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How did you get started?

Started by phobbs, February 05, 2007, 10:45:33 PM

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I am always curious how a person gets started on a hobby or career.

On a family vacation, I went to the Japanese garden in Portland because it was part of a package where you could buy discounted admission to 10 local attractions.   As I walked through the garden, I was overwhelmed with a feeling of tranquility and serenity. People spoke in whispers, like they were in a church.

I have a job with a high stress level, so I decided that I wanted to recreate that feeling of peace and tranquility.  If I can pull it off, is a different matter.

To defeat the enemy in battle 1,000 times is not victory. Defeating the enemy without fighting is victory.  Sun Tsu


What a great topic!!!!!

Been around Japanese Gardens all my life, however they were always in the background, just me passing through kind of stuff.  What I did notice, during parties or get togethers, was the reverence given to the designers and maintainers.  Always at the head of line when the abalone (when there was abalone) was getting getting cut up for sushi.  Never without a full cold one at their side.

Started to ask questions about 10 years ago (I'm 40 now).  Started "trying" to recreate the feelings but came up empty.  Frustration followed by raised beds of whatever HGTV was hawking that week.  Moved a couple of times along the way, still got dirty but focussed on raising fruits and vegetables.

About five years ago got serious again after a visit to the San Francisco Japanese Garden.  Got really serious a few years ago when I registered at that other place.  Got rabidly serious when I found out that one of my favorite designers was in the hotel and restaurant management business before he started his gardening career in his 40s without any formal training. (you get that far into the paper I sent you).   :)

Ya see, it isn't too late to learn something even something so magical as Japanese Gardening.  Yeah, my pines aren't 100 years old and my stones aren't bigger than my truck but I got time, plenty of time.

And friends.



I stumbled (happily) into the world of Japanese style gardens while working at an Arboretum in Canada, where they were building one while I was a summer student working there. Then, after completing my horticulture training, I worked at the same arboretum and had to figure out how to maintain the garden (one of many I took care of). That led me to the advert. for my current position, for which I was accepted because of my intense horticulture training at a renowned school of horticulture, not for any knowledge on my part about Japanese gardens. I still don't know what I'm doing, but I know more than the rest of my colleagues, so that makes me the resident "expert." I've had to learn through trial and error what works with the plants and pine trees in my care and what doesn't (yeah, I've killed a few things along the way, but to my credit, I have not killed any pine trees that weren't already on their way out). So, if anyone wants to know what NOT to do in certain situations, I'm your gal!

Seriously, though, I've had to teach myself pretty much the whole way along. I was lucky enough to go to the Kyoto seminar and we have a well-stocked library here which I've mostly worked my way through. I've had to figure out the history and design aspects for myself, since I have no formal training in either. Luckily, there are a number of very friendly experts out there who are willing to pass along their advise and experiences to us beginners.


george in the uk

I got started after I found those magnificent fish called koi that originated in Japan, I was visiting a garden center at the time when I saw these two beautiful large blue fish when enquiring what they where I was told koi and they said they had some smaller ones which where not to expensive, so I bought four small ones(one swam around in my pond for thirty years before it died in 2000).I then found out to keep koi you need a filtration system to keep your water in the best condition, that was when I started my Japanese garden so that I could hide the filtration system,the rest is history,if you wish you can see my koi and garden by visiting my website.


Wow, I was also inspired by the Japanese Garden in Portland.

I have always been a gardening enthusiast but was on holidays in Portland and visited the gardens their and it really appealed to me, I think I like the fact that Japanese gardens have a sense of peace and spirituality about them

Since then I have set up a section of my own yard as a Japanese Corner and I always make sure to visit any Japanese garden in the city i'm traveling in.

:-* Anne.

Anne Mills Japanese Garden Enthusiast


Hi all, I visited Anderson's Japanese Garden in Rockford Il. when it was still a private garden.  It was much smaller than the public garden is now.  It was love at first sight and I am so grateful for the fact that Mr. Anderson was so generous and shared it with us.  My favorite time to walk in a Japanese Garden is during a spring rain.   

