Japanese Gardening in the Mountains

Discussion in 'Japanese Gardens' started by Yubalover, Apr 26, 2009.

  1. Yubalover

    Yubalover Member

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    Location:
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    Landscape design in front of house

    I am designing my landscape in front of my house, a major focal area. It is a sloped hill shaded in late afternoon by the house and early morning by nearby oak trees. The area I am planting is about 20 x 45 ft. I have a weeping japanese maple I'd like to plant sort of in the middle and some grasses I'd like to plant behind (5-6 ft away) as a sort of back drop and to also serve as a barrier between the "yard" and the cement steps that run up the side of the hill directly in front of the house.

    I've included photos that show the space, and sun/shade at 2 pm April 25th. Thank you in advance for your help!!
     

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  2. janetdoyle

    janetdoyle Active Member

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    Re: Hydrangea and Japanese Maples

    I am not as skilled at this as several other longtime contributors, Ron B and others are much better at this and may respond. However, I must say that you want to be careful to have lots of irrigation for your Japanese Maple if you plant it here -- I don't know what area of the Sierrra Nevada foothills you are in, it appears that you do have some trees for shade, but you will need a mulchy soil spot to put it in and you will need to keep it moist in the driest weather. There are many varieties of Japanese Maple and I think the respondents to this post would like to know what it is as some would be better than others. Surrounding it with some low-growing shrubbery which are also somewhat drought-resistant in an irregular swath at some distance, leaving room for mulches around the tree, might be visually nice, there are low-growing conifer and Ceonothus varieties, plus maybe dwarf other shrubs, with the addition of some carefully-placed large rocks which are very Japanese in spirit [there are websites giving placement ideas] -- your pictures show a smooth swath of land before the stairs and I think it should be broken up a bit visually with some large rock placements -- they are often clustered in threes. The specialty grasses sound nice, behind it. I should think you'd need to be careful about soil, possibly making it acid-tending, and your location may be alkaline, I don't know.
     
  3. Yubalover

    Yubalover Member

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    Re: Hydrangea and Japanese Maples

    Janet, thank you for your response. I live between Auburn and Grass Valley, California. I will have automatic irrigation and I am mixing the red clay soil (see photo) with organic mushroom compost. I believe the name of the maple I have is Acer palmatum dissectum 'Tamukeyama'. Weeping Japanese Red Maple. Unlike other maples I've seen, it has a delicate lace looking leaf.

    Looking at my photos, and considering the space, what size rocks do you recommend? And what about placement? I was thinking of making a water feature at the base of the slope, closest to the house and entry stairs. Something simple such as a large pot that water quietly spills over the sides.

    I don't know Ron B however I would love to and if you have his profile or contact info. I'd be most grateful for the referral. And again, I really appreciate your advise and welcome more should you wish to share it.


    YubaLover
     
    Last edited: Apr 26, 2009
  4. janetdoyle

    janetdoyle Active Member

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    Re: Hydrangea and Japanese Maples

    Ron B responds to many of the Woody Plants forum posts, check the list of forums -- if you click on his profile you may find a way to send an email via this website -- and there is also a Japanese Gardening forum in the list -- go to the main page and click forums in the right hand column, then go down the list of forums when that appears -- where many people discuss Japanese Maples -- perhaps you should place a post there and ask the same questions... I am not experienced enough to handle your questions as I struggle along with a clay-ey soil I am constantly amending and I experiment in my little garden on Vancouver Island...

    There are photos posted there in past posts which are quite interesting, some of them very impressive. Also, general Googling of "rock placement in Japanese gardening" etc. will bring up some suggestions from the web. Taking three large rocks and placing them together with one tall one pointing upward and the others nestled around at a short distance seems to be the general idea.

    I believe there is a Maple forum here too, which may have lots of posts of interest, including Japanese Maples... and, there may be ways to search Japanese Maple discussions in this website, you could contact Daniel Mosquin, the manager of this website and ask him as well.

    Good luck.
     
  5. Yubalover

    Yubalover Member

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    I am REALLY new at this! After losing my house to fire two years ago, fighting insurance companies and dealing with sub-contractors I'm finally home but out of money! So... my shovel and I are trying to design my own landscape in front of the house, a major focal area and the only landscaped area. (see photos taken at 2pm April 26) It is a sloped hill shaded in late afternoon by the house and early morning by nearby oak trees. The area I am planting is about 20 x 45 ft. I have a weeping japanese maple I'd like to plant sort of in the middle and some grasses I'd like to plant behind (5-6 ft away) as a sort of back drop and to also serve as a barrier between the "yard" and the cement steps that run up the side of the hill directly in front of the house.

