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Article : A Residential Japanese Garden — Worthington, Ohio

A Residential Japanese Garden — Worthington, Ohio

By Deborah C. and John F. Edsall, ASLA, APA, OPRA




At selected locations, limestone slabs were extended along the north and south sides of the intermittent stream into the garden. This affords stepping stones for viewing. The moon bridge affords a crossing designed for its artistic addition to the garden, but also does not impede the intermittent water flows.
Photos courtesy of Edsall & Associates LLC
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After having designed the site of this homeowner’s first home, Edsall & Associates LLC were called upon shortly after the owner’s bought their second home to design a Japanese garden. The garden, two years in the making, features over 130 varieties of plants, including over two dozen varieties of hostas.

Fundamental to the design is the introduction of the textured paver drive, staggered front entrance walk, north yard terraces and walk connections to the newly introduced tea house with the meandering stream course (yarimizii).






While bamboo is most commonly used in the Japanese garden for architectural elements such as the entry gate, such material deteriorates in four to five years in the midwest landscape. Architectural members for the garden were designed of either dried grade “A” western red cedar, SYS with no knots; northern white cedar or cedar plywood.


The teahouse, a haven for quiet meditation and reflection, was designed replicating shoji screens with the cedar floor emulating 6-foot by 3-foot tatamii mats, one of the essential modular units in Japanese home construction. One enters the north garden from the drive through the moon gate with the deer chaser at the garden entrance. From the lower north terrace, one passes through the torii gate. The torii gate symbolically welcomes all who pass into the garden. The path takes one across the intermittent stream lined with holey boulders via the artfully designed moon bridge. One hundred fifty-nine (159) plant varieties have been incorporated into the plan with twenty-nine (29) varieties of Hostas. Landscape elements are highlighted with indirect lighting.

The managing directors of the firm have always fostered the study of and visiting great landscape works of art. Their self-taught educational venture started when they lived on Mt. Desert Island for a summer while John worked for the National Park Service at Acadia National Park. There they had their first introduction to Japanese Garden Design at Asticou Gardens in Seal Harbor, Maine.

They continued their Japanese Garden learning journey with subsequent visits to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Brooklyn, New York; the Japanese Tea Garden at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, California; the Hakone Gardens, Saratoga, California and the Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, Missouri. The importance of pathway textures, views and rockery was made more apparent when Deborah Edsall had the opportunity to visit the residential gardens of Suchow, China on a People-To-People professional exchange trip to the People’s Republic of China.






The importance of pathway textures, views and rockery was made more apparent when Deborah Edsall had the opportunity to visit the residential gardens of Suchow, China on a People-To-People professional exchange trip to the People’s Republic of China.


These gardens of Chinese artists and scholars had a strong influence on the Japanese garden art. When the homeowners bought their second home in 2002, they called upon Edsall & Associates LLC to redesign the site. The landscape architects had designed the site for the homeowner’s first home nearly twenty-five years ago. The program given by the owners was a desire to have a Japanese garden incorporating a teahouse, stone and hostas.

The process was a standard one with a topographic survey done first, prepared to the landscap architect’s specifications. Based on the survey, the landscape architects prepared a Master Plan depicting suggested materials and construction cost estimates. Throughout the master planning process, the landscape architects reviewed and emphasized the importance of authenticity and the cost for that detail.

At the same time, however, the landscape architect made a number of cost saving suggestions, including soliciting separate construction contracts and the purchase of all stone materials and precast concrete pavers directly by the owners. The owners fell in love with the design and authorized the landscape architects to proceed with construction documents for carpentry/wood components, electrical work, installation of pavers, stone and all landscaping and underground sprinkler system.






In the rear garden, over five (5') feet of grade change at the residence was accommodated through the creation of a series of outdoor rooms. The areas include a small wooden observation area off the master bedroom with wooden steps to the garden and nearby tea house. This area is visually separated from the middle court by an ornamental screen and plantings.


As construction documents were being prepared, the landscape architects became concerned regarding the selection of contractors who could handle a project of such magnitude and capability of delivery of the detail. The central Ohio economy was booming and much construction was being done. The wood construction was of particular concern as it was a significant component of the garden design.

Ohio has many fine Amish craftsmen, particularly in northern Ohio, but they did not want to come into the area. If the garden could be taken to them, they were interested in the project. Finally, three contractors for each contract were invited to bid the project, after careful screening by the landscape architects.






