation of a deeper flow on a personal level. Sit there and see it as it will be before you make a decision.  Mistakes are simply unplanned experiments.  Recognize and plan them whenever you can!

What a fine time you have before you!!!
Title: Re: Design help request.
Post by: Jando on July 29, 2009, 08:13:43 am
Hi Scott,  I know it must be frustrating trying to learn and not wanting to screw up your garden,  I have been there in more ways than I would like to think. 

OK, Lets make this simple.  What is your focal point?  Is it your lower pond?  The woods? or do you want to see the raked gravel just off the deck?  If the pond is the answer then why take away from your focal point by making another one.  Look at the pond and how you want to enhance the view.  I have just been too busy of late with house guests and Rally for the Cure to look for the photos, sorry.  I do remember seeing gardens with small trees you could see through to the water below and low shrubs that lead your eye slowly to the the focal point of the  water below.  You need to determine what your focal point is then how to reveal it.  Your biggest enemy right now is wanting to get things done and rushing before you really know what you need to do.  I speak from experience because I have been in you shoes.  Your property is very special, take some time now or you will either be living with your mistakes or putting in extra work correcting them.  For me I put in the extra work correcting what I could but I mostly live with my mistakes.  But I still love my garden and find hours of joy working in it. 

You said many of the homes in Japan have gravel off the back of their homes, but they probably do not have the land and view you have, so they have tried to create that view inside their small walled gardens.  The Anderson's home (Anderson Gardens) sits above the gardens and they created a small stream next to their home that wound down to the gardens with a path along side it at times and winding away then over it.  This was long before the gardens became public and so many years ago I do not remember everything.  Now with all the visitors they have let the trees give them privacy. In fact most visitors would not even notice their home now.

I don't want to dampen your enthusiasm but what ever happens I will enjoy your journey.  Oops gotta run not time to proof this.

Title: Re: Design help request.
Post by: Akitakoi on July 29, 2009, 10:33:57 am
Lot's of information here :o

Maybe I should back up and explain (to you and myself) my "wants" a little more.

The area that I have showed pictures of directly off the veranda at one time was a 5,000 gallon koi pond. It was a LOT of maintenance,,,,,, so other then a stone water basin with a bamboo "dripper" I don't want to have any water, pumps, filters,,,,, (A side note to that the koi are all doing well for over 4 years in the "big pond".)

This area I would like to keep simple and easy to maintain (too much more to do).
Basically,  I want the stepping stone path to invite you to come down and explore. The gravel area is a way to cover a lot of area inexpensively and without much maintenance. I am spiritual but not religious, I do not know the implications of stones and I hope that is not offensive to anyone.

Maybe we move on to the view and then we can reflect back.
I added some callouts to a picture.
A. You'll see some green, that's a homemade boom to keep the muddy water from dredging to muddy up the whole pond. (more on the dredging later)
B. Bush's that have been removed or shortened.
C. Wood stairs to the pond, plants have been and more to be added to hide from view.
D. This "cliff" is about 20 ft tall and about 100 yards away. I am running electrical wire all the way over there for a future water fall.
E. This side of the pond I will be adding pebbles and some wood post retaining walls.
Title: Re: Design help request.
Post by: edzard on July 29, 2009, 10:52:44 am
where is this view from? which side, place.. top of the twenty foot 'cliff' I suspect..
Title: Re: Design help request.
Post by: Akitakoi on July 29, 2009, 11:14:33 am
This picture was taken from just off the veranda, the cliff is all the way on the other side labeled as D. This is the view you will see from the stepping stones that will take you to the wood stairs.
Title: Re: Design help request.
Post by: Akitakoi on July 29, 2009, 11:49:08 am
Please excuse the "finger painting". LOL ;)
Title: Re: Design help request.
Post by: edzard on July 29, 2009, 12:17:13 pm
Scott... what are the stairs on the right side of the photo?
- meaning would it not be best to continue those or should the pathway be the sightline? (and why?)              edzard
Title: Re: Design help request.
Post by: Akitakoi on July 29, 2009, 03:04:24 pm
That's just a concrete pad, the door under the ladder is a bath room.... With a view, lol.
Title: Re: Design help request.
Post by: edzard on July 29, 2009, 11:04:53 pm
I'm gathering you do not use that cement pad too often...
I would move the entry to the garden there and start the step stone pathway from that pad and descend from there...
for many reasons:
leaves the main view of a 'main garden' in the main view
leaves guests and yourself not walking directly into the view and house tracking schmutz everywhere in the house..
offers opportunity to install a large basin for good reason at the end of the deck/engawa as a washing of hands from lavatory and pond garden,
moves the dynamics to the aside - asymmetric if you wish- though really removing the -once again - line of force from the door, which is 'always' obliquely accessed and of course shifts the view coming up while allowing people at house to prepare for intrusion and people returning to gather their thoughts and shift to indoor thought, with a last clean view of a fine garden and a place they were... the pond area.

