Japanese Gardens – Basic Design Questions That Should Be Addressed

As westerners, we are often compelled to try to control and plan all design aspects of what we want when constructing something. We try to anticipate every little detail so we don’t make a mistake. Although you will still need to organize and draw out your Japanese garden design, plus determine the shape of your landscape and what you desire for your garden, you should also allow yourself to “go with the flow” and let it “speak to you” as your garden takes shape. In other words, allow for improvisation and ideas to emerge rather than being rigid in sticking to your original design plan.

Before any work begins within the yard itself, a basic garden plan should be drawn up to help you formulate your ideas and the placement of elements. There are several questions you need to address to help with this process:

  1. Do you already have an existing garden in the area where you wish to incorporate a Japanese garden style? If so, what type of garden is it (flower garden, English garden, rustic wildflower garden, etc.)?
  2. Will you be able to integrate your current garden into the new Japanese garden plan? What aspects and features will remain and what will have to be moved, replaced or  removed entirely?
  3. What style of Japanese garden are you most interested in – tea garden, courtyard garden, stroll garden, pond and island garden, Zen rock garden or a combination of two or more? For very small areas, you will most likely stick to only one style. For those that have a large landscape, you can have your choice of any of the styles to suit your desires and landscape area.
  4. How large is the area of the site that you are considering using? Does it have natural hills and valleys? Are there any elements, such a stream, already present? Take a good visual view of your selected site and note down all the details on paper. Take measurements as well, so you know the exact area size you will be working with.
  5. What elements and features are important to you? For example, do you wish to add a waterfall, water basin, or a rock arrangement? Would you like one small area to feature a Zen garden? Is a stepping-stone pathway that leads to a gate appealing?
  6. Will you be building this garden by yourself or will you have help? The size, design and amount of work to create your Japanese garden will affect this answer. Obviously, building a very large stroll garden by yourself would take forever and be impractical.
  7. If you plan to use large boulders or plant more mature trees (rather than saplings), how will you get them into your garden? Is there room and access for large machinery to help with placement? Keep in mind boulders and large trees are extremely heavy.
  8. Will your garden be formal, semi-formal, or informal (rustic)?
  9. Many Japanese gardens are actually built around a theme. Do you have a theme in mind for your garden? An example of a theme would be a miniaturized version of “The Bridge To Heaven”, which is a marble and stone bridge that spans the famous Dragon Beard Ditch in China. This bridge was built over 600 years ago to allow the Ming and Qing emperors to cross over on their way to the Temple of Heaven. Your theme could even revolve around a smaller replica or area of an original famous garden of Japan. Read books and view photographs of existing gardens to get some ideas.
  10. What do you want to achieve with your garden? Will it be used primarily for meditation? Do you wish to incorporate a strolling pathway with new visual delights beyond each curve? Do you want the invigorating sounds of water, such as a waterfall or fast moving stream? Will it be a place to sit quietly and contemplate nature? Understanding the concept behind the garden design is important.

In conclusion, these types of questions should be contemplated carefully and answered thoroughly before you begin to put your design down on paper, otherwise you could end up with a garden that holds no meaning for you or your visitors. A Japanese garden should have a “reason for being.” What are your reasons?

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Is landscape fabric absolutely necessary in landscaping?

Landscaping fabrics are by no means an answer to a no maintenance landscape. I know a lot of folks are under the impression that they can simply buy it, place it, cover it, and forget it. Forever.

First. There is no such thing as a no maintenance landscape. In many instances landscape fabric can make your life a lot easier. However, there is an upside and a downside to using it. And as with most everything else, proper installation and maintenance is required if you intend to use it.

Landscape fabrics have their applications. They aren’t necessary in all applications but might be preferred  in regards to the type of groundcover you use.

Our company uses weed barrier in 95% of the designs we create. It’s the nature of our business as we use decorative rock as the preferred groundcover around here. When using rock for groundcover and path work, it’s necessary to have a separator between the soil and groundcover. Otherwise, you’ll have mud rocks by the first rain storm.

In theory you should be able to use almost anything as a separator. I’ve seen do it yourselfers use anything from plastics to newspapers and cardboard boxes to old carpet remnants. Of course, as a professional, I can’t use or even suggest something like this to my clients. You’re on your own there.

Now personally, on any given project, I would much rather do away with fabrics altogether. I prefer to create living soil planting areas that are mulched and tended rather than being covered and forgotten. However, some areas are simply too large to apply this method and some folks just outright prefer to cover an area with decorative rock.

Both mulched living beds and rock beds underlain with fabric will require some work to keep them beautiful. Neither is maintenance free. As long as there is wind, rain dirt, and blown in seed, there will be something for you to do in your yard.

When we create a design using landscaping fabric and rock, I make the client aware of a few things. 1) There will be blown in seed and dirt. 2) Something will have to be done about it to keep it from accumulating. I assure them that with the quality of fabric we use, nothing will grow in from the bottom. However, we have no control of what blows in on the top.

Spraying the unwanted weeds with herbicide will take care of the weed problem. However, this does nothing for the dirt, leaf, and plant particles that are hiding under your rocks. And if you allow these to accumulate, they’ll continue to accumulate and you will never get rid of them. So periodic maintenance is required even if you do use landscaping fabric.

