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     Marijke & Piet.

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Pilgrimage: Ofuda (御札 charm, talisman), a shrine or a temple seal

A popular custom is to buy a blank booklet at the beginning of the pilgrimage and have a calligraphy named 'Ofuda', painted in it, at each of the temples (1). It is believed that one after one's death, when one can show this booklet to the deity at the gate of heaven, one obtains permission to enter heaven immediately regardless of one's sins. This is how we knew that the Japanese on their pilgrimage along temples and shrines have a booklet in which they, at every temple, ask a priest or monk to (after a small donation) calligraphy the temple name, date etc. and put the temple stamps in the booklet.


The place where this is done is called Nokyosho. At the first temple we visited (in May 1991) we bought our selves such hard-bound silk cover booklet and, although we where primarily interested in the gardens, we had it "signed" at each and every temple.

To us this booklet now is a precious trinket full of good memories and you never know if it may come in handy after all.

These photo's give a impression of our "temple booklet" with Ofuda´s.

The name of the shrine in the centre and the date of the visit on the left. The date is written top to bottom: year - month and day. Some of the "calligraphy" is produced by a stamp rather than man made. 

Down: This is the monk who drew the first ofuda in our temple-book in the Benzaiten shrine, Inokashira Park, Tokyo.  

As an example, The Shikoku Henro, one of the oldest pilgrimages in Japan. This pilgrimage which is located on the mountainous, southern island of Shikoku, covers a distance of almost one thousand miles and takes the pilgrim along 88 temples.
The traditional way to do the pilgrimage is on foot, in white pilgrim clothes, shaven-headed, following the Buddhist precepts as closely as possible, and performing the usual rituals at all of the 88 temples. Apart from the white pilgrim clothes each pilgrim has a traditional Japanese straw hat, a wooden walking stick symbolizing Kôkai (in Japanese this custom is called dôgyô ninin: the pilgrim is accompanied on his way by Kôkai, who protects him), and a small white bag containing items like a small prayer book, a kesa (surplice), a tiny bell, incense, and a rosary.

A Pilgrimage to 108 Japanese Temples and Shikoku Japan 88 Route Guide.

Literature and  Books that can be of interest to the "Japanese" gardener. 

Although one needs to stay alert because some clerk may try to push a stamp on one of your pages, some of these calligraphy's are genuine pieces of art. Below some of the "stamps only" seal.  


A forced recess: Infective or bacterial Endocarditis

The garden has seen one of its poorest years ever. Initially.
At the end of the year all looks good again. During the first half year of 2014 my wife had to do the maintenance on here own. During the second half of the year I gradually gained control again. Not only about the garden bud also about my life.

Just after my 60-sixt birthday in September 2013 and my early retirement, thinks went terrible wrong with my health. Too tired, little appetite, an irritating cough and even a faint.
A round Christmas I got a number of health complains. But then, in these days you don't want to go to your general practitioner. Until it really got bad during early January. My weight had dropped about 10 kg (22 Pounts) in a few months and my blood values where bizarre. During the first quarter of 2014 I frequently got into the hospital for a number of examinations. Prostate, intestine, stomach, gullit, longs and more. Noting suspicious.
A thorax-scan was planned in the last week of March. This was a sort of last hope to trace the organ guilty of all the complaints.

It never came this far.
On March 19 around six hour clock, during the meal, my wife realized that I could not eat and then not talk. Also none of my right site limbs no longer functioned. I only remember vaguely that my wife helped me into our car and that she brought me into the hospital with a wheelchair. Then I waked up in the middle of the night.
Then it toke a couple of day's to find out that I was in the wrong department of the hospital. Although I had a a cerebral- or brain-haemorrhage (Dutch: hersenbloeding) do real problem was a Bacterial Endocarditis. Later we found out that this was a very critical week and a half or so.

Infective or bacterial Endocarditis is an infection of the inner lining of my heart resulting in damaged heart valves (Dutch: streptocokken). At the same time (19 march 2014) a cerebral infarction and/or brain haemorrhage (Dutch: hersenbloeding/herseninfarct) resulted in aphasia (Dutch: afasie).

