Green Themes

Climb that mountain

Green Themes

    The Zen House

    Mission directive; do whatever you think is best.

    It’s not often a landscape designer gets a directive like this and here was an opportunity to implement some ideas that had been festering in my brain for a long time. I’m a firm believer in ecologically harmonious gardens with zero irrigation and minimal maintenance, this fit perfectly with the style of the house, reminiscent of Matsamura castle in Japan, and the Buddhist client.

    The site of the house is south facing with views of the bay but all the topsoil had been removed down to pure clay. Water seeps continuously through specially constructed drains and some is stored in an underground reservoir. The only plants left after construction were a line of Kei apple trees on the north boundary and a single Mesquite tree. [alien invader] After preparing the soil I created a ‘dry landscape’ for the north area with a representational dry riverbed flowing toward the deck from the northeast. The rocks are placed to suggest the illusion which the gravel and plants enhance. Indigenous ferns, tree, foxtail and asparagus ferns were used and the remainder of the slope is planted with agapanthus and a cluster of photinea between the meditation deck and a viewing stone. Rippled gravel covers the bare earth and suggests movement of  sand and water as your mood dictates. The alien was replaced with a wild olive and a Bonsai pine cascading from from a rock in a tray of water  completed the back garden.

    The sides of the house are narrow with high walls, the west side being utilized more than the east which is strewn with snow like gravel with a spiral of crushed glass encircled by an arc of golden  bamboo. This covers a troublesome wet spot and symbolizes a hole in the snow. A small moon viewing garden consisting of  silver leafed plants scattered amongst white lichen covered rocks is best appreciated at full moon. The west garden is a texture garden containing gravel, rock, plants and pebbles divided by a thick ships hawser. Three tall clumps of sacred bamboo with some restios completes the picture. This garden can be admired from three main viewing sides and final touches include a dragon gutter with chain descending to a reflecting well. A gate planted with jasmine leads to the front garden.

    Flagstones and driveway divide the front. A cluster of rocks, a coastal aloe and some Portulacca for colour highlight the side wall. An olive tree, some restios, cape honeysuckle and photinea are placed to screen and enhance areas. The whole is graveled and raked suggesting an almost desert environment. Gravel has many advantages and uses in the garden especially when drought curtails lawn irrigation. Each garden area can be seen to represent a season while enhancing the oriental character of the house and using a mixture of indigenous and exotic plants for effect.

    written by D Barnard