The objective of this garden is to create a Japanese feel without resorting to any bridges or lanterns. I'm not looking down my nose at these, or saying that they are the same as garden gnomes, I just want to see if I can evoke the appropriate vibe in a nuanced way. Building on the plans I made in Designing a Japanese-Style Garden Part I, I moved from paper to ground.
The site has a huge advantage as it is on a hillside overlooking the pond. Water (or at least a view of water) seems essential to me, and having it in sight makes the creation of a more "introverted" fountain a matter of taste rather than necessity.
Last year I built the the retaining wall and the curving staircase.
The most awkward bit is a totally useless storm drain that, through several hurricanes and ten years, has never seen even a drop of water. But as in so many cases, this need to camouflage created one of the central features of the garden- the dry stream bed. . .
I was lucky to attend a nursery auction where I bought 25+ mature trees for little more than the price to have them moved. Several of these trees have ended up here. Including a fine prostrate Japanese Maple
At the top of the hill, standing nearly 25 feet tall, is an imposing Atlas Cedar (Cedrus atlantica). It required a 90" tree spade to move it and I spent the winter worrying about whether it would survive. So far, so good. . .
Mark Huf, owner of Huf Landscaping is one of my favorite people to deal with, and secreted away at the back of his nursery he had two eight-foot Japanese White Pines (Pinus parviflora) that, due to their position among a number of deciduous trees, had grown into interesting, windswept shapes. . .
Lining the curving staircase are sixteen Cherry Laurels (Prunus laurocerasus 'Otto Luyken'.) While not part of the traditional Japanese garden pallette, I think they fit the theme. . .
Maybe the most visually interesting plants are the two Umbrella Pines (Pinus densiflora 'Tanyosho'), leftover from another job and bought at a discount at Terrain. . .
Rising up just in side the staircase is a Crested Japanese Cedar (Cryptomeria japonica 'Cristata'), its branches forming the "hands" that make it a nice plant to view from up close.
With the foundational elements in place, it suddenly became much easier to envision the remaining shrubs and groundcovers that will tie the space together.