After the specific bacteria causing the endocarditis was identified from my blood culture tests, a course of intravenous (IV) antibiotic therapy was started. IV antibiotics was given for as long as 7 weeks to control the infection. Symptoms where monitored throughout therapy and blood tests where performed to determine the effectiveness of treatment.
This was no fun. The therapy was day and night. All this extra liquid let me to piss every one or two hours minimum. Until I got a bladder infection, that let me piss every half our. But I survived.
During the second half of 2014 I got regular therapy for logopedia and this brought me where I am to day.
Initially the heart valve damage was substantial. Surgery was required to fix the heart valve and improve heart function. However. Due to the cerebral infarction the risk was, and is, regarded as too high. I feel great and, with some restrictions, I can do what I want to do, including all garden activity. In particular enjoy the garden and nature.

And how got this bacteria into my hart? Well, for sure we now know that it got there during a treatment of a root canal in 2006.

Disclaimer: The garden is still one of my passions. Unfortunately due to the cerebral infarction/brain-haemorrhage I now have a aphasia. This improved substantially in the course of the last year. I am sure that I will never be the same person. Listening is just fine. Talking is more difficult and takes more time. Perhaps no more philosophical discussions like the old day's. But with some patiences that is still possible. Writing and reading is also more difficult. This means that I will continue this Blog and maintain the website. You will have to be patient because updates will be less frequent. Also you have to be forgiving with regard to my writing even with spell-checking.

Buxus disease, Box Blight? Cylindrocladium Buxicola, continued

O-karikomi BoxBlight in November 2009

In Buxus disease, Box Blight? Problem with box topiary I wrote about a new, at the time the latest, buxus problem in our garden. Now, about three years later, we know that this is a problem that is here to stay and will not easily go away.

In 2002, the cause of a new box blight disease was confirmed to be a new fungal species called Cylindrocladium buxicola. Box blight caused by Cylindrocladium buxicolais (also Pseudonaviculatum Volutella buxi) is now widespread throughout The Netherlands and Europe. In The Netherlands it was first seen around 2005 where the genetic-group G2 was identified. The fungus now pops up around the globe so be warned!

An important mode of spread of the disease in gardens has been through the introduction of apparently healthy Buxusmaterial carrying the disease into gardens or nurseries. Nurseries have access to a wide range of fungicides that may suppress the disease rather than killing the fungus. If the fungus stops spreading this photo shows the end-result in close-up.

Cylindrocladium buxicola fungus, final stage

This new fungus proved resistant to most of the agents available of which only few are available to consumers like us.

I now started using a new fungicide developed by Bayer. It is named Bayer Twist plus spray and has double agents: 0,125 g/l tebuconazool and 0,125 g/l  trifloxystrobine.

BayerGarden Twist-Plus spray

This is not meant to promote this stuff but rather to inform you that it is available and may also be a solution to your problem. Well, the latter has yet to be proven in our garden, but still.

It is important to sanitize equipment and tools regularly and to separately destroy infected debris.  Although one advice is to maintain adequate spacing between plants to promote air circulation, that is no option for us.

This article in the Journal of Plant Pathology (2008), 90 (3), 581-584 describes the disease and its spread throughout Europe.

References: The control of Cylindrocladium buxicola, Buxus disease, Box Blight? Problem with box topiary


Resurrection of our Wisteria sinensis

Wisteria-sinensis 1st re-bloom in 2013

In Frost damage 2011/2012, final damage report I wrote about the frost-damage in our garden during the winter 2011/2012 and the subsequent growth and our attempts to give it a second life.

This frost damage was particularly sat with regard to our garden pride, the solitary Wisteria sinensis. Now the second season after the disaster, we have a very late spring. Temperatures have been far too low, lots of rain and little sun shine.

Now in the last week of may, we can make up the next damage report. The conclusion is that it survived. [ . . . ]

Book review: Niwaki by Jake Hobson


Niwaki: Pruning, Training and Shaping Trees the Japanese Way by Jake Hobson, English language and published by Timber Press.