Cheers  June


Cool question .. I still wonder.  ;)

I don't consider myself a japanese gardener .. I'm a third generation italian guy from NY living for some time in Vegas .. a plant scientist by education with a growing interest of buddhism and all things japanese.

I've been in the landcsape industry since I was 13 years old .. worked my first summer in hot humid weather with all kinds of pain in the butt bugs and kooky customers to make enough money to buy one of those really cool japanese cameras that were big ticket items in the late seventies ... :)

I've been trying to get out of the industry ever since :-[ but the harder I try to get out the deeper I get into it.  :o

So maybe that is what got me into the industry .. a japanese camera ... ??? ???

Good Day ..  :)


Hello, all!

This is my first post to ANY forum, anywhere .... I am quite reserved but feel strangely comfortable at this site! I got exposed to japanese gardening by accident. A friend and I were carousing at a local blues bar called 'jackson station' (a wonderful place; but now closed. It was in an old RR depot; beer was free as long as a train was going by!) some 17 years ago. My friend had been talking to an older woman who had had too much to drink and needed a ride home. My friend was afraid he would not be able to bow out gracefully and feel obliged to crash with her, so I came along as 'moral reinforcement'. We dropped her at her condo but refused to stay. She was upset but told us she had something for us and went inside while we waited on her stoop. She returned with 2 small books and insisted that we each take one. Mine was one of those tourist guidebooks with lots of pix of famous japanese gardens. I was already into vegetable gardening and horticulturte but seeing those pix reshaped my whole gardening mindset. I have an intensively planted garden of 1/3 acre but only a small corner is devoted to a 'japanese garden'. I am a master gardener and have done a few local (traditional) garden designs on the side. I am a member of NARGS and subscribe to JOJG. I have read everything I can get my hands on about Japanese gardening. My wife is a nurse; I/we hope she can do some international travel-nursing in Japan and I'll have the opportunity to study there. I aspire to be a full-time garden designer, especially Japanese gardens. And I know I need to learn some japanese .... can anyone recommend a "system" of study or appropriate books?


Hello Everyone
I actually had the opportunity to work in Japan for 6 years.  Not to far from the apartment we had was a small japanese garden that I went to quite often.  I was always amazed how, in the center of Tokyo, you could have this complete feeling of tranquility.  With very busy streets on 2 sides, I could completely forget that I was in a huge bustling city.  After returning to Canada it took me a couple of years to start my garden here, but once my wife said that we needed to make some changes to our yard, I knew exactly what I wanted to do.  Now even though I am not sitting in the centre of Tokyo, I can get that same feeling.  Currently my garden is a work in progress, but I'm loving every minute of it


I love this post.  One year ago my husband and I bought a little fixer-upper.  I remember looking at the  real estate listing seeing this green mosquito pit with sagebrush and vines covering it.  We both looked at it and said "thats the first thing to go".  It was a pond 22' long 18" deep and 8' wide.  It was overwhelmed by green vines which grew around all sides of it and into it.  There had been a green netting/shade thing hanging over the pond but had fallen into it.  When we walked the yard I pulled on the green netting and the very green water suddenly seemed more like pea-soup.  There were air bubblers in it.  I noticed that there was movement .  We watched and watched to see what it was.. it was fish.  We had no idea how many, or what kind or what they looked like.  Now removing the pond was off the table, I couldn't kill fish. My only option was to fix the pond so at least the fish would be comfortable. 

Meanwhile in the house we decided to have each room in the house inspired by a different country.  The living room Spanish, dining room Tuscan, screen porch Moroccan, and the back yard ..... Japanese. 

Speaking of the pond... gotta go, we are putting in an upper pond.  Its to hot outside to work during the day so we work in the evenings.  Bye.

In case your wondering I have read up on ponds and learned many lessons.  We are rebuilding the waterfall (again).


Interesting subject. And also interesting to see how the posts continue as if nothing changed ... after precisely one year of dormancy....

This is my story. I pulled it from my website. There it is a part of the first "Notes to the text", and really is an acknowledgment to the people who raised our awareness of the Japanese garden.
Yet a different story from the previous ones.

