This is the bimonthly information program of Murin-an Garden.
It provides information on Japanese gardens, invitations to events that help foster the garden and seasonal highlights.
The name of this bimonthly is Sara-Sara News.
What does “sara-sara” mean? In Japanese, this word is used to evoke a gentle rustle or murmuring sound in nature. We have adopted it from a passage in a poem by Yamagata Aritomo, Murin-an’s original owner. It reads
At the end of a water stream/That murmurs gently as it travels hidden beneath the shade of trees/I see a fish leap
We chose this publication’s title to reflect our hope that, like the ceaseless flow of the murmuring brook flowing around Murin-an, the encounters here will produce a current toward nurturing Japanese gardens for the future.
Now that Murin-an is showing us what it looks like at the peak of summer, we would like to discuss how we maintain its garden path. This garden’s scenery has several layers that can be broadly divided into the distant view made up of the surrounding trees and borrowed mountain landscape seen when we raise our eyes and look off toward the distance, the intermediate view that overlooks the whole garden and the foreground view that when we lower eyes to look around the garden path as we walk upon it.
The care given to the area around the garden path is work done for the foreground view. Human beings often feel cleanness from the space around their feet and thus any messiness in this space leaves a strong impression, even if it does not conspicuously stand out. That is why we give special care to the area surrounding the garden path. Because gravel that crosses over the rope border and becomes strewn into the moss hurts the garden’s scenery, we remove it whenever we find it. The moss is also hurt by any leaves that fall on it and block its sunlight, so we remove these as well. Murin-an’s scenery changes with each step and thus allows us to enjoy scenes ranging from the spaciously serene mountain village landscape to the steep waterfall as though they were part of a story. You could say that having a beautiful garden path by our feet is what supports the overall impression of the garden so that this flow of scenery can go undisrupted.
Inside the garden, you can feel the speed with which spring changes into summer. During gardening work, not only sudden changes in scenery, but even the minute transitions in the trees and plants can be felt. When the tall evergreen trees finish defoliating in early spring, the shrubs then vigorously begin growing out their branches. If we were to relate a garden’s shrubs to music, I think they would play the role of a basso continuo: While we may not take the time to look directly at the shrubs themselves, the scenery wouldn’t feel complete without them. We decide the heights of these shrubs by keeping in mind what sort of balance they strike with the garden’s scenic stones, which are a key feature of the scenery. We don’t trim shrubs all at once using pruning clippers, but rather clip each individual branch with respect to its relationship to the stones. We hope you’ll take your time looking at the azaleas and satsuki azaleas nearby the garden path.
And now it’s spring. This is the time when, like so many other things, change in Murin-an’s garden is set in motion. It’s once again that time of year when the lawn vigorously grows in. Murin-an’s lawn is made up of Korean lawn grass (Zoysia tenuifolia) and Japanese lawn grass (Zoysia japonica), both of which, unlike Western-style lawns that stay green all year-round, turn brown in winter. For about two weeks in spring, this lawn, which represents one of the defining features of Murin-an’s scenery, suddenly turns a lush green, thus conveying the dynamic change occurring in the season.
From the latter half of April, Southern Rockbells and other wildflowers bloom amid this lawn, reaching their peak during Japan’s Golden Week holiday.
The lawn’s appearance looks all the more beautiful because we can feel how the garden in spring rewards the care given to it during winter.
It is at this time of year, when the occasional warm weather can unexpectedly set us at ease, that the weather suddenly turns colder, bringing days of heavy snowfall with it.
Gardeners could not be busier at times like these. From the edges of the stepping stones, they brush off snow that has accumulated on top. This is to allow visitors to enjoy the snowy scenery safely, without slipping, and also to help the garden look even prettier. Snow on the garden path is handled so that it doesn’t look as though it has been freshly cleared, but instead has a natural look. It is the season when we yearn for the warm spring to come soon, even as we also lament the passing of the garden’s snowscape. This year, we hope you will come to enjoy the abundant changes in the look of Murin-an’s garden once again.
On winter mornings that freeze even one’s breath over, we begin cleaning Murin-an’s garden at 7:00 AM. White frost falls upon the lawn at the garden’s center and gleams brightly under the sunrise. Once the frost falls, the moss may no longer be stepped upon.
The frozen moss has formed a glass-like layer that can crumble irreparably. We perform the work that we can as we patiently wait for the frost to melt. One important job during the winter is fertilizing the trees, known in Japanese as kangoe, or winter fertilizing. We do this work in the hope that the garden’s trees will be able to withstand the hot summer to come.
Underneath the light wheat color of a desolate winter lawn, the buds of the coming spring are beginning to stir. The days grow longer and the frozen over wash basin finally starts to melt. Now is the time to begin cleaning the moss once again.
The beautiful autumn leaves have brought us a much-awaited fall season. This is the time when gardens viewed from inside a room take on a whole new charm. As a matter of fact, when gardeners tend to their gardens, they also consider the view from the inside of rooms. Because garden trees nearby buildings especially stand out, gardeners strive as much as possible to prune them naturally to keep them from looking like they have been trimmed, while also preventing them from looking heavy and shaggy by gently tidying their branches just enough so that the scenery behind them remains visible. Conversely, they also prune the trees along the garden’s outer circumference, which is the most distant scenery seen from inside a building, so that it forms a skyline and also screens out the buildings outside the garden. This autumn, take your time in enjoying the branches of the maple trees as well as their fall colors.