After viewing two lovely examples in Seattle last week, I found that some among our group of garden-tripping bloggers seemed jaded by the genre. Their reasons varied, but two dominated: boredom, and a feeling that the style was too often misused.
I must admit I’ve seen gardens their owners called “Japanese” that fell considerably short of the standard set in Seattle and elsewhere. In fact, I’d be the first to admit that Buffalo’s Japanese garden, despite its beautiful setting between a neoclassic museum and an ornamental lake, lacks other elements that would have completed it. There is no teahouse, though the marble terrace of the Historical Society could be considered as taking the place of an elevated place from which to view the garden. I love the setting, but the Buffalo garden lacks the quiet intimacy I’ve seen in other examples.
The Japanese garden at Seattle’s Bloedel Reserve has a nice example of raked gravel that used to be a swimming pool. The structures are pristine; the plantings are perfectly placed—lush (Seattle=lush) but controlled.
In other gardens, I’ve seen raked gravel used more as an excuse for not planting anything rather than as a viable replacement for water. I’ve also seen buddhas and lanterns pretty much plopped anywhere. And too few private attempts have a good mix of perfect specimens with the vivid foliage contrasts I saw at Bloedel.
Maybe a great Japanese garden is one of those “don’t try this home” styles. I know I never would; the control and precision it would require is far beyond my capabilities. But I will always appreciate a JG done well.