One should not just reproduce the traditional gardens of olden times, but should study those works well and then refer to them when making a contemporary garden. To refer to and to imitate are two very different things (in  by Mirei Shigemori 6 ).
Many books have been written on the subject of how to realize your own garden, few however use a structured method to guide you in this, and even fewer use such method to realize a Japanese-garden, let alone a Zen-garden. This section is divided into two chapters. The first subsection is a general approach for garden realization. The second, this part, reflects how we used the method to realize Tsubo-en.The sections below add directed content to the realization-phases. Content directed to Tsubo-en as karesansui garden and its unique lot and location.
In the following sections we will go into more detail
on the realization-phases. We will elaborate on these
phases with the, for Tsubo-en most, important
considerations and decisions. In some cases we will
link to the relevant page as some of the subjects are
also included in the main option menu (left
You can click a phase-pictogram to jump directly to a specific realization-phase.
|The six iterative garden realization phases (for Tsubo-en)|
Determine the vision and strategy
- 2 -
Design the architecture
- 3 -
Design and select the visible-objects and elements
- 4 -
Infrastructure design and component selection
- 5 -
Build and construction of the integral design
- 6 -
Maintenance and tuning
O and ko-karikomi,
Principles, Rules & Characteristics (traditional restraints)
Rules & Guidelines,
Product manuals & usage instructions
Do It Yourself
Everlasting skillful labour
This may sound egoistic but in our case the purpose
of the garden is just our delight and doing something
creative in and with nature.
With this website we hope to relax the "us being selfish" part a little.
In the modern translation of the Sakuteiki 
the authors see three aspects of Buddhism reflected in the garden.
The third relating to the aspect of Buddhism by which the religion
is seen as a protector of the individual.
Inserting specific Buddhist elements in the garden was done for
reasons similar to those for introducing elements that had geomantic
influence. Both the Buddhist elements and the geomantic elements were
perceived as protecting the household.
And as stated above, we have only taken these aspects into account for the impact on the aesthetics of the garden and under the assumption that it will not enhance the appearance and appreciation when seen or experienced by a spectator without a thorough background of the rules and taboos, imi or kinki.
Design the garden so that its beauty accords with the site and responds to the passage of time as sensitively as do leaves in a whispering breeze, with nothing clumsy or coarse about it. The result must be fascinating in a quiet, graceful way.The above passage from "Illustrations for Designing Mountain, Water, and Hillside Field Landscapes" (1466), sets a high standard for landscape designers, one that cannot be achieved simply by following rules. Even the author of Tsukiyama Teizoden5, the first "do-it-yourself" Japanese garden manual, cautioned against taking the rules he set down too seriously:
Recall the vistas of various famous places, select what attracts you and add your own interpretation. It is best to use this as a theme to design the whole of the garden while adding just the right amount of changes.Sakuteiki 5 , translated by Marc Peter Keane .
The above implies that thinking ahead and anticipate how things will develop over time is an important aspect of the design phases. Almost by definition some of the outcome will be different than anticipated and hence may require tuning and refining.
An other quality that we pursue is the experience
of unity or "one-ness" with the garden from
within the house.
These two requirements in combination with the fit into the surrounding lead to the conclusion that we would only use a minimum sloping and a relatively large gravel area (Ginshanada or "silversand open sea").
Although of subordinate importance, we want to do most of the work, including the heavy groundwork ourselves. This has also influenced the fact that we use very little big rocks, or actually few rocks all together. So we use the shrubs for that. An other factor that played an important role here is that Marijke is not in favor of the rocks as less of those will ad to the tranquillity of the garden.
The Tsjubo-en garden can be typified as a "Kyõto (karesansui) style" garden. These then are divided into two groups, one of which classifies as the more abstract type. Here abstract themes are used to compose a scenic garden  and they often incorporate the principle of "yohaku no bi" 7 : the beauty of empty space .
In addition Tsubo-en incorporates some tea garden (cha-niwa or roji) design-elements.
Some of the architecture and design principles we used are:
Tsukiyama teizoden 5 uses "forms", for "private gardens":
Regarding the complexity or the degree of
elaboration Tsukiyama teizoden names three levels:
Shin, Gyo and So.
These originally referred to calligraphy and three styles of writing Chinese characters. It originated in China. The Shin style corresponding to the non-cursive, more rigid form of the letters, the Gyo style referring to the semi-cursive style of characters and finally, the So style corresponding to the very cursive form of the characters.
It developed over the course of time stretching from 1350 B.C. to 700 A.D. S-G-S was introduced to Japan and evolved during the period 593 to 1185 A.D. During the period 1221 to 1573 A.D. SGS was cultivated in the Japanese arts, specifically in the fields of Renga (linked verse), Noh (drama), Ikebana flower arranging and even Bonsai, (Japanese) tea ceremony and gardens. S-G-S in Japanese gardens first was about reducing the number of stones.
