Starting new Japanese Garden - HELP!!

Discussion in 'Japanese Gardens' started by cocobolo, Apr 27, 2008.

  1. cocobolo

    cocobolo Active Member

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    Hi everyone!
    My wife and I live on a very small Island in the southern B.C. Gulf Islands. She already has a lovely and extensive garden, and I am about to embark on the building of a Japanese style garden.
    Over 35 years ago I constructed a small Japanese garden in Abbotsford, complete with pond and recirculating stream. Let me assure you that whatever I managed to learn then has long been forgotten! I fear I am going to need lots of help.
    The area, very roughly 100' by a wavy 40' or so, is nearly ready to have the first plants put in.
    One of the things I would like is to have a running bamboo or two, which I would guide along the back of the garden, the intent being to form a natural fence or hedge. Something that could grow to 10' plus would be nice, as there is a definite view we would rather not see. Also I would like a couple of shorter bamboos, clumping, in other parts of the garden.
    Could I get your suggestions as to which bamboos may be preferred for this? And any suggestions or advice you can pass along will be immensely appreciated.
    I have lots more questions, but I thought I might start here.
    Thank you for your help.
     
  2. Coastal

    Coastal Active Member

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    There are a couple Bamboo growers on Salt Spring you should contact them, but pretty much any Phyllostachys would do the trick!
     
  3. cocobolo

    cocobolo Active Member

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    Good morning coastal:
    I see that your garden is off to a pretty impressive start!
    I managed to find a bamboo seller down in Sidney, and went there last week.
    Obviously I was only able to buy what he had in stock, but he did have quite a few varieties on hand. I got a dozen or so plants, each of which he was able to suggest for the different areas of the garden.
    No phyllostachys though. The goat store over at Coombs has lots of P. nigra, so I might get one of those after everything else gets in the ground.
     
  4. janetdoyle

    janetdoyle Active Member

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    Charles Chesshire (Author)
    A Practical Guide to Japanese Gardening: An inspirational and practical guide to creating the Japanese garden style, from design options and materials to planting techniques and decorative features; A comprehensive guide to the history, styles, planning, materials, decorative features, project [Hardcover]
    Estimated arrival date: August 29, 2008 - September 04, 2008

    Perhaps you have ordered this from your favourite supplier, I had it on order for the longest while from Amazon.ca and have just been notified it will finally be available for shipment soon. He had an earlier book on Japanese gardening out, I believe.

    Hope your gardening is coming along nicely. Our sailboat is now functioning well and we may wander up that way sometime.
     
  5. cocobolo

    cocobolo Active Member

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    Hi Janet:
    Glad to hear the boat is OK.
    So far, I have managed to put a wind screen at the south end of the garden. There are two sections which I have now planted with a variety of rhodos, azaleas, pieris and a few bamboos. Also a couple of Japanese maples. Not a lot yet, but the bones are coming together.
     
  6. janetdoyle

    janetdoyle Active Member

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    Great. Gardening is a lot of work, takes a lot to do any "details" -- a lot of time and a lot of energy, while everything else on one's plate sits and rots! It would be nice to have a year's sabbatical to do nothing but gardening, all day, every day...
     
  7. kaspian

    kaspian Active Member 10 Years

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    Cocobolo, I think you've got to have some phyllostachys. A dynamite combination would be the P. nigra you can buy locally, paired with a golden-caned variety of P. aureosulcata (yellow-groove bamboo): either 'Aureocaulis' which has pure butter-yellow culms, or 'Spectabilis' which has yellow culms with green stripes, almost a reverse of the species. These aren't hard to find by web-order.
     
  8. cocobolo

    cocobolo Active Member

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    Hi Janet:
    Sure, it takes some work, but that's half the fun of it. I don't actually look at it as work, more like fun with some exercise thrown in for good measure.
    Let me know if you plan on heading up this way so that I can make sure I am here.
    Then you can get to see the progress first hand. I tried to take some photos, but there always seems to be so much junk in the way. You know, empty potting soil bags, the end of the wheelbarrow, a shovel. Never quite seem to get it right.
    Hope to see you soon!
     
