North American Japanese Garden Association & Descanso Gardens Host Southern California Symposium and Garden Tour

2-day Event To Celebrate 50-Year Anniversary of Japanese Garden in Descanso  and Features Five Asian Gardens in Southern California

Descanso Gardens, La Canada Flintridge, CA – On January 14 and 15, 2017, experts in horticulture, history and design will discuss and illustrate the Southern California experience in Japanese gardening during a symposium and garden tour organized by the North American Japanese Garden Association (NAJGA), in cooperation with the Descanso Gardens. NAJGA is a non-profit and membership-based organization that promotes the art, craft and heart of Japanese gardening in USA and Canada.

The symposium on January 14 will commence with an indoor art tour on the concept of the Japanese garden, with a special focus on the social history of Descanso’s Japanese garden, which is commemorating its half-century existence. The influence of mid-century Japanism on the integration of gardens and architecture in Southern California and the compelling human story of Japanese plants in California will be the focus of a couple of lectures by Japanese garden historian Dr. Kendall Brown and Japanese-American garden writer Naomi Hirahara. Later in the day, Dr. Brown and Descanso Gardens Executive Director David Brown will also conduct a guided tour of the Descanso Japanese garden.
Japanese horticulturist and ikebana expert Kaz Kitajima will lead a workshop on the basic principles and techniques in black pine pruning. A camellia forest walk and tour will showcase Descanso’s exceptional camellia collection, the largest in North America and designated as an International Camellia Garden of Excellence by the International Camellia Society.

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Japanese Garden at the Descanso Gardens, La Canada Flintridge, CA

On January 15, an expert-led garden tour will take participants to three important Japanese gardens and a new Chinese garden in the Los Angeles county area. Aside from illustrating the quality and diversity of garden design in California, the Storrier-Stearns Japanese Garden in Pasadena, and the SuiHoen (Garden of Water and Fragrance) at the Tillman Reclamation Plant in Van Nuys are also notable for their sustainable water use in the face of California’s challenging water situation in recent years. At over 100 years old, the Japanese garden at The Huntington in Pasadena is famously one of the oldest gardens in North America and is still evolving. Participants will also have the chance to visit the new Chinese garden at The Huntington.

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Created in the 1930’s, the Storrier-Stearns Japanese Garden was restored in 2013 and is considered one of the best examples of pre-war Japanese gardens outside of Japan.
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Bonsai Court at the Japanese Garden in The Huntington, Pasadena, CA
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SuiHoen (Garden of Water and Fragrance) at the Tillman Reclamation Plant, Van Nuys, CA

“The Japanese gardens in southern California are true cultural and horticultural treasures, as they honor the history of Japanese-Americans in the area as well as the California ethos of innovation, sustainability and love of the outdoors,” says NAJGA board president Kimberly Andrews. “NAJGA is delighted to have the opportunity to work with Descanso Gardens, which is observing a significant milestone with its Japanese garden, and our other member gardens to promote our mission among garden professionals and enthusiasts in the Southern California area.”

For more details and to register, visit http://najga.org/Southern-California-2017. This two-day regional event is accredited as a continuing education program for members of the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP) and the Association of Professional Landscape Professionals (APLD). Garden practitioners may check with their professional associations if this event is eligible for continuing education units.

nalp-landscape-industry-certified-ceu-approved-logo-2016     apld-kfd

North American Japanese Garden Association & Descanso Gardens Host Southern California Symposium and Garden Tour

A Japanese Garden Experience in Manitoga

The renowned Scottish landscape architect and ecological planning pioneer Ian McHarg was once quoted as saying that if Manitoga was built in Japan, it would have been a “national monument.” “Japan has many such sites, but the United States has only Manitoga, the temple to managed succession, inspired ecological design.”

