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Don Pylant, April, 2021

Design help request.

Started by Akitakoi, July 22, 2009, 02:05:50 PM

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Edzard, makes one look at stepping stones with new eyes.  So many little things we think are fine and then learn more about all the thought given to the smallest details that really matter in a Japanese Garden.  But when everything is right our eyes tell us so, even if we do not understand or know why. Thanks for another tiny piece of the puzzle.



Indeed, June.  Although impressed with Ed's very accurate instructions on path stone verification, I am somewhat insulted because I have tested this from my woods to my back door in such a state as he describes and discovered my misplacements anew.  The insult is taken because, being sober the next morn, I cannot remember the corrections needed!

But seriously, once the thing is done right, you can see your steps comfortably before attending the path.  And the path does influence the experience greatly, both physically and mentally.  Diligence in selection, design and setting is indispensable.


Edzard, that was a much better explanation then "too pointy" and well taken. Thank You

I dove into my books, JOJG and pictures I have taken last night.  In my haste to get the stones picked out and delivered I believe I have made more bad choices then shape,  color and size may be incorrect also.

I have been looking at the big picture to long and need to look more into the details.



Scott.. in my experience offering advice is most often taken as an insult, therefore I hesitate and wait for the question... basically if one does not ask, then it is presumed that the other knows already. Therefore one hints/alludes to things and waits for the question. No question / no answer. In this case, I think the information is useable by many, whether you know or not...

As Don has experienced with his muddy shoes (dusty? do you have water yet??), the/a path should to some degree, be walkable in the dark almost as though with your eyes closed.

I'll venture that you already purchased this stone and it is now yours, points and all... which is the tangent question I was asking.*

if so, then it would ease my mind to hear a question...
- though, I'll try this:
-- also purchase a stone saw blade for a circular saw, place the stone over a 1" lip, score the bottoms at the place where the stone is a 'useable shape', vibrate the stone along the score on the 'take off' part and then strike off with a sledge - from the bottom!...   From the top when finer fitting work is done, and sledge carefully the edges to soften them,..
(some stone score both sides and use a feather to split)

--this can be done when you get to installation - or ahead if you see a likeness or pattern taken from "1 good stone".
Save the points, and use them for the pathway that requires smaller inset stones that creates the 'man' glyph T - wherein no three points come together, always 2 and a bypass.

Though many people wish to see some stone as 'bad' stone and others as 'good' stone...
I prefer to see stone as stone, for specific uses,
and if it is 'not useable', then I know I have not thought hard enough to figure out what the pattern is yet or, where this stone belongs that would make it 'good stone', finding the pattern in which the poorer stone becomes good stone.

This would make the idea that if one stone is used for an alternate use, and is not suitable, then someone could say it is poor/bad stone.. but in reality, the installer of stone is not taking responsibility for not thinking the installation and materials through. He blames the stone, rather himself for not finding the right place for its use.

quite often, it happens that one can see later that "I used the wrong stone for that use", and that is fine to realize if you build a lot of gardens and can improve oneself, yet if you are only building one garden it is a garden-life frustration.. and this is where flexibility in design, serendipity comes into play.
The idea of 'seeking solutions' and using other materials around the stone to 'make it the right stone' and the right pattern for that place is a concept that is worthwhile adopting. Often one gardener asks another.

-- what would make your stone the right stone? what was it supposed to be? if needed, what solutions can one apply?

and aside question asterix'd from above:
* if you have a large body of water, why are you (if you are?) forecasting a karesansui of 'historic religious aspect' in front of a natural space? (pond body)
What message to the viewer are you trying to convey?
(ie: what is the relationship between the dry garden and the wet garden? Are you saying that when you see the pond, please think of Buddha and the ?? to Buddhahood?
- religious gardens are somber for good reasons, yet your lake bespeaks 'lively Life' rather than austure eyes closed inner vision.....)     iow's "I don't get 'it'". What are you saying?



July 28, 2009, 03:50:30 PM #19 Last Edit: July 28, 2009, 04:04:51 PM by Akitakoi
Yes the pointy stones arrived today. ;D

""""I don't get 'it'". What are you saying?"""

Took me a couple readings,  do I understand that the "dry/ gravel area" above the "wet" pond may not be appropriate? Is that correct?

I have thought that a few times but,,,

Most pictures of Japanese gardens/houses I have seen and have been in, have a gravel area off the veranda. Usually this is an enclosed space with the borrowed scenery above.
I want to keep the view yet have the Japanese garden feel. Could you show some pictures please of a Japanese house on top of a hill with a Veranda? The picture I posted above asking if anyone could identify the garden, I would like to see what is near the house. What would be an appropriate,,,,, feeling? Style?
P.S. I do have a diamond blade and sledge hammers. I'm going to lay out the stones soon and post some pictures.
P.S.S. I never liked asking question because I usually get the answer I knew already but did not want to hear. ;)


not some, please make plenty! It is such a rare opportunity to see a garden from the beginning, during "creation" when you can still correct mistakes. We have a few members on the Forum who recorded their work, it is very interesting and educational for everybody ( almost).



"not some, please make plenty!"

Plenty of mistakes? I'm sure I will. :)

Another shot of a few of the stones.


Study the work of Ogawa Jihei, particularly okochi sanso, tairyu sanso, and of course murin-an. All of these gardens are large estates that will show a selection and arrangement of features more appropriate to your setting.
Also, the view from the Shoin mado at Kodaiji, and some of the gardens of Kobori Enshu (outside of religious setting) might be helpful

Gravel areas are common in Japanese residential construction immediately adjacent to houses- but more often lawn is used where the cost of maintenance can be handled.



gravel areas are convenient, and so transformed to a greener version of gravel... shrug. Flat spaces, being horizontal are comforting, our eyes open sideways, then water as a level horizontal space is also comfortable, and gravel often represents water.. though gravel is often used as a cost factor compared to real water.

more importantly is seeking a solution, feeling for the site, seeking the best solution based on the common denominator of the feelings already inherent in the location(s). (rounded things)

It is not wrong to have a gravel area, just that I did not think you to be a religious person and so pondered the religious stonework and its implications. The gravel area could be a beach, a landing place, many different things.. All gravel based but different settings of stone are used, in some cases different stone entirely.

what sounds are there at the best time for you? What natural phenomena happen at that time? is there fog? a swarm of gnats? Reflections? waves? do fish jump there? What phenomena should that space emphasize of the specific inherent beauty of that place?

a dry waterfall works, though the opportunity to bring the water to the deck or from under it, is simply opportunistic on my part, as you have such opportunity that there is no need to use a solution from some one else's problem and call it a 'style' of Japanese feeling. The problem is taking on someone's problem, and building in a problem for the sake of Japaneseness, based solely on 'what one has seen'.
Seeking out photo's precursors of ideas that worked well for gardeners is a good idea in almost all cases I can think of.

Comparatively I always seek precursors for a garden during the design phase and often building as well to focus on the 'method of installation'. The objective with the examples is to notice the similarities and to find/seek the problem areas and how previous gardeners found solutions, keeping a mental file folder of said solutions when problems are encountered.
The question, your current situation is sorting the photo's of solutions from photo's of problems to avoid inheriting a problem for an unknown reason not evident in the photo.

i'll think on examples of dry and wet gardens if that is what you wish for, though, the combination is hardly necessary as the Japaneseness is derived from the ordering of space and installation. (which can be difficult to convey in written form)

(comparatively, one could leave the water where it is, distance + elevation down and create a floating in the clouds feeling) endless opportunity.

- are you happy with the large scale of your place, or are you trying to break it into smaller pieces? (by adding a gravel garden?)   (if the gravel serves a purpose, then use it, if not, don't use it.. only use what is needed for the feelings your guests would like and what you would like them to take home with them of understanding 'you'...)                        edzard


Scott, I think you are receiving a world of good advice and working to understand and apply it.  Mark, can you recommend resources for Ogawa Jihei?   If you have photos or links, that would be much appreciated! 

June, I agree that the path should not be front and center from the engawa.  We can call it what we want, but the initial illusion/perception is so important from that observation point.  Edzard's pointy point is to the point. As he says, find the place for the stone based on the stone.  With your topography, worst case is the pointy ones could be used for steps with the ends buried as fine anchorage.  If you use rubber or other liners for water holding areas, they are also fine submerged topping stones at levels where mechanical or solar damage is an issue.

Gravel:  For me, the difference between live water and karesansui is the difference between an animated point in reaity and one frozen in contemplation.  One is an external awakening and appreciation of live nature's flow, the other is a gradual and internal awakening and appreciation of a deeper flow on a personal level. Sit there and see it as it will be before you make a decision.  Mistakes are simply unplanned experiments.  Recognize and plan them whenever you can!

What a fine time you have before you!!!


Hi Scott,  I know it must be frustrating trying to learn and not wanting to screw up your garden,  I have been there in more ways than I would like to think. 

OK, Lets make this simple.  What is your focal point?  Is it your lower pond?  The woods? or do you want to see the raked gravel just off the deck?  If the pond is the answer then why take away from your focal point by making another one.  Look at the pond and how you want to enhance the view.  I have just been too busy of late with house guests and Rally for the Cure to look for the photos, sorry.  I do remember seeing gardens with small trees you could see through to the water below and low shrubs that lead your eye slowly to the the focal point of the  water below.  You need to determine what your focal point is then how to reveal it.  Your biggest enemy right now is wanting to get things done and rushing before you really know what you need to do.  I speak from experience because I have been in you shoes.  Your property is very special, take some time now or you will either be living with your mistakes or putting in extra work correcting them.  For me I put in the extra work correcting what I could but I mostly live with my mistakes.  But I still love my garden and find hours of joy working in it. 

You said many of the homes in Japan have gravel off the back of their homes, but they probably do not have the land and view you have, so they have tried to create that view inside their small walled gardens.  The Anderson's home (Anderson Gardens) sits above the gardens and they created a small stream next to their home that wound down to the gardens with a path along side it at times and winding away then over it.  This was long before the gardens became public and so many years ago I do not remember everything.  Now with all the visitors they have let the trees give them privacy. In fact most visitors would not even notice their home now.

I don't want to dampen your enthusiasm but what ever happens I will enjoy your journey.  Oops gotta run not time to proof this.



Lot's of information here :o

Maybe I should back up and explain (to you and myself) my "wants" a little more.

The area that I have showed pictures of directly off the veranda at one time was a 5,000 gallon koi pond. It was a LOT of maintenance,,,,,, so other then a stone water basin with a bamboo "dripper" I don't want to have any water, pumps, filters,,,,, (A side note to that the koi are all doing well for over 4 years in the "big pond".)

This area I would like to keep simple and easy to maintain (too much more to do).
Basically,  I want the stepping stone path to invite you to come down and explore. The gravel area is a way to cover a lot of area inexpensively and without much maintenance. I am spiritual but not religious, I do not know the implications of stones and I hope that is not offensive to anyone.

Maybe we move on to the view and then we can reflect back.
I added some callouts to a picture.
A. You'll see some green, that's a homemade boom to keep the muddy water from dredging to muddy up the whole pond. (more on the dredging later)
B. Bush's that have been removed or shortened.
C. Wood stairs to the pond, plants have been and more to be added to hide from view.
D. This "cliff" is about 20 ft tall and about 100 yards away. I am running electrical wire all the way over there for a future water fall.
E. This side of the pond I will be adding pebbles and some wood post retaining walls.


where is this view from? which side, place.. top of the twenty foot 'cliff' I suspect..


This picture was taken from just off the veranda, the cliff is all the way on the other side labeled as D. This is the view you will see from the stepping stones that will take you to the wood stairs.


July 29, 2009, 11:49:08 AM #29 Last Edit: July 29, 2009, 11:50:45 AM by Akitakoi
Please excuse the "finger painting". LOL ;)