This "complexity" relates to the number of elements and objects like: scenes, hills, rocks, stone, tree's, bushes and other objects and the level of detail in a garden. For Tsubo-en this means that the form will be of the Hira-niwa type with a Gyo complexity.
We also used the seven characteristics of Shinichi Hisamatsu (1889-1980) that where inspired by Zen Buddhism  These seven main principles of aesthetics in Zen philosophy are used for achieving sabi (rustic patina) and wabi (simple, austere beauty):
Asymmetry, odd numbers, irregularity, unevenness and imbalance as a denial of perfection. Perfection and symmetry does not occur in nature.
The opposite of geometric circles or squares or of symmetrical balance
Asymmetry is intrinsic to Buddhist thought.
Keeping things basic and plain, free of decoration and gimmicks. Kanso is plain white paper and black ink on paper, not oil on canvas. You only use what you need and nothing more. Kanso is the bare essential.
Austere sublimity, maturity, aged, bare
Basic, weathered bare essentials that are aged and unsensuous. Evoking sternness, forbidence and maturity. Things that can remind us of Kokou are the worn bark of old trees, rocks and boulders, harshness of the desert and the natural cycle of growth, decay and death.
Raw, natural and unforced without pretense. True naturalness is to negate the naive and accidental.Being natural is to let the natural grain pattern of wood show instead of painting over it. It denotes an implied, more or less hidden, (experience of) beauty.
It does not mean raw nature. It invovles full creative intent, but should not be forced; unselfconsciousness; true naturalness that is a regation of the naive and accidental.
Subtle profundity, deep
Suggest and not reveal layers of meaning hidden within. Invisible to the casual eye and avoiding the obvious.Real beauty exists when, through its suggestiveness, only a few words, or few brush strokes, can suggest what has not been said or shown, and hence awaken many inner thoughts and feelings.
Things not wholly revealed but partly hidden from view; shadow and darkness, hence Yugen involves the shadow areas of the garden.
Freedom from attachment, unworldly
Transcendence of conventional and traditional. Free from the bondage of laws and restrictions. True creativity.
It invovlves transcendence from conventional usage. It is often a surprise element or an astounding characteristic.
Trust your imagination and let your mind and feelings go free.
Silence and tranquillity, blissful solitude. Absence of disturbance and noise from one’s mind, body and surroundings.
The silent solitude of the moon, a lone person in the middle of desert .
The characteristic of "stillness in activity" should be strongly felt in a Japanese garden.
From the previous phase we have the requirement to incorporate the two building architecture themes into the garden design. These two major themes that are part of the building architecture, inside and out, are straight lines combined with curved lines, mostly circular. This has been propagated into the design and applied throughout the garden. Not only can this be found in the ground-patterns formed by the Ginshanada and tsukiyama "coastline", and in the stepping-stones, that all have a straight side, but even in the topiary shrubs, expressed by the karikomi and hako-zukuri style.
This brought us to the garden architecture as
depicted by the black and white garden-plan drawing on the left.
Typically flat gardens combined features of the rock garden with elements adopted from the tea garden. Even at temples flat gardens were without the rigorous spiritual connotations of the Zen dry landscape. They were designed in a pleasing, decorative manner and introduced the use of many more plants. A flat area of gravel, typically adjacent to the residence from which it was viewed, was bordered on the far side by shrubs, trees and suggestive rock arrangements.
Other elements and objects that might be included are
garden ornaments such as pagodas (tahoto),
water basins, wells, lanterns, and
stepping stones used as accents and focal points.
Such ornaments, particularly garden lanterns, water
basins and stepping stones were late 16th century
innovations, introduced to Japanese garden design
intended for the practice of the tea ceremony
In color this looks much more promising, that is the above plan on the right.
Note that we have multiple versions of the garden-plan.
Using the same architecture template we use them to
document a variety of subjects, e.g. scenes and
elements, plants and planting, infrastructure
components, construction and location, different
The following drawing on the left shows a description of the landscape scenes, elements and objects in the garden-plan.
For the purpose of elaboration we use the
architecture design garden-plan with scenes and
elements defined. We divide this in seven more or
less logical garden-sections that have a capital
letter for identification. These sections are then
assigned to one of four garden compartments. Some
scenes and elements will be specific to one section
or compartment where others will involve multiple
sections and possibly compartments. In Tsubo-en we do
not plan a physical separation into compartments as
such. During a walk around the house, like the
virtual guided tour, you will not come across any
obstacles or gates along the path.
Rather than start with a plants and planting chapter we will first discuss these as integral part of the applicable garden compartment and possibly garden-section below, as they can not be seen as separate from the scenes and elements. Only when relevant, additional detail will be given in a separate chapter.
The following shows the hierarchy of terms that is used to identify garden "parts", from the highest level downwards.
