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     Marijke & Piet.

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Topiary hedges, design and refine by experience

My first thought for a post-title was ‘Design and re-design by experience’. But then, later I considered that as too strong. Hence the current title. What is that all about ?

In this post I will discuss, and more importantly show, an interesting and even intriguing, development.

Find the differences in these photo’s (taken from the roof of the left side garden compartment) of our herb garden. To the left in 2005 the right one in august 2010.

herbgarden-hedge-originalIMG_0175   herbgarden-hedge-newdesignIMG_3934

Why did we change the lay-out of the herb garden hedges ?
Well, actually because of two reasons.

  1. The space left for the herbs and other plants (even some vegetables) was getting too small. Although we could take-back the hedges somewhat but that did not seem to give much space. We did not want to reduce them much in size.
  2. We wanted to reduce the annual maintenance effort required to retain size and shape of the topiary hedges.

And what was the result of this one-time effort ?

  • A reduction in maintenance time of about 20 %, going from almost 7 hours per session to less than 5 hours 30 minutes. The sides are 1 meter 20 cm (4 feet) and we reduced them with five.
  • Although less then anticipated, there is more space for the plants. Only two out of seven sections remained the same size (not counting the loss 5 years later).
  • The box that where removed further enhance the garden aesthetic.
    We really needed to think about where and how to place the out-coming plants. But we could have placed more of them eventually.
  • Admittedly, a side-effect, but we see the new structure as a far better fit into the garden very much in the sense of Zen.
    Viewed from a distance, or obscured or out of focus, both lay-outs look very much the same. But the difference is substantial. The original design is (almost) symmetric whereas the new structure gives a symmetric impression by is totally a-symmetric. This, to our opinion, is one of the essences of Zen-Buddhism as asymmetry is intrinsic to Buddhist thought. Creation of visual balance with asymmetrically, seemingly off-balance, placed and weighted objects.

    Perhaps the many years of plasticizing Zazen and building and maintaining this garden, have really given us some sense of Zen ?

One of the very important architecture and design principles is:

‘Suchigaete’  数値違えて, ‘Asymmetrical’ or ‘off-balance’ design in an otherwise highly symmetrical framework of house and lot (also irregular numerical value, designing with asymmetrical elements) .

Only now this principle has also been applied to this garden-element, the herb garden structure.

This is also better in line with the seven characteristics of Shinichi Hisamatsu (see Design the architecture). One of seven main principles of aesthetics in Zen philosophy is Fukinsei  不均斉: 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.

Related: The left side garden compartment, Training, clipping and pruning, Regular cleaning-up, 2 – Design the architecture.