There is an interesting anecdote behind this. In 1983 we moved house and became next-door neighbours of Anneke and Theo. The new house was an existing one with a garden with a lawn, trees and plenty too large shrubs. The small front-garden was occupied by a single walnut tree that grow over the roof. One of the first things we did was the removal of the walnut tree. Then we changed this garden compartment into a small rock-garden. A gravel area with some small rock formations in it and some small succulent and Alp plants. On occasion, back in 1983, Theo asked about our interest in Japanese gardens. Our response to that question was one of surprise. Why did he think we where interested ? Then Theo's answer was both simple and unexpected, it was because of our Japanese-style front-garden. They had made their pilgrimage to Japanese temples (actually temple gardens) back in 1980 and saw lots of resemblance with what we had been doing. Now our interest was raised. Anneke and Theo had made lots of excellent slides during their trip and this was very much our first serious exposure to Japan, specifically to Japanese garden culture. This triggered us to move focus away from ordinary rock-gardens toward Japanese gardens and later to Japanese culture and nature in general. Prior to leaving for our Japan garden-trip Anneke and Theo told us about pilgrimage in Japan and how they, although it did not come any close to a real traditional pilgrimage, enjoyed their slimmed down version of it.

After this started reading and we moved house after three years where we realized our first full Japanese garden. Now Tsubo-en is our second and probably last one.
Enjoy, Piet


Well, I must say that I am impressed with the credentials of many of the responders to this question, and a good one it is.  To add to such an impressive list, I'm afraid that my credentials are pretty much zero.  At least when it comes to gardening.
Be that as it may, I have had an interest in things Japanese for as long as I can remember.  Something must have triggered that interest in about 1977 or so, as that is when I attempted to build my first Japanese style garden.  My stepfather was working at a plant place in Vancouver at the time, and I remember giving him a list of shrubs and trees to get for me.  I was horrified when he advised me a week or so later that none of these items were available!
So I ended up at the local nursery getting the same stuff as every other gardener in town.  It was fun at the time.  Just not terribly Japanese.


Funny, I never noticed this before. What a great idea!
As for me, Dave, I was introduced to Japanese Gardens without the gardening in Fukuoka Japan in 1963. I was a bachelor First Lieutenant at Itazuke Air Base. I lived with seven other guys in a summer home of a former industrialist. The house was called the "Zash House" because it was located in Zashnokuma-ken. We all had several rooms to use for our "suites" (read "sweet") and the large house surrounded a great garden. We had large parties twice a year (celebrating the beginning of indoor and outdoor seasons, won't say what). We would get the pond filled by the local fire department and several gardeners would come in and touch the place up. The water would last about three weeks before it leaked out and we would try to get as much partying in as possible. Here's one picture of one of the ways we enjoyed the garden. Almost blasphemous, now that I'm old.
Thanks, all - well, whomsoever paid taxes in the early sixties. I enjoyed learning to appreciate the Sukiya Living all the while protecting us from the Russian bear and flying the greatest fighter of them all (to that date, anyway). More pictures later.


This is an interesting question. The building process of my new home took longer than I expected. This meant that I had the time to properly prepare something I wanted to do for a very long time: setting up my own Japanese garden. It began with the careful preparation of the maple collection that I already had in pots in my old garden. Then I took the time to study the styles and differences in Japanese garden design by reading over 20 specialized books on the subject, from general information to the fine art of Niwaki. I sketched out a basic design (120m2), made a four season color scheme, contacted several nurseries who where specialized in bamboo (fargesia Jiu and Scabrida), azalea's and hosta's and brought together a superb collection of first class plants.  In my new home I began working the soil (clay and sand) to obtain the necessary ph values.  The garden is divided into two sections. A relatively flat left half with grass (!) boxes and bamboo and two isles on the right side with azalea, fern, maples, moss, hosta and pyris.  The garden is in its early stage but has developed pretty well in only one year. It is not a very traditional Japanese garden. I am a fan of Mirei Shigemori and also like to stretch the concept where possible. Most important things for me are balance, control, contemplation and tranquility.


Welcome to the forum, we would love to see some photos of your garden.  It is amazing how fast you will see your plants mature and your garden seems to transform itself each year because of this growth.