    I'm also working on adding a small water feature with a simple large pot, pump, and water quietly flowing out the top and down the sides of the pot. Also, after admiring (the only) weeping blue atlas cedar in the area for many years I've finally gotten my own and would like to plant it as well but don't know how to keep it "small" as I understand it can spread many feet!

    I've included photos that show the space, and sun/shade at 2 pm April 25th. Thank you in advance for your help!!

    Yuba
     

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    Last edited: Apr 27, 2009
  6. Daniel Mosquin

    Daniel Mosquin Renowned Contributor UBC Botanical Garden Forums Administrator Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    (merged threads, trying to keep all of the discussion in one place)
     
  7. Yubalover

    Yubalover Member

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    Daniel, I have no idea what I am doing! Except I do know I am trying to find help for a project that seems a bit overwhelming to a tomato planter like myself.

    Yuba
     
  8. kaspian

    kaspian Active Member 10 Years

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    Just a couple of thoughts.

    From the photos, it looks like you'll have a hard time creating a space that looks anything like Japan, no matter how well you succeed with particular species of trees or other typical Japanese plants.

    That doesn't mean you can't create a garden with a Japanese feeling. But I think you should perhaps consider doing this to a great extent with native plants, and other elements -- rocks, for instance, and a dry simulated "water" feature -- that will look at home in your area.

    With rocks, for instance, you want to choose something that looks like it came right out of the ground in your backyard. And then you want to bury it partway, so that it doesn't look like it was just dropped in place by a backloader.

    You should do well with a variety of conifers. They don't have to be the Hinoki cypresses and other species that grow well in Japan -- they can be dwarf or interestingly shaped varieties that thrive in your part of California.

    The same general thought applies to deciduous plants, ground-covers, flowering plants, everything. First you want the plant to look interesting and to be happy and healthy in your yard. Then you figure out how to include it in a Japanese-influenced design scheme.

    The key thing is to create a feeling of a self-contained landscape that feels wild, ancient, and serene. You can do this with stones and gravel and a minimal amount of planting. Or you can use more plants but still leave a large amount of bare soil -- whatever looks native and plausible in your climate. It's hard to feel serene in a place that is on constant life-support because of inadequate water or the wrong kind of soil.

    My suggestion would be to pore over books of Japanese garden design, but ALSO books about garden design using native California plants. You should see some overlap -- there is a strong Japanese influence in much of the garden design in western North America. What you want to do is absorb the basic spirit and design philosophy, the sense of asymmetric balance, the range of possibilities. And you will probably want to allow yourself room to experiment, to try one thing and another and to move stuff around when it doesn't look quite right. Your eye for this will develop as you go.
     
  9. janetdoyle

    janetdoyle Active Member

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    This is excellent advice from kaspian, and well expressed. You don't want to rush into something, especially after the life-changing events you described. If you have an unplanted Japanese maple you want to get in the ground, do so but plant it somewhere sheltered from the brightest sun and with soft mulchy soil for now, I wouldn't put it out in the middle of the area you are developing until you have your "concept" more developed, but I do see shade from those larger trees in your picture. It might work in that shade. It can be moved later if you plant it in soft composty soil where you can lift it from easily. The essence of Japanese-style gardening seems to be taking the natural scene and emphasizing the elements of nature in the visual design, like wind [shrubs and trees pruned to "lean" sometimes], rock [buried in a bit in the soil, as kaspian says], natural mosses in the damper climates, using shade plants in forested settings and dry stream bed designs in dry settings. That doesn't mean your water feature might not be a good feature to plant your maple nearby to benefit from the mist in the air perhaps... in fact maybe you could unite the two somehow, without drowning/overwatering the tree of course. But wherever you plant the Japanese maple think of its longevity... don't put it where you will run out of the moistening effect of a water feature if you travel away somewhere and your water feature is turned off or where a neglectful house minder could allow it to dry in the bright sun, etc., etc. Do read up on the Japanese gardening techniques at your public library branches -- your librarian could bring in a couple of good texts on the topic from larger libraries in the state on interlibrary loan, for you... I am a former librarian and we love to do things like that for people!
     
  10. janetdoyle

    janetdoyle Active Member

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    Additional note: do notice that there are many pages in this forum "Japanese Gardening and Gardening Arts" -- I believe the page numbers are shown as a numbered series on the bottom of the page of the main forum "Japanese Gardening and Gardening Arts", with all the "threads" or sub-forums listed under that, and exploring those pages will bring up topics re the ones we have been discussing, in more detail...
     

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