The rear garden is distinctively separated from the drive court by a fence and entry gate. From the lower north terrace, one passes through the torii gate, which symbolically welcomes all who pass into the garden.


The one acre suburban site is divided into three distinct areas including the entry garden and two sections in the rear garden. The rear garden is divided by an intermittent stream channel which serves as a major storm water course for surrounding developments upwards of a mile away. The fundamental Japanese garden elements of rockery, water, plants and harmonizing architectural elements are artfully incorporated into a series of outdoor rooms.



“The garden has been reviewed and approved by visiting Japanese for the past two years. The garden has hosted visitors from Worthington’s sister City, Sayama, Japan. In their own words, “the garden is rated 125%.”



Bending textured paths transition from the drive court, up the limestone steps to the residence front door. The walk is edged with varying plant textures. The drive court was redesigned in textured, precast concrete pavers, edged with cut, textured limestone slabs. The drive harmonizes with other pathways and pavements in the various courtyards in the garden.






Primary entrance to the rear garden is through the moon gate. For authenticity, all wood components were detailed and designed with concealed fasteners. The Kasuga lantern typically was used at the entrance to the Japanese tea garden and is placed just beyond the moon gate at the entrance to the north garden and path to the teahouse.


Key architectural garden elements entailing screen fencing, entry gate, moon bridge and torii gate are woven into the rear garden design. While bamboo is most commonly used in the Japanese garden for architectural elements, such material deteriorates in four to five years in the midwest landscape. Architectural members for the garden were designed of either dried grade “A” western red cedar, SYS with no knots; northern white cedar or cedar plywood. The moon bridge beams were made of west coast Douglas fir. For authenticity, all wood components were detailed and designed with concealed fasteners.

As construction documents were being prepared, the landscape architects worked closely with a number of contractors, who specialized in wood detailing. The landscape architects created design details for the architectural garden elements and then worked closely with a number of contractors who specialized in finish carpentry to finalize the details before bidding the project.






A hydrological engineer was hired to evaluate the effects the moon bridge and related abutments, along with stream channel design would have on storm water flows. The channel was widened and side slopes adjusted prior to the installation of the 300 to 400 pound, irregularly shaped holey boulders. These boulders were stacked in a stepped fashion along the length of the intermittent stream for not only their visual effect, but to prevent ongoing bank erosion.


The rear garden is distinctively separated from the drive court by a fence and entry gate. Primary entrance to the rear garden is through the moon gate. Immediately to the left of the moon gate, the deer chaser is situated in a bed of small cobbles. The cobbles simulate water and complement the recycling water of the deer chaser. In the rear garden, over five feet of grade change at the residence was accommodated through the creation of a series of outdoor rooms.

The areas include a small wooden observation area off the master bedroom with wooden steps to the garden and nearby tea house.

This area is visually separated from the middle court by an ornamental screen and plantings as is the third and lowest area. The design of these screen panels harmonizes with the design for the teahouse and moon bridge in the garden. Each courtyard area is designed with textured precast concrete pavers interconnected through a series of winding pathways of limestone stepping stones (tobi-ishi) and harmonizing precast concrete pavers.






The one acre suburban site is divided into three distinct areas including the entry garden and two sections in the rear garden. The rear garden is divided by an intermittent stream channel, which serves as a major storm water course for surrounding developments upwards of a mile away. One hundred fifty-nine (159) plant varieties have been incorporated into the plan with twenty-nine (29) varieties of Hostas.


While water is a major component of the Japanese garden, ponds by ordinance were prohibited in the community. The landscape architect’s solution was the creation of a bending, winding stream course accommodating five feet of grade change, edged in rough cut limestone.

Access to the teahouse is designed through a series of bending and winding limestone stepping stones and steps. The design for the tea house affords a place of quiet reflection for the owners to observe their garden while listening to the sound of the water from the nearby stream course. The teahouse is sited in the garden for best viewing, floating above the surround of large round dark aggregate. The size of the teahouse interior floor modules, while constructed of cedar, emulates the 6-foot by 3-foot tatami mats, one of the essential modular units in Japanese home construction. The panels of the teahouse consisting of solid and sliding screen panels, also constructed in cedar, replicate shoji screens.






An essential component in the garden is the use of lanterns. Garden lanterns were believed to have first been introduced into Japanese sites by China to light doorways to shrines and temples. Stone or granite became the preferred material for garden lanterns as they were incorporated into Japanese gardens as visual enhancements.


