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lbb
02-13-2010, 04:08 PM
Walking into the dojo today, I got a good look at our dwarf juniper for the first time in a couple of months. Normally it wouldn't even be visible for another six weeks or so, but we've had a really low snowfall year -- not especially warm, just really dry -- and our little dwarf juniper was above what remained of the snow. It looks good, and it actually seems to have some new growth -- I don't know if that's actually possible, or if my starved-for-green eyes are just imagining it, but if so, it was a nice imagining.

Does your dojo have a garden? Do you want one? We had nothing but asphalt surrounding our dojo, until we ripped some of it up and made a garden. It was a revelation to me. How often do we look at asphalt and pavement, and see it as a permanent thing?

Do you want a garden?

David Maidment
02-13-2010, 04:28 PM
The surroundings of our dojo consist of a car park and a Chinese restaurant. A garden would be amazing, but there would be nowhere to place it.

lbb
02-13-2010, 04:43 PM
Hi David,

Making the place is possible, if you own the land -- that's what we did. We thought about container gardening, but Sensei (whose middle name ought to be "Not another project!") got the crazy idea that we could cut some asphalt and do it. Lotta work, but I'm glad that we ended up not doing containers -- I don't know spit about container gardening.

Cady Goldfield
02-14-2010, 05:13 PM
I'm a gardener-horticulturist by profession, and in recent years I've seen more interest in small "pocket gardens" for local businesses. Down the road from me, a new yoga school renovated a former restaurant, ripped out a small paved entry area in front and replaced it with a swath of ornamental shrubs and specimen trees. One could almost hear the building breathe a sigh of relief the day the plantings went in!

So many dojos are in urban environs with nary a postage-stamp patch of ground, and if they have an on-site parking lot they consider themselves fortunate. Sometimes, a container garden is all they can fit, onto a front entry landing or parking median island.

One potential solution where there is no room for a garden, is the "tsuboniwa" approach (tsuboniwa are the usually tiny courtyard gardens designed into the interior of Japanese homes and buildings), creating an indoor garden area using grow-lights and raised (or recessed) containers. Businesses have done this for years, and recently I've been introducting it into the homes of some of my garden clients.

Containers:
You can do a lot of gardening even with a container. It can be as simple as a large ceramic pot or Asian-style water/fish bowl or even a wooden garden box: You nail together a frame of cedar boards or other moisture-tolerant and attractive material -- 2'x3' or larger --, place a piece of rubber pond liner on the floor and up the sides of the frame, put in a 2" layer of rinsed coarse builder's sand and a 1" layer of crushed charcoal on top of that, then fill to within 1.5" of the lip of the frame with a high-quality container soil mix, then plant a variety of plants that are compatible with the particular indoor conditions such as light, temperature, etc.

It really pays to look at some good books on Japanese/Asian gardening aesthetics to get the ideas for the design (and to avoid the worst garden-design faux pas), and a good houseplant book so you know how to care for the plants. It can be a lush woodland of plantings, or even a minimalist scene with pebbles and a simple stone lantern or mossy stone birdbath and a small clump of bamboo, mosses and/or ferns. A good source of info for beginners is a book called "A Japanese Touch for Your Garden," from the Kodansha publishing company. It's been around for years and still is popular because the information is useful and the photographs are inspiring.

Just remember to water and fertilize if you use live plants, and occasionally mist or douse the foliage with lukewarm water to remove dust.

Not so hard, really, and the payoff is a garden that can provide years of beauty (not to mention cleaner air!).

ninjaqutie
02-15-2010, 10:58 AM
I would love a garden at our dojo!

Cady Goldfield
02-15-2010, 05:36 PM
I would love a garden at our dojo!

Oregon and Washington are like the Garden of Eden with that fabulous Pacific Temperate Rainforest climate in the western coastal region.(If you haven't been to the Japanese garden in Portland, you really oughtta go.) Even if your dojo has no outdoor space, maybe they'd be willing to try out a small indoor container garden.