  9. cocobolo

    cocobolo Active Member

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    Hi kaspian:
    Good to hear from you again.
    When I went down to the nursery in Sidney to buy the bamboo, I was limited to plants about 4' tall. I filled the van right up. Then you have to remember, I have to load everything onto a small boat to get it over to the island. So we are definitely size limited. The P. nigra at the Coombs store was really tall last year. I would say at least 14' for the smallest plant. It really does present a real problem for us to get it here.
    I can't remember all the names of the bamboos I got, but they include Sasa pygmae,
    arrow bamboo, which is still in 5 gallon pots and has some gorgeous new shoots over 6' tall, sasaella masamuneana albostrata, arundinaria fortunei, and there might be one or two others.
    One of the small bamboos looked like it died in the pot. I took a chance and put it in the ground with some good potting soil, have been giving it regular watering, not too much, and much to my great delight it is showing signs of life. One of the others, also a small one, had the leaf tips die off, and I did the same with it. Now it has 9 shoots, the tallest being just higher than the original plant. So I am happy about that as well.
    I have a load of questions to ask about the bamboos, and yesterday I discovered the bamboo forum here, so I am going to that to see if I can get a few answers.
     
  10. janetdoyle

    janetdoyle Active Member

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    I'll let you know, sometime this summer... waiting for guests at end of this month [younger daughter and partner from Calgary], and then August looks free except for a couple of days in the middle... probably end of August, before the colder weather sets in... Maybe we could also drive up something you might need up there, plantswise, sometime...

    We have a daughter who is a sailmaker and plumber from Massachusetts visiting in early October, and her husband is a town fire chief in that state. They are vigorous and strong sailors, have sailed to Caribbean several times and run many kinds of boats and can fix and do almost anything... . We might send them up your way in our boat, if the weather isn't too bad in early October, nice for them to have a contact. What's it like then? Nice couple, thirties/forties, lots of fun, hard workers, take pride in skill. [this is about plants, I know, I know]. They are looking for an interesting cabin to rent for a few days... is there one on your island? They'd just love that, they don't know anything about this question but I know would be interested... [Daniel, I won't carry on personal conversations non-plant related here, we can email each other]

    Looking forward to the arrival of the book on Japanese gardening above. I am gradually removing plants from my townhouse front garden which don't fit the paradigm of vaguely "Japanese" but didn't want to do it all at once and create a load of work that I had to finish quickly. So some lacecap hydrangeas will come out next fall [were pruned heavily last fall and not blooming anyway this summer] and I need to replace them with something...unless advised to keep... I have added a swath of very tiny groundcovers [Corsican mint, woolly thyme, elfin thyme, and mosses] around the base of the central cherry tree [too large, but it has to stay for now] and have various small conifers which I have planted, some heathers, pieris, camellias, some azaleas and three unusual rhododendrons. Most of these shrubs are in mounds nestled close to each other. I will need to decide what to replace the hydrangeas with [deer lettuce, they are a nuisance] -- hope my reading or someone else's will give me some ideas. I will attach a photo shortly... Some hanging baskets from the cherry tree for the moment are very non-Japanese, so the "look" is still pending. One anchor conifer is perfect for the look, though, right at the front of the triangle which is the "Japanese garden" pending, standing guard in front of our townhouse in front of the cherry [a large shaggy one with huge pink double flowers in late spring, and subject to caterpillar infestation and possibly root weevils so being watched and sprayed assiduously but may have to go at some point courtesy of the Strata Council] -- this conifer is one of those branching dark-green cedars or cypress with clusters of foliage that is tinted lighter where new here and there, like clouds of green, across the branches and at the ends of branches which fan out a bit softly, can be pruned "roundly", with the trunk visible between the branch areas, a classic Japanese look... taller than I am, about 5'5" -6 feet tall... very healthy, nice tree... our neigbour trims their heather very closely and it is actually carved-looking... our heather is rejuvenating and I have it a bit shaggy at the moment although I have trimmed it but not so sharply -- waiting for the summer heather to bloom and finish blooming, and the winter heather is the one I am rejuvenating -- perhaps I should shave it too...
     