Garden -> Compartments -> Sections -> Visible Objects and Elements -> Components (or Infrastructure Component). Actually infrastructure components are at a different level as they can relate to each and every level of the garden. In principle and preferably these are invisible to the visitor. Elements are composed of objects.
Scenes can cross compartments and garden-sections and are composed of Objects and Elements where Elements as such are a collection of objects that "belong together".
In the following chapters we will use these hierarchical relationships to structure the web pages.
As an example we fill this in for the main garden compartment.
The Tsubo-en garden is divided in four compartments the main garden being one of them. The main garden exist of four (garden-)sections B. C, D and E. All these sections incorporate part of the tobi-ishi path element. This element on its turn is subdivided in a number of visible objects, tobi-ishi and some special purpose stones.
The heavy step-stones that give entrance to the veranda, belonging to section E, and the composite stone composition of cut-granite that was very much inspired by the so called "Oribe's style" 4.
Related to design and the desired qualities listed
above we found an interesting study: "Visual
perception in karesansui gardens" and
"Visual perception in Japanese Rock Garden
Design". See Note 9
for details and do not forget to read the added
statement of caution.
Definition: Visible objects can be distinct single objects or elements, where (garden-)elements as such are a collection of objects that "belong together".
This phase not only is a continuation of the previous
phase, the architecture design, it is worked-out
iteratively. As can be concluded from the above, some
work related to this phase has already been done in
the architecture phase. The division of these phases
is not at all strict and actually can´t be even
if we wanted to. In this section we elaborate on the
scenes as designed and further detail and specify the
implementation. Here we also give a brief description
of the plants and planting along with the most
important reasons for selection.
For plant selection there will never be a guarantee that you make the right choice. The first time you will definitely need a plant encyclopedia that is specific to your country or climate-zone. We used a well known Dutch standard-work for that .
Regarding visible objects there are two qualities known as sabi (rustic patina) and wabi (simple, austere beauty) of which a good understanding is of utmost importance to any garden maker. Although these terms are often and very much are related to the Tea ceremony and Tea garden they are of high importance for any Japanese garden. If you are not familiar with these please have a close look at their meaning by use of the hyperlink.
The most important factors that influence the selection of garden-objects, including planting, are: availability, affordability and our climate-zone. Interestingly a number of "visible objects" is composed of or constructed with, plants.
Regarding plants we have different selection arguments, like: speed of growth, size, suitable for our climate and location, ability to shape, required maintenance-effort, durability (also climate related).
In this chapter we tell about the design and selection criteria that we applied to decide on the (visible) object material we used and construction and composition details of scenes and elements. For a variety of reasons in many cases we had to come to an acceptable compromise. When applicable these reasons will be explained and exemplified.
The structure of this phase is such that here we make a subdivision of four garden-compartments. In every compartment we discuss general subjects and list the elements and objects that are part of it. These parts will then have a designated page dedicated to that subject. The same is true for planting. In this way we create multiple entry points and hope to make navigation as direct as possible.
To go directly to the chapter of a garden compartment or section select and click it on this groundplan.
All information about the plants and planting in Tsubo-en
Index of plants in Tsubo-en is available in
Plants and planting in Tsubo-en.
During your study of this site it may be handy to have the groundplan at hand. In the site-footer you find a hyperlink: Groundplan pop-up, that brings up the groundplan in an independent pop-up window.
Part of the infrastructure is required to upkeep the
garden. An example is the drainage-system. Being
located at the sea bottom, the garden will easily
turn into a swamp or pond if not done properly.
The infrastructure should also make life more easy and make it possible to maintain the garden with substantially reduces effort (sprinkler, water-tap, electricity and lighting).
For a brief and quick overview see the Technology page. In addition some infrastructure detail can be found in the Maintenance page. More detail is given in the next chapter "Build and construction of the integral design".
When all of the above has been done, then we have
everything to perform the actual work and start
digging. In our case that is what we did. You can
also go for the option to "outsource" this work and
hire a horticulturist. This could actually already be
done in phase one, with our without additional
owner-input to the execution.
The Technology page and the Maintenance page show a short overview of the build and construction.
The following construction activities are more or less listed in the order in which they are logically executed.
Construction, Build and Object Placement in
Click for an extensive coverage
Ground levelling, Soil enrichment, Drainage
|Veranda, duckboards & gutter||
Paths & Terraces
Tsukubai & "lakes"
|Placement of Objects & Plants|
Well that is it. Be sure to document any changes for later
reference. After many years it is easy to forget where pipes and
wires lay. You do not want to find out the hard way during your
maintenance activities, the last and eternal phase.
Maintenance and tuning in Tsubo-en
Click for an extensive coverage
Pest & weeds control
Bottom surface maintenance
|Fukinaoshi 'to re-do' trees||
Training, clipping and pruning
|Preventive & Repair||Regular clean-up|