In [12] you find a book reference to “Niwaki”, (niwa ki) clipped and pruned garden trees, a book that we should have had right from the beginning.

Unfortunately at was not available at the time (1997/1998) we designed and started building the garden. Nonetheless, although late it is never too late for this kind of expert information. What we did use as a reference for trees initially, is a book on bonsai [13]. Most trees, shapes and techniques on training [ . . . ]

Front-garden gravel-area restoration

Box-roots in the gravel area

At the time we initially constructed our garden we used a couple of hundred square meters of weed control fabric (barrier cloth) as a basis for the gravel area's, in particular the Ginshanada.

When that was almost finished we walked into just a minor shortage of barrier cloth, to finish the gravel area to the left of the front entrance, beside the drive, required for the Hõrai-jima, "symbol of the islands of the Blest", in the front garden compartment.

As we had plenty of plastic bags at our disposal and this was just a [ . . . ]

Winter season-impression: Weather-Gods garden-art

Snow-topped ripples in raked-gravel

After a delay the winter has now commenced. Last week we got some snow. At first a thin layer and later about 5 to 10cm (2-4 inch) in our part of the country. We also had the pleasure of a good frost (damage for this winter yet unknown).

This post gives a brief impression of some of the wonders-of-Nature or (almost) "works of art" created by the Weather-Gods, in our garden during January 2013. We had snowfall named driving snow, very dry snow and extreme winds, letting it snow horizontally from all directions.

[ . . . ]

Our Ulmus parvifolia (Elm-tree) got Dutch elm disease

Our beautiful Ulmus parvifolia or Elm-tree in The front garden compartment is again partly affected by Dutch elm disease (DED). Well that is to say most parts that survived the previous attack.

In July 2011 we had to remove some heavy branches because they had lost all leafs in mid-summer. Although substantial damage, the tree came out pretty well.

This time, after a tough winter period, we saw far more damage and found out that this is Dutch elm disease, a fungus Ophiostoma ulmi (syn. Ceratocystis ulmi) and Ophiostoma novo-ulmi. Ophiostoma novo-ulmi that was first [ . . . ]

What tools to use to trim Buxus topiary shrubs?

I think the complete question should read like: What tools to use to trim Buxus topiary shrubs … in a Japanese- and more specifically Zen-garden?

Most of the karikomi and hako-zukuri topiary and other shrubs are the evergreen Buxus sempervirens (Box or Boxwood).

Throughout the years I have used, or perhaps it is better to say tested or tried to use, a number of different tools to trim the topiary Buxus (Box) in our garden. At the end I am always using an ordinary hedge-shears complimented by an also ordinary pruning shears.


A disadvantage [ . . . ]

Frost damage 2011/2012, final damage report

As I already wrote in Frost damage, to survive or to die ? for the first time in the life of Tsubo-en we have major frost damage. Now in June we can draw conclusions.

Although most of our Prunus Lusitanica in the frond garden had some or major damage, after careful pruning, all are back in good shape again. Or growing into the desired direction. The photo to the left shows an example of this damage top-right.

The previous is also true for the damaged Prunus Laurocerasus "Otto Luyken". It takes some time but [ . . . ]

Midoritsumi or ‘green picking’ the pine-trees: Continued

In Midoritsumi or ‘green picking’ the pine-trees I first wrote about this annual mandatory “bud pinching” activity. This year, with our first Frost damage due to minimum temperatures as low as -22,9 °C (-9.2F), growth of most plants, including the Pinus densiflora, Japanese Red Pine started a few weeks late.

The photo to the left shows the Pine prior to the annual autumn midoritsumi.

This year I used a small scaffold, rather then a ladder, that makes this job a lot more relaxed and less dangerous. I only need to climb into the tree to remove the [ . . . ]

Shumi-sen or Mount Sumeru, in historical perspective

In the garden book Sakuteiki 5 “Creating a garden” is expressed as “setting stones”, ishi wo taten koto; literally, the “act of setting stones upright.”