Manitoga in Garrison, New York  has since achieved that distinction and more. It is a National Historic Landmark, an Affiliate Site of the National Trust for Historic Conservation and a World Monuments Watch Site.  Officially known as the Manitoga/ The Russell Wright Design Center, it is a place still strongly animated by the vision of its original owner and creator, Midcentury modern designer Russell Wright whose work was strongly influenced by Japanese aesthetics, not least in the way he conceptualized his home / studio (Dragon Rock) and the woodland garden around it.

Wright’s Japanese connection apparently runs deeper than is commonly thought.  He also contributed to the cross-fertilization of American and Japanese sensibilities in Modernist aesthetics by serving as an adviser to the post-World War II Japanese government on handcraft design that would resonate with the US export market, according to Japanese Modernist design scholar Yuko Kikuchi.

In Manitoga, which Wright considers as a pinnacle of his career, the Japanese touch is everywhere evident and seamlessly integrated into his nature-centered instinct for design and even his taste for theatrics as a former theater set designer.  Dragon Rock is said to be reminiscent of Japanese temple architecture, as executed by architect David L. Leavitt with whom Wright shares a fondness for Japanese design. Leavitt has worked in Japan with the architect Antonin Raymond whose students include the Japanese architect Junzo Yoshimura, creator of the Shofuso Japanese House and Garden in Philadelphia and the traditional teahouse at the Japanese garden in Kykuit, the Rockefeller Estate, Tarrytown, New York.

While Dragon Rock has often been compared to the famous Fallingwater house of architect Frank Lloyd Wright (no relation), it seems to fall back more into the landscape, despite a name that’s evocative of a far more conspicuous presence.  From the green roofs — revolutionary for a structure built in the early 1950s — to the floor-to-ceiling windows and the tree trunk and natural boulders that define the interiors of the space, Wright was intent on blurring the boundaries between the outdoor and indoor spaces and synthesizing the natural with the man-made, a design sentiment that is also characteristically Japanese.  The name of the house itself, derived from the innocent fancy of Wright’s young daughter Annie who imagined a dragon shape in the rock formation, recalls the convention for naming rocks in a Japanese garden for mythical animals.

The great outdoors that Wright and Leavitt sought to bring in through this organic architecture is a 75-acre expanse that simultaneously evokes the experience of a stroll garden from Japan’s Edo Period (1603 – 1867) and taps into Wright’s penchant for drama as a former stage designer. Even as the house maximizes the view outside, the forest garden is also meant to be journeyed into.

fall-at-manitoga
Autumn in Manitoga

Here, the Japanese garden design principle of miegakure (hide and reveal) also becomes a device in Wright’s nature theater for building up a dramatic effect as one traverses through the path of the woodland garden.

Along each path, the landscape and its themes unfold sequentially. There is an introduction, a dramatic build-up, elaboration of a theme, and then a climax or a goal; the building of tension and its dramatic release – the whole design a musical composition.”     

A rock in the middle of the driveway, for example, slows movement and forces contemplation of the immediate surroundings. The sound of an unseen water feature at an entrance builds anticipation.

This theatricality also plays into the notion of a Japanese garden as an idealized re-creation or distillation of nature.  Landscape architect and Wright’s cousin Carol Franklin notes Wright’s manipulation of naturally occurring elements, particularly native plant species, to create the moments of denouement in the garden: a moss garden on top of the quarry pond, masses of mountain laurels and dogwoods in bloom, a fiery corridor of backlit autumn foliage.  Design historian D.J. Huppatz also speculated about Wright’s use of “borrowed scenery” (shakkei) to provide points of interest along the walking paths.

And then, there are the rocks. In the course of the 35 years since first acquiring the property as an abandoned granite quarry in 1942, Wright bided his time studying and working with the natural rock formations in the area to distill its essence as a “place of great spirit” (the English translation of “Manitoga,” an Algonquin word). A mountain stream was diverted and a 30-foot, multi-level waterfall created to form a swimming pond. There are also a variety of rock groupings and stepping stone paths found all over the property.  These rocks, ancient as they are in these parts, found a new purpose in the nexus of the natural and built environment in Manitoga.