Periodically using a blower on your bedding areas will slow down the accumulation of dirt and in some cases eliminate it altogether. How easy and thorough this is depends a lot on the type and size of rock you use.

Small pea gravel accumulates and holds onto dirt, and is harder to clean than rock of a 1 Ω” + nature. Not only does it hold onto dirt but has a tendency to be blown all around when being cleaned with a blower. Pea gravel works well for paths, walkways, and smaller areas but I donít recommend it for covering larger areas.

As far as using landscape fabric under bark and mulch covered beds? In many cases this can actually be easier to take care of than living beds or rock covered areas as it can easily be picked up and replaced every few years. This will keep your landscape always looking new without having to blow dirt or mulch beds.

Remember. There’s no such thing as a no maintenance landscape. Landscape fabrics can make things easier in many applications but like everything else, they require a little bit of keeping up. No, they arenít necessary in all landscaping applications. However, I believe you’ll find them to be your best choice for many groundcover applications.

Lawn Mower Maintenance Tips

Lawn mowers need to be properly maintained so it will be able to function whenever you take it out of the garage. Here are a few maintenance tips you should know about that will be very helpful.

The best time to clean a lawnmower especially those that are powered by small gas engines is between the months of October and November. This is because fall is coming and if this is not drained, chances are this will not start when spring comes.

To do that, you should run your motor dry. If there is some gas in the tank, take it out and put this in your car’s tank. This will not cause any harm to your car and this is much better than throwing it away.

If you don’t heed this warming and leave gas all winter, you will have to deal with the sticky stuff resulting from the evaporation of the old gas. So just think, you can do this the easy way or the hard way.

A month or two before spring comes you should also consider an oil change for your lawn mower. You can do this by simply draining the old oil and then putting in a new one. Some people don’t change it annually but you should do so every two years.

The air filter of the lawn mower may also get clogged. Although it is not that expensive to replace, you can save money by cleaning it using a light brush or blowing through the holes using some air. That way you don’t have to change this for a new one and save money for something else.

Unlike the air filter, spark plugs have to be replaced regularly. You can buy these from the hardware store, open the lawn mower and replace these with new ones. Before you buy this from the store, be sure you know exactly what the plug specs are because certain brands use different kinds.

The mower blades will get dull over time and you have two options. First, replace these with new ones or sharpen it yourself. You just have to buy a blade sharpener and then work this at the correct angle. The nice thing about the sharpener is that you can also use for axes, hoes and shovels.

A lot of people tend to ignore the underside of the lawn mower. But did you know that this can also make you miss certain spots later on when you mow the lawn and also make it difficult to start the engine? This is why you should also pay some attention to the under carriage and you can clean it using a paint scraper.

It wouldn’t hurt to do take some preventive measures for your lawn mower knowing that the cost of a major repair will be much more expensive. By draining it, cleaning it and replacing a few parts, your lawn mower will be just as good as the day you bought it.

The lawn mower is the best machine to have so your lawn is cut evenly. In some neighborhoods, fines are imposed to those who do not follow these guidelines so if you want that to happen to you, make sure you lawn mower is in good condition all the time.

How to use Feng Shui outside your home

It is fun to decorate your own house but sometimes, simple decorating can even lead to a very bad Feng Shui. It is understandable that we like to decorate our house to reflect our mood and taste; however, we will like to let you know some of the basic points to cover when decorating your house. The suggestions below are not a complete list of Feng Shui in your home but merely some essential steps to improve the Feng Shui in your house.

First, go to your house’s main entry and stand facing out from your house. Make sure that there is no Poison Arrow pointing to your main entrance. Poison Arrow can come in many forms. It could be a straight road heading straight to your house or a big tree directly outside your house. If you are facing this situation, you should relocate your main door away from this poison arrow or simply just plant a few trees to block this poising arrow.

From the back door, if the land at the back of your house is higher, that is good for you because you have the support of the ‘Black Turtle’. If there is a hill behind your house, that is excellent. If the land behind your house is low, if you are on a hill top for example then you need to install a bright light and shine it upwards to lift the receding Chi energy. You should also place a tortoise at the back of your house if possible.

Looking out from your main door, the land on your left side garden should be higher then the right side. The left side symbolises Dragon and the right side represents Tiger. You should not let the Tiger be stronger then the Dragon or it will create problems for you in your house like arguing, family disagreement and so on. To rectify this, try to plant tall trees on your left hand side of the garden so the Dragon energy can be stronger then the Tiger. You should also plant a lot of leafy trees on the left hand side of your garden. Try not to have a garden water feature on your right hand side of your garden especially if you are married. By having water fountain on your side of the garden, it may cause a lot of married issues like sex scandals and third party relationships.

When you are opening your house main entrance door, there should be no mirror facing the main door. This is to prevent good energy, luck and wealth from flowing out again. It is also not good when your back door is facing the main door in a straight-line method. This has the same effect as a mirror. Good energy will flow into your house and then flow out from your back door. You need to capture this good energy in your house and donit let them flow out from your house..