Since the intermittent stream was a part of the city’s regional storm water management plan, the landscape architects hired a hydrological engineer to evaluate the effects the moon bridge and related abutments, along with stream channel design would have on storm water flows. The channel was widened and side slopes adjusted prior to the installation of the 300 to 400 pound, irregularly shaped holey boulders. These boulders were stacked in a stepped fashion along the length of the intermittent stream for not only their visual effect, but to prevent ongoing bank erosion. At selected locations, limestone slabs were extended along the north and south sides of the intermittent stream into the garden. This affords stepping stones for viewing. The moon bridge affords a crossing designed for its artistic addition to the garden, but also does not impede the intermittent water flows.






The teahouse, a haven for quiet meditation and reflection, was designed replicating shoji screens with the cedar floor emulating 6-foot by 3-foot tatamii mats, one of the essential modular units in Japanese home construction.


A highlight of the rear garden is the creation of an ellipsoid island of large cables with three Pinus cembra in the background and three stones simulating mountains. This simulation is purposely sited at the northern terminus of the moon bridge. The north garden is the most pastoral portion of the garden. Landscaping throughout the garden entails the weaving of plant textures in irregular patterns.

Primary evergreen accents include Pinus cembra, Swiss Stone Pine; Pinus parviflora, Japanese White Pine; Sciadopitys verticillata, Japanese Umbrella Pine and Tsuga canadensis, Canadian Hemlock. Ornamental trees including Crabapples, Dogwoods, Japanese Maples, Magnolias and Weeping Japanese Cherry trees provide the irregular structure to the garden. Broadleaf evergreens including varieties of Rhododendrons mixed with Azaleas and Japanese Holly, Junipers and Yews add to the year-round color and texture. Thirty varieties of Hostas, which bloom from June through September/October, are woven throughout the planting beds.






This elegant bench was patterned after a bench the landscape architects observed in the Japanese garden at the St. Louis Botanical Garden. They roughed out the proportions, prepared their designs and had the bench built by a local contractor.


An essential component in the garden is the use of lanterns. Garden lanterns were believed to have first been introduced into Japanese sites by China to light doorways to shrines and temples. Stone or granite became the preferred material for garden lanterns as they were incorporated into Japanese gardens as visual enhancements. The Oribe lantern is one of the oldest Japanese garden lanterns known. It is appropriately located at the top of the limestone steps at the front entrance walkway. The lantern is fitted with a low voltage electrical box to help light the way to the residence front door. The Kasuga lantern typically was used at the entrance to the Japanese tea garden. The Kasuga lantern is placed just beyond the moon gate at the entrance to the north garden and path to the teahouse. The Kotoji lantern is often placed with one leg on land and the other in water. The Kotoji lantern is strategically nestled amongst the planting on the north side of the intermittent stream along the “tobi-ishi” limestone stepping stone path.






While water is a major component of the Japanese garden, ponds by ordinance were prohibited in the community. The landscape architect’s solution was the creation of a bending, winding stream course accommodating five feet of grade change, edged in rough cut limestone.


It is always an honor and privilege to build a practice based on repeat clients. It was even a greater privilege to be entrusted with the management of a project of this nature and detail. The garden was designed for the owners personal retreat, a place of tranquility. The challenge of bringing rhythmic harmony to a midwestern landscape was met. The garden has been reviewed and approved by visiting Japanese for the past two years. The garden has hosted visitors from Worthington’s sister City, Sayama, Japan. In their own words, “the garden is rated 125%.”

The Japanese American Society of Ohio hosted a tea ceremony at a recent garden tour. The group now uses the teahouse for training of the traditional tea ceremony. “Sayonara!”






PLANTING LIST

There was an extensive planting list for this garden, including ornamental and evergreen trees, shrubs, hostas, ground covers, ornamental grasses and vines, daylilies and bulbs. Here is a small selection.






August Moon Hosta







Cotoneaster Horizontalis







Orange Daylily







Flowering Dogwood







Haense Herms’ Red Switch Grass







Hino Crimson Azalea







Japanese Painted Fern







Moonbeam Coreopsis







Sweet Autumn Clematis







Tokudama Hosta







Japanese Silver Grass







Siberian Iris







Wisterian Floribunda







Peren Astilbe Rheinland







Vibernum Carlesii

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October 30, 2014, 11:10 am EST

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