In case anyone comes up with the excuse of not having a "green thumb," or no one wants to volunteer to do regular maintenance, keep in mind that you can make a really beautiful, low-maintenance garden from pebbles and a grouping of interesting, textural rocks and maybe a small water feature or lantern and just one or two plants. If the interior of the dojo doesn't get much natural light, you can get an indoor grow-lamp and leave it on 12-14 hours a day to keep the plants healthy.

And, the stone garden approach works beautifully outdoors, too. If you have even a doormat-sized piece of ground outside the door, it's more than enough for a "Zen" rock garden that requires very little upkeep.

So many possibilities.

ninjaqutie
02-16-2010, 12:24 PM
Oregon and Washington are like the Garden of Eden with that fabulous Pacific Temperate Rainforest climate in the western coastal region.(If you haven't been to the Japanese garden in Portland, you really oughtta go.) Even if your dojo has no outdoor space, maybe they'd be willing to try out a small indoor container garden.

I have been to both the Japanese and Chinese gardens in Portland and I enjoyed them both. I actually saw them both in the same day and it was neat to see how different they are. I will ask my sensei if they have ever thought about having a garden. :)

lbb
02-16-2010, 02:24 PM
Even just having a few plants in containers around the place is nice -- but it is an ongoing commitment to keep up. Every year, though, the work on our gardens is a bit less, as we get past the "project" phase and more onto the maintenance phase, and as the upkeep gets streamlined. We definitely have less trouble with weeds now, but it took a couple seasons of devoted weeding to get to that point. Our next challenge is to put in plantings on an area of the grounds that people cut through frequently -- here I think the biggest challenge will be to get people to respect the garden and not throw their trash there. I don't know if signage helps or hurts with this kind of thing.

Cady Goldfield
02-16-2010, 06:06 PM
(snippage) Our next challenge is to put in plantings on an area of the grounds that people cut through frequently -- here I think the biggest challenge will be to get people to respect the garden and not throw their trash there. I don't know if signage helps or hurts with this kind of thing.

IME, signage can work if it is is friendly/humorous and is accompanied by a trash barrel that is emptied regularly and is placed right along the "path of desire" (the official term for a heavily used cut-through path) so the passersby don't have to go out of their way. After all, if they are cutting through instead of going around, and also dropping trash, they probably are basically lazy. ;)

You might also get respect (or some semblance of it) for the garden by creating an actual path (bark mulch or gravel) on the ground that is being trodden. It doesn't have to be complicated -- if the area is soil, just dig a couple of inches down and put an inch of so of coarse gravel on the bottom, then another inch of pea pebbles on top. Or use bark mulch on top of coarse sand. You'll have to refresh it periodically (gravel gets kicked out over time; mulch decomposes into soil), but a 40 lb. bag of gravel at Home Depot is less than 3 bucks and will cover a several of feet of path a couple inches deep. I've done this with some of my clients' properties and it's cheap 'n' easy, and can be very attractive if you put some plantings along it.

Marc Abrams
02-17-2010, 06:13 PM
I have a bunch of potted plants in my waiting room and dojo space. I will be adding a couple of jasmine plants. Their blooms create a beautiful scent in the air. I plan on adding a Zen stone garden outside of my dojo between the parking area and walkway. I love gardening at my home and am just getting into deciding what I want to do with the inside and outside space of the dojo.

Marc Abrams

Cady Goldfield
02-21-2010, 09:21 PM
Addendum:
Back in my first post (#4), I forgot to mention that if you make a planting box using a rubber pond liner for indoor use, take care not to over-water the plantings, as the rubber liner will retain the moisture and you risk turning your garden into a bog.

If you use it outdoors, you can punch drainage holes in the liner and let water drain out into the ground; indoors the layers of sand and charcoal on the bottom serve to keep accumulated water from quickly going stagnant, but it's important to keep your garden just a bit moist, and never soggy.

Of course, if you want to have a bog- or water garden using wetland plants such as rushes, sedges, horsetails (Equisetum), etc. (often used in Japanese gardens, and thus perfectly appropriate for a dojo), drainage isn't needed. :)