then, if you place a second walkway obliquely from that main walk, you could use your newly made pointy stones in a wide ___-------\  pathway to your 'private' place of entry... then you would also have reason to have gravel in the front of the engawa.. and the background, the reverse view, would give reason for the type and placement of stones - the garden directly off of the engawa.. echoes the pond

makes sense?

will you have an overhang put in to shunt the water over the deck/engawa, so that the black gravel drainage ditch can be put in at the dripline?
and this will frame the view as well as indicate where entries are...

etc. etc.. (take a close view of the garden you asked about.. it has a descending overhanging roofline...)            edzard
Title: Re: Design help request.
Post by: Jando on July 30, 2009, 07:06:14 am
From experience, your gravel area will be high maintenance, leaves and natures debris get caught between the stones and it is lots of work to keep it clean.  Also if you get a toad strangler you will have wash out areas that will have to be fixed. 

Edzard is giving you some good advice about your pathway.

The more photos I see of your property the more I think what a gem you have.

Title: Re: Design help request.
Post by: Akitakoi on July 30, 2009, 10:23:09 am
Thanks June, I like to think I found a real Gem here myself. Albeit dirty and rough.

James also mentioned increasing the size of the overhang, I would like to do that just not sure how. It is a very long roof and was just re shingled a few years back, I think without lowering the height part of it would be at a different pitch,,,, unless  lowering it is what you mean.

That is something I can do at a later date as the guys are coming next Saturday, July 8th to set the stones.

Is this more of what you mean about the path?
Sorry about the very amateurish graphics folks.
Title: Re: Design help request.
Post by: edzard on July 30, 2009, 04:18:13 pm
JULY 8th.. sure...
roof would fit under your current roof and ideally would be a different pitch..

yes, that is more what is in mind, perhaps meandering a bit..
and one needs to remember that a path is always oblique to the entrance -ie: not directly into the face of the lavatory.. which would be screened with - some device- (tree + shrub + stone + manmade item = side-garden..) or the backhoe we'd be using on July 8th, - this next weekend... or the year that July 8th falls next on a weekend?

Back to meandering paths.. design the front off-deck garden first without the paths.. then add the path later into the design where it would be natural - and hardly seen if at all.

iow's : path did not come first.. nature did, therefore nature is not designed around path = current design, but as a passing through nature. (big difference in thought process, which I know you knew as you were conveniently daubing stones to present the concept to I that needs visuals.       :)    )          edzard
Title: Re: Design help request.
Post by: Akitakoi on July 30, 2009, 08:27:20 pm
Opps I meant August 8th.

Title: Re: Design help request.
Post by: hhubercool on March 13, 2011, 05:41:34 pm
I envy your project.  You're going to be busy.  I think you do need enclosure for the garden, whether through trees, and large shrubs or a fence.  A stroll garden would be fabulous.  Crushed granite makes an easy path, and its easy to weed.
Have fun.