Posts Tagged ‘japanese garden’

Inspiration at Butchart Gardens

Last week we visited Victoria, British Columbia. During our visit we got to spend half a day at the Butchart Gardens. For a garden lover like myself this place is fantastic. For me it was the second visit, I’d been there over 20 years ago. For my wife it was her first visit.

In 1904 the Butcharts developed a quarry and cement factory at Tod Inlet on Vancouver Island. They also built their beautiful home there. The quarry was rich in the limestone essential to making cement. They exported to the rest of Canada and to the US.

As the limestone was exhausted the Butcharts began to transform a barren and stark quarry – a giant hollowed out area – into beautiful gardens. They hauled in tons of soil by horse and cart from a nearby farm.

Between 1906 and 1929 they created a beautiful Japanese Garden. A sunken garden, Italian Garden, a Rose Garden and more followed until the entire quarry was transformed into a chorus of trees, shrubs, and flowers.

On his 21st birthday their grandson, Ian, was given the garden and he spent the rest of his life developing it and opening it to the public. The garden remains in the family having been passed down through the generations.

It took us over two hours to see the entire garden, walking slowly along perfectly maintained paths, across bridges and by water fountains and other fixtures. For me the showcase of the gardens are the immaculate lawns and the extensive beds of flowers and bushes. They plant over a million bedding plants each year. Nearly a million people a year visit from around the world.

I’ve included only one photo here of his amazing garden. To see much more go to their site here.

The Butchart gardens are in inspiration to any gardener. They show the potential. On returning home I dived into improvements in our gardens inspired by what I saw.

Our gardens surrounding our home have been a labor of love for 15 years and will continue to be so. The inspiration gained from viewing the Butchart Gardens only give me more energy to develop our gardens further.

If you ever get the chance to see these gardens in British Columbia I hope you take it. They are a ferry ride from Seattle, Vancouver BC or Port Angeles, Washington. It is well worth the trip.

Happy Gardening,

Dan Murphy


Heavy Lifting

The current project in the front yard is a big one. Before I’m done I will have hand dug out over 4 cubic yards of soil digging out the pathways, moved and laid out 2 cubic yards of 3/8 minus crushed rock and about as much sand. The crushed rock lies on the base soil and a layer of weed barrier.

The paths in the inner garden are over half done now. On top of the sand I laid 1.5 – 2 inch thick silver granite flag stone. In the gaps between the stone is buff colored crushed rock without fines to give a Japanese garden look.

In the outer garden there is a straight pathway currently lined with brick. It runs parallel to our driveway. It has not worked well. I battle grass and weeds that grow up through the cracks every year. I’ve swept it with sand many times to retard this but to no avail.

So, once the inner garden is done all the brick comes out of the walkway in the outer garden. I will then have to dig down another 2 inches or more and haul that dirt to a berm I have created on the north side of the outer garden. I will then have to wheel barrow in nearly a cubic yard of crushed rock and then tamp that firm followed by about 2 inches of sand again tamped firm.

More granite flag stone goes down but must be perfectly leveled on this walk. Then I will surround the flag stone with ground granite (almost like coarse sand) and treat that with G3 Pathway Stabilizer which is supposed to harden the ground granite and form an impermeable weed free walk way.

When I am done I will have loaded, unloaded and laid out a half ton of granite, a quarter ton of decorative crushed gravel and another quarter tone of ground granite. The goal here is to have pathways that are permanent and durable. The inner garden will require more maintenance but that is the nature of a Japanese garden.

Then there are more projects. There is the tsucubai, a small Japanese style water basin with a bamboo spout that fills it with water through a recirculating pump. That goes in the inner garden. In the outer garden there are many more plantings to come and a dry stream bed lined with more rock.

It is hard work but immensely satisfying. When done it will remake the front yard and the aim is that it will look peaceful and inviting. This is the big garden project for 2014.

Those are the plans. As I mentioned a few posts ago photos will be posted of the finished project but I estimate it will take at least another 8 weeks to reach that finished stage.

Why a Japanese Garden?

I have always been enamored with the Japanese style garden. I love the one in Portland. This style is orderly and well-designed yet leaves much to the imagination. It has an understated beauty. Rather than the symphony of flowers typical of western gardens a Japanese style garden is more a reflection of nature. Yet it has refined elements and artificial design aspects that also make it obviously a human creation.

I built my first Japanese garden in 1996. It was about 45 feet square. It took a lot of work and served as a small strolling garden and courtyard style in one.

My current Japanese garden was begun in 2004. It is much smaller, about 25 feet long and 18 feet wide. It is in the courtyard style. Outside the courtyard is a larger area still influenced by the Japanese style. It originally had a lawn but that has been replaced with an area for more plantings and pathways. A dry stream bed will appear in the near future.

I like these gardens not only because of their beauty and reflection of nature but also because of their quiet meditative influence. You want to walk through them slowly. You want to be silent in them. You want to meditate in them. You want to reflect in them. They provide a place of peace and tranquility. I often call mine the Meditation Garden.

Oregon Japanese Garden Portland

Oregon Japanese Garden Portland


Later this spring when the transformation is done I will post more photos and hopefully you will see something well done.