I’m currently reading Japanese Garden Design by Marc P. Keane. And what a fascinating read it is. Although I’m the last person who anyone would consider someone capable of following the tenets of Zen, a practice which involves deep introspection and a patient, reserved nature, I’ve learned a few things or two from Keane’s descriptions of gardening throughout Japan’s most notable periods and my own exploratory bouts about Koriyama.
While I’m primarily interested in the specific plants used in Japanese gardens – Japanese maple trees, ferns, etc. – I’ve begun to grasp the use of rocks as well as sand in said enclosed areas.
Perhaps most importantly, however, is the principle of patience. Something of which I have little. A book such as Keane’s is difficult for me to read without smirking or consciously rejecting upon first perusal. The notion of exploring the world of the garden mentally and the long and drawn-out routine of cleansing—or combing—the sand of leaves and debris for the purpose of contemplation, detailed in Keane’s book, made me scoff at first.
I’m a thing of reactions and actions. With Japanese gardens, it’s careful, forethought placement. The islands of rock symbolizing an ancient legend while also being aesthetically pleasing. The rocks that at first glance are casually and oft haphazardly placed atop one another to create the illusion of a waterfall which could allow for carp to ascend through wrought determination to become a dragon. The two-poled entrances and plants themselves, symbolizing not grand entrances but reminders of humbleness.
Despite my frustratingly unreignable nature, the nature of Japanese gardens demands incredible detail, patience, and knowledge. I understand this when designing gardens online; I may know what plants to consider for drainage, soil retention, etc., but when it comes to aesthetics, I still have so much to learn.