Manitoga is part of the Garden Architecture Tour on October 7, 2016 co-hosted by the North American Japanese Garden Association and the Japan American Society of Greater Philadelphia. The tour is part of a two-day event on October 7 and 8, “Modernism, Japanese Carpentry and the Garden: Preserving the Architecture of Junzo Yoshimura.” For details and to register, visit http://najga.org/Philadelphia-2016


SOURCES:

Brown, Jane Roy, “Learning From Dragon Rock,” Landscape Architecture, Sept. 2005, https://www.asla.org/lamag/lam05/September/ecology.html 

Hobens, Barbara, “Philipstown Gardens: Inspirations from Manitoga,” The Highlands Current, April 2, 2011, http://highlandscurrent.com/2011/04/02/philipstown-gardens-4/

Huppatz, D.J., “Manitoga and Japan” http://djhuppatz.blogspot.com/2010/03/manitoga-and-japan.html

Kikuchi, Yuko, “Russell Wright and Japan: Bridging Japonisme and Good Design Through Craft,” The Journal of Modern Craft, Vol. 1 2008, Issue 3  http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.2752/174967808X379434?journalCode=rfmc20

Mendelsohn, Meredith, “Manitoga: Force of Nature,” Garden Design Magazine  http://www.gardendesign.com/new-york/garrison-manitoga.html

www.visitmanitoga.org

A Japanese Garden Experience in Manitoga

Using Earthen Walls for Japanese Gardens in North America – by EMILY REYNOLDS

Emily Reynolds is the author of the book “Japan’s Clay Walls,” , a founder of the Japanese Earthen Plaster Exchange (JEPE) and a member of the North American Japanese Garden Association (NAJGA)

Earthen walls have been a defining characteristic of man-made structures in Japanese gardens for many centuries. We often miss this important element, because the clean and flat aesthetic appeals to our modern taste.

Ryoan-ji's Earthen
The centuries-old, thick earthen walls of Ryoanji’s famous rock garden are infused with oils.

But using Western finishes on Japanese structures in gardens leaves something to be desired. They lack a softness, a seamless integration with the natural surrounding and an element of health. While Japanese gardens across North America are being established, and while many more enjoy the challenge of fostering their landscapes, an appropriate wall finish for structures deserves consideration.

Katsura Imperial Villa
The earthen walls of a tea house in Katsura Imperial Villa blend with the view. 

The Japanese Earthen Plaster Exchange (JEPE)  seeks to become an educational resource and bridge-builder for harnessing the traditional advantages of earthen walls in Japanese gardens and other places we consider as sanctuaries of well-being.  By remembering to include the earthen wall in the Japanese garden, we deepen the healing experience. This is not only a visceral or esoteric thing, it is science! Science tells us that we need negative ions for optimal health — from maintaining feelings of general well-being to actually boosting the immune system.   Clays contain negative ions, and release these to their surroundings. Waterfalls also expose us to negative ions. Paints do not. Cement stuccos do not.

JEPE also aims to promote the authenticity of Japanese gardens in the United States, Canada and beyond.  Earthen finishes, either clay-based or lime-based, are the only authentic and appropriate choice for Japanese garden structures.   While thoroughly earthen walls are the tradition, an earthen or earthen-like finish will still benefit the whole atmosphere of the garden, whether applied over an existing surface, or for a new structure.

Thick earthen walls often separate various areas in the garden landscape.  The
Thick earthen walls often separate various areas in the garden landscape. The “go-sen,” “five lines” on these walls denote a temple dedicated to imperial and noble families.

Support the JEPE Campaign. JEPE needs the support of the Japanese gardening community to realize its aims. Please go to igg.me/at/thejepe and make your support known between now and April 22, the end of our campaign. With a simple $1 contribution, you will be counted among our advocates.

You may also visit the Japanese Earthen Plaster Exchange (JEPE) website: www.thejepe.org and the Plaster with Wa blog: www.plasterwithwa.wordpress.com.

Using Earthen Walls for Japanese Gardens in North America – by EMILY REYNOLDS