  11. cocobolo

    cocobolo Active Member

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    Janet: I have an area which is quite shaded which I would like to have some low growing groundcover in. How are your thymes performing? That is something I might like to try. And I am definitely going to have quite a bit of moss. Especially after reading the moss book.
    Our heather really got away this year. It didn't get trimmed last year. I believe Erica is going to decimate it when the blooms are done. None of that for the Japanese garden though.
     
    Last edited: Jul 21, 2008
  12. janetdoyle

    janetdoyle Active Member

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    I am finding that the Corsican Mint seems better and more vigorously spreading than the thymes, in shade, although woolly thyme does well and stays low, although it has a bit of a mounding effect but not much. The Elfin Thyme is a nice tiny one which doesn't take off sideways very fast, although a nice little plant and stays very low, like moss. Corsican Mint is not "mint"-like as a plant at all, although it gives off a minty scent when walked on especially in early spring -- it's flat and tiny-leaved and seems to like shade, plus during winter retains its greenness. Blends interestingly with the moss. I found that my thymes, though evergreen, sort of retracted a bit. They enjoy sun more. Elfin thyme covers rocks wonderfully [don't know about the Corsican Mint, I don't have it near rocks] just like a glove, as long as there is some sun during the day...
     
  13. cocobolo

    cocobolo Active Member

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    Janet: Just a quick note in case you are interested. The Japanese Maples book by Vertrees and Gregory is on for $35 at Stone Lantern. Terrific book.
    So it sounds as though I should try the Corsican mint. Did you grow yours from seed, or get plants? The area it will be going in gets sporadic sun at best. More like dappled shade all day. And I just had a great idea from RonB about what to do with the area of bedrock I have to deal with, in the bamboo forum.
     
  14. janetdoyle

    janetdoyle Active Member

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    I'll go check that other forum tomorrow! Well, I'll check out the Japanese Maples book and I'll think of it as an advance Christmas present! Since I am not preparing a LARGE garden I have to be careful not to over-indulge. I am thinking of more of these trees for my garden -- I now have one in rear, two beside the front walkway on a shady side; the latter are in dappled sun/shade, perfect conditions. They came with the townhouse, and I am rearing and pruning them quite successfully I think. The red one is tall and wants to grow quite large, I think, or at least tall and a bit "spare", anyway -- it is not particularly luxuriant though healthy -- it needs a little filling-out, which is gradually happening; there is another much shorter green-leaved one with it and that was pruned beautifully in two leaders curving downward and outward sideways, along the length of the walkway, although it is not a weeping maple -- I feel "in tune" with this plant, somehow. The soil is moister and more humus-y there too. Rear patio is filled now [that venue has a green feathery-leaved variety which my husband planted in the ground near a tiny pond he made, and is caring for it very successfully and it is doing very well but the patio is shaded from the sun after 3 pm -- it gets hot clear unshaded sun from about 11 am to 3 pm, and we keep the tree there hydrated and misted, and it does drain well. The front garden area I am concerned about is in hot afternoon sun from 2 pm on to sundown on the sunset-facing side and the soil is dry no matter how much vegetable matter I mix in! When I remove the two hydrangeas I wouldn't mind another Japanese maple or two, and the side facing North East but forward of where there are two now would be fine as there is relief from the sun there, it is to one side of a massive cherry tree which protects that area. I am unclear regarding how much sun a Japanese maple can take [the questionable area would have solid sun after 2 pm and plants tend to dry out there] and need to read up on it so the book would help. I sense I would have to replace soil, and the area is hard to dig up owing to the cherry tree roots. Perhaps I'll just add one maple where it's more favourable for it...

    I used Corsican mint plants, not seed, I wonder how successful seeding would be and if they are available! Sure would be cheaper! I used the 4" potted typical offerings at the nursery... I think they would do well there. Thyme would have trouble competing with mosses and weeds, perhaps, and might not be vigorous... worth a small experimental patch perhaps. What about Sweet Woodruff as part of it? It is a lovely plant and it spreads and fills in marvellously and looks very pretty -- the leaves are pretty, lobed like small Japanese maple leaves almost! Spring blooms of white which remind me of evergreen candytuft blooms. Loves shade. I find it spreads very very fast, turns up suddenly in several areas near where it originally was planted, without being "invasive"...it seems to know where it is wanted! It is a gentle-looking sidewise-oriented plant, deep green, never seems to yellow or brown out, about 5" to 10" high [a bit higher with the bloom on] but the leaves form a cover over the ground which is, although standing up a few inches, quite soft and attractive and rather even.

    RonB's knowledge and advice is wonderful, I am glad he is a back-up to the many beginners on the forum.
     
  15. Karalyn

    Karalyn Active Member

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    Haven't read all the way through, but I planted corsican mint along my stream bed, in reality it was a dug ditch to divert water from our irrigation pond down a hill to a creek.

    Only because our new neighbors who built on a hill that use to be a prairie & wet lands that been sold and turned into a subdivision. We normally had the ditch water flow through the dirt pond to the neighor's on our side and then it would spill over the hill and water the prairie below us.

    Anyway, since our new neighbors behind was getting their landscaping washed aWAY AND BACKING UP OUR DITCH WATER WE DUG A NEW RELEASE DITCH WHICH IS NOW MY LITTLE CREEK, BUT CAN BECOME A ROARING CREEK AND WATERFALL. (Sorry for the caps, don't know how to undo)

    OKAY, ENOUgh story, I planted the mint along the banks of this "creek" on the north side of the creek, but on the south facing side. It gets moisture, sunshine and protection, I believe in the winter as the whole creek and irrigation pond is backed by a fence that provides extra heat and protection from nothern winds.

    Anyway, it is growing beautifully and I'm as pleased as punch. I will keep increasing this groundcover as I love it and its the closest thing I can get that resembles "Baby Tears" that grow in warmer temperatures and is a familiar plant around fish ponds in California and other warm states.
     
  16. janetdoyle

    janetdoyle Active Member

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    It is a nice little groundcover, for sure. I do wonder if it is available from seed, though... would make mass planting so much cheaper...
     
  17. cocobolo

    cocobolo Active Member

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    Janet:
    Regarding Japanese maples and sun. Generally you will find that the finer leafed varieties, like Waterfall and Laceleaf, do not like so much hot sun. The more solid leafed varieties like Bloodgood for example, can handle quite a lot more.
    I shall have to track down some Corsican mint plants, but maybe not 'til next spring. Don't know what the nurseries have left at this time of year.

    Karalyn: You probably have a key on your computer that says "caps lock", you might have accidentally hit it instead of "shift". Hit it again to remove the caps. Or if you meant how do you get rid of the caps after you have typed them? Hit the delete key repeatedly until they are all gone.

    Do you have any idea just how lucky you are to have all that water?
    And do you suppose the mint will grow with a lot less water than you have?
     
  18. cocobolo

    cocobolo Active Member

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    Hi all:
    I have located a supply of corsican mint at the Hazelwood Herb Farm. Hope to make a trip over early next week.
    Also going to the Saltspring Fair in mid-September. Found the Bamboo Ranch there, so will also likely add a few more bamboos to the list.
    Most of the current plants are doing well. The rhodos seem to be the staple diet for my weevil population with quite a few leaves showing holes around the edges.
    Other than that, the second part of the screen at the south end is nearly finished, so I will put up a photo when it is done.
     
  19. cocobolo

    cocobolo Active Member

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    Had a very successful visit to the herb farm. Loads of stuff in stock there. Got the corsican mint, very pretty little plants I must say. Picked up some Irish moss and Scotch moss and a couple of thymes. Visitors prevented planting today, so tomorrow it is.
     
