Friday, August 28, 2015

Bell Install

I started the first stage of reworking the area next to the back stairs where I've decided to locate the bell I purchased from the Portland Japanese Garden.

After considering different designs, I opted to go with a single post. Doing so allows me to utilize the bracket that came with the bell. The post is a 4x4 cedar post. 

I chose not to cement it in place in case I need to relocate the bell in the future. I will have to see if the weight of the bell (18 pounds) causes the post to shift over time. If it does shift, I can always dig it out and cement it in place.

I also decided to rework the area at the base. Currently, it is covered with peastone. The plants that are located there (1 Hosta, 3 daylilies) were placed there a couple years ago as a temporary attempt to add some plants that needed transplanting. I dug them up and moved them elsewhere outside the garden.

I also removed a large portion of the peastone and placed some curved edging that stretched from the entry way into the garden over to the edge of the back step. I will eventually fill it in with mulch and perhaps some small flowering plants near the garden entrance. The large area behind the bell-post and next to the step will get a Spirea similar to the one on the opposite side of the steps - I'm thinking I can get one one sale this time of year.

So far, the bell looks good and is working fine. I need to replace the dryer vent in the basement window before I continue with any of the changes mentioned above. This vent should eventually be hidden by the Spirea as it grows. The 4 x 4 post on the ground will also be moved at some point in the future. I am hoping to add a small 3 foot Yotsumegaki  style fence along this edge of the garden (see images below), maybe next year. 

I will then think about how to add some sort of roof structure to the post so as to cover the bell from the elements.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

For Whom the Bell Tolls

In addition to the molded carp, I was also able to purchase a large bell for the garden from the Portland Japanese Garden gift shop.

I have been considering some sort of ornamental bell for several years. I came  across many examples while visiting Japan this summer, both medium sized and huge, which further inspired me to consider the inclusion of a bell in my own garden. 

When I saw the bell  (below) on display at the gift shop, I was intrigued. The bell was the creation of Tom Torrens, a well known and respected sculptor. I liked the simple design and the bronze color. The bell did not resemble a traditional Bonsho (tsurigane) bell, or hanging bell, like the ones found in most Buddhist temples (pictured above). Instead, it reflected an arts & crafts style associated with the Pacific Northwest. Nevertheless it held some Asian inspired elements. 

More importantly, when I heard the tone of the bell, I was instantly convinced that this was the bell I was looking for. Watch the video below to hear what the bell sounds like:

Now I have to decide how to hang the bell. It weighs 18 pounds, so its a bit heavy. It came with a matching hook that mounts to an upright post, like a 4 x4. However, I am considering several options. Primarily, I would like the structure which holds the bell to have a roof, preferably four sided and similar to the fukihanachi style of Japanese bell towers.

Below are some examples of bell stands I have come across online:

The first three are obviously too large, while the last three could work. However, I was hