I have never been so happy to arrive safely at the Convention Center. And thank you, random people behind me at that seminar, for being nice when I rudely eavesdropped on your conversation and demanded that you show me your hellebores. Gardeners are really wonderful people.
Once there I rushed off to the Japanese Garden Elements for the Home Garden talk by Sadafumi Uchiyama. I took a Japanese art history class in college that left me permanently enamored of all things Japanese. They can take an artform from China, Korea, India, or wherever, and do it better.
|Winter Landscape by Sesshu|
Mr. Uchiyama was a lovely man who spoke about his work at the Portland Japanese Garden, his training in Japan, and about how gardening is great because it's a level playing field--you just need to push that wheelbarrow across the yard a hundred times and you'll get really good at it, regardless of whether you're an idiot or a genius. That's probably why this accidental-gun-show-attendee likes gardening so much. I take terrible notes and I have a crappy memory, so if anyone attended this session and feels I'm misquoting, please chime in.
He spoke about gardening mostly being maintenance and how the Japanese look at the life of a garden in terms of more than 50 years. One family might tend a garden for ten generations, during which time trees will die and need to be replaced but the structure will largely stay the same. He showed us pictures of the Japanese garden thirty years ago and how it's changed (or not changed) throughout the years, including some dramatic photos when a Douglas fir fell and took out the waterfall.
|Photo from the Portland Japanese Garden's Facebook page|
Finally, he offered some practical tips to incorporating this tradition into your yard. The first lesson:
- Kill the corners
Ease the corners of buildings, either by planting on the corners of the back of your house or building a fence that defers the edge of the house, even if it doesn't offer privacy.
He said that foundation plantings in a yard "kill the corners" by easing the transition from a vertical fence to the horizontal ground. He talked about how important rock is to Japanese landscaping and how it must look like it does in nature. He said you can use them to kill corners, like if you're transitioning a wide footpath to a narrow one. Stick a rock at the corner and the width change won't be so noticeable. I'd think that plants in ceramic pots could likewise be used to kill corners.
- ease the transition from one material to another.
Instead of letting grass grow right up to a cement path, he showed us a picture of a sidewalk edged with a trim of poured cement with stone embedded, which was abutted with four inches of river rock, which was edged with clay ceiling tiles turned on their sides, which finally lead to grass. It was gorgeous.
|This wasn't the photo he showed us but it's a close approximation|
Or use pavers on top of your cement slab to ease that transition to a flagstone pathway.
|Click to embiggen|
Last lesson (and what landscapers always say):
- group your plants.
He said that Japanese gardens don't use annuals or perennials. Their gardens rely on an relatively unchanging lanscape of trees and shrubs that don't die down to the ground at the end of the year. The winter garden has the same bones as the summer garden. Lastly he talked about what a Japanese garden is not. It is not lanterns or footbridges or water features or tchotkies. I was so happy he said that because those lanterns and bridges to nowhere drive me crazy.
I also attended a panel on hot plant picks for 2012. Sadly, there was no projector for diplaying images of the plants they were discussing. Good thing there was June Condruck from Blooming Nursery to deliver the horticultural equivalent of phone sex. She was so good at talking up plants ("An absolutely stunning blue eye surrounded by petals that fade to a dusky purple atop an unfurling mass of shiny green foliage . . .") that I didn't really need visuals. I think I put a star by everything she described.
|WANT. Eryngium 'Big Blue'|
Photo from High Country Gardens
And then I bought some hellebores and some hot pink bleeding hearts to drown out the mousy and diminutive pale pink native variety that I have in the shade garden.
All in all it was a very good time. Be sure to check out Scott's photos of the feature gardens over at Rhone Street Gardens. And if you're interested in attending the Spring Home and Garden Show, THAT'S at the Expo Center next weekend.