What's New? A Behind-The-Scenes Look at Projects in The Garden

By Rumi Tsuchihashi

If you've made your first garden visit of the 2018 season, you may have wondered what was new. Though subtle, you noticed something was different. The truth is that a lot of work happened in the garden while it was closed for maintenance, even though it's hard to tell.

"In a Japanese garden, when a  job is done well,  it looks like it's always been that way," says Senior Gardener Pete Putnicki, as he points out a section on the east shoreline of the pond where several azaleas were transplanted in from other areas of the garden. The new elements here were so carefully placed, they appear as though they were brought in years ago, not just a few weeks back.

Because it's so easy to miss the careful effort the gardeners put into maintaining and improving the landscape, we've put together a slideshow of the wintertime projects, including some fascinating work-in-progress scenes.

One set of images shows a grouping of very large stones near the entry gate house being moved. Over the course of many years, the large, upright stone had come to lean at an awkward, unnatural angle and needed correcting. You'll notice that the crew is relying on by ropes, pulleys, hand tools, mechanical chain ratchets and human power alone for this job, as site limitations prohibited use of any heavy equipment. At times, as many as nine people worked in unison to keep the stone safely upright as they changed its position, utilizing wooden posts and cement blocks for stability. Given the amount of strength and stability needed to get this project done safely, it was fortuitous that newest crew member just  happened to be a former University of Washington Husky line backer!

“In a Japanese garden, when a  job is done well,  it looks like it’s always been that way”.
— Pete Putnicki, Seattle Japanese Garden Senior Gardener

The garden also has a new, Teppo-gaki style bamboo fence near the courtyard garden just outside the Tateuchi Community Room.  "By using a tall, fairly dense fence," explains Pete, "we are able to create the illusion of more depth through separation and add to the appearance of a Tsubo-niwa enclosed garden in that area." The project began just as the temperatures dropped in February, causing the gardeners to begin the process of tying the bamboo sections together as snow fell on them. Nevertheless, the gardeners consider this to be one of the most rewarding projects they undertook this past winter.

Next time you visit, see if you can identify these changes to the garden, if not with the eye, with the degree of beauty you sense as you stroll through. And when you do, take a moment to consider all the skilled effort that goes into creating a calm, refined garden that appears as though it's always been that way.

Rumi Tsuchihashi