  20. Karalyn

    Karalyn Active Member

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    Cocobolo,
    Sounds great that you were able to get all the ground covers that was suggested.
    I'm very thankful for the water we get and thankful for my 17 1/2 year old son who put in the automated sprinkler system as well! He was 1 1/2 years old when we moved here, and we have had to manually prime the pump and turn the different stations to our one acre property by a rod.

    He is my electric wiring son who started wiring lights under my deck that cantilevers over my koi pond when he was 11 years old. Then wired outlets to one side of our house and along a 40 ft long fence close to my perennial garden, goes up to the attic to wire up cable access to his servers and computer and to our bedroom for DVR access.

    He use to tuck these wires along side of the carpet and floor boards down the hall and also along the ceilings. He is very handy, but now too busy due to internships with his tech high school maintaining their servers and another company has him repair or do something for cell phones and internet for certain buildings.

    Now I'm waiting for my pump and filter vault to be built and then he'll wire in valves and such that are automatic for the pond. I can hardly wait for this to happen because then my pond should be crystal clear all the time and Finished! lol

    Oh, and he is a computer geek also...did I mention that. Okay, sorry for telling on my son. He is one of 4 boys that I have with many talents, but then they grow up and leave home.

    Okay, as for the Corsican mint, I have seen it grown at other pondkeepers homes on the north side of a fence and close to a very tiny stream that leads to their pond. I was amazed that they could grow it so well. So I guess I just needed to find the right conditions and it seems to like sunshine and moisture. It is growing in clay type soil and probably would need more moisture retentive soil if not close to a water source.
    But it does like our Idaho sunshine and hot temps.

    Now the water isn't always coming down the little creek. Upstream neighbors use it first, so I never know for sure when I'll get the water, depends on the day and the temperature. I don't mind the light days as then I can do more streambed maintenance and creations, basically weeding and planting all kinds of groundcovers, etc.
     
  21. janetdoyle

    janetdoyle Active Member

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    Glad to hear, Cocobolo, you got the Corsican Mint, it is going to be a delightful ground cover for you. I must get up to Hazelwood too, then, and see what else they have for my groundcovers. Give it time... it didn't do much for me the first few months, I believe I planted mine in early Fall, then after the winter was over and spring came, it really took off. Have been off the forum for a bit while learning to use a digital camera, will soon fill up space with some photos, and trying to attend to interior matters needing attention. I am probably going to get two Japanese maples into my area, of the lower-growing type, but we will be having visitors in early October and don't know if I'll have time until late October to plant them. Have to take two lacecap hydrangeas out. Don't like them, as they are deer lettuce -- I hope deer don't like Japanese maples but I see them around with not much damage done.
     
  22. cocobolo

    cocobolo Active Member

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    Hi Janet:
    Just got my internet back up tonight after 7 weeks absence. I got quite a start on the Japanese garden late this summer. I will get some pics and post again after I dispose of 4744 incoming emails!!!
     
  23. janetdoyle

    janetdoyle Active Member

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    Great... good to hear you're online again! Lots of interest in this topic, I must say.
     
  24. cocobolo

    cocobolo Active Member

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    Hi Janet: Thanks for the welcome back.
    So far I have two sections of the garden in place, with the third underway. As soon as we get a good weather day I will get some photos and show you. One of the things I did manage to do was to build a bridge over a dry garden, a miniature of one in Kanagawa prefecture in Japan. It actually looks pretty good.
    We got to the Saltspring fair in September and fitted in a trip to the Bamboo Ranch. Wow!! I've never seen so much bamboo in my life. Just fantastic. I picked up about 18 different kinds, mostly small ones, so I am looking forward to seeing what they produce next spring. Looks like some decent weather headed this way for the weekend, fingers crossed.
     
  25. cocobolo

    cocobolo Active Member

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    Here's a shot of the zen gate at the south end of the Japanese Garden. Loosely copied from a picture in a book by Sunniva Harte. Any structures you may see in the garden will all have been made from scrap wood left over from the construction of our cabin and house. Pretty much all driftwood cut on the bandmill.
     

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