At the time the Sakuteiki was written, the placement of stones was perceived as the primary act of gardening. Similar expressions are also used in the text, however, to mean literally “setting garden stones” rather than “creating gardens”.

Make sure that all the stones, right down to the front of the arrangement, are placed with their best sides showing. If a stone has an ugly-looking top you should place [ . . . ]

Frost damage, to survive or to die ?

As mentioned in my earlier post Tracks in the snow we had an unusual winter with extreme frost. This is the first time ever that we have substantial frost damage.

Although we have previously had these low temperatures and minor damages, the combination of factors this year was very different and fatal to some plants.

After an extreme delay the winter has now commenced. Last week (February 1, 2012) we got about 20 cm (8 inch) snow. We also had the pleasure to be the coldest spot in the country with -22,9 °C (-9.2F).

[ . . . ]

Tracks in the snow

After an extreme delay the winter has now commenced.  Last week we got about 20 cm (8 inch) snow. We also had the pleasure to be the coldest spot in the country with -22,9 °C (-9.2F).

It’s exciting to find trails in the snow of “wild creature”. While we have no clue what wildlife is likely prowling nearby and what it is they are “hunting”.  It is interesting to read the stories they’ve left in the snow while doing their things.

Birds are very busy and very visible, specially during daytime. Mammals we [ . . . ]

Late winter or no winter 2011/2012

The first frost we had in the Winter of 2011-2012

So far we have not seen any real winter weather. It is more like an extremely long autum.

Last week we had the very first frost of this season on Monday 16th and Tuesday 17nd of January 2012. This is exceptionally late! And it actually lasted only 2 nights, and only just below 0°C.

What we did have in Summer and in Spring, but also up to now, is rain, plenty of rainfall, and actually far to much of it.

This shows that the drainage-system that we constructed in the garden, in particular under the [ . . . ]

Wisteria sinensis winter pruning

Over winter the Wisteria side shoots need to get pruned back to 6 to 10 cm long (2.5 – 4 inch), leaving only 2 or 3 buds on the side-shoots. These will be the flowering spurs on the Wisteria.

This pruning should be carried out each year. The only shoots to be left untouched are those which are required to extend the size or direction of your wisteria. In our case that is history as the current size and shape is what we desired.

This year I did the pruning rather late in the [ . . . ]

Японский Сад «Цубо-Ен», Japanese garden “Tsubo-en” in Ukraine magazine


An article about our garden written by Olga van Saane has been published in September 2011 issue of the garden-magazine “Neskuchniy Garden” («Нескучный Сад») in Ukraine.

An abstract of the article, in the Russian-language, can also be found on the blog of the article author.

[ . . . ]

Most beautiful spot in province of Flevoland nomination


Yes! With 24 other places we have been nominated as “Most beautiful spot in the province of Flevoland“.

The search of this spot is to commemorate the fact that this year our province officially exists 25 year. The inauguration was on 27 Juni 1985 but the work to create this “New land” had started some 30 to 40 years before that date.

The city of Lelystad is situated on the “New Land” (i.e. reclamed land) and hence is even younger than it. Lelystad is the capital of the province of Flevoland. The [ . . . ]

Abies procera “Glauca” (Noble Fir) tidy-up


This is part of the activity I discussed in Niwaki-trees annual pruning and trimming for shape and size. Because of the exceptional attributes of this Abies I wanted to show some additional photo’s, and here they are. This is about our Abies procera “Glauca” (Noble Fir or Blue Noble Fir).

In its native environment this tree can reach a hight of 40-70 meter (130-230 feet). That is why a couple of years ago we decided to take out the head. Limiting the growth and shaping the head is on of the annual activities. [ . . . ]

Niwaki-trees annual pruning and trimming for shape and size


Most of the solitary trees need one major annual treatment of pruning and trimming for shape and size.

After 12 years in our garden, most trees ar some 15 to 17 years of age and have now reached the right size and often the right shape. It is in particular the shape that can be further perfected.

This year we started this work early in the cycle as a result of the unusually soft and sunny weather conditions during spring. This post shows some highlights of this work. For details please use the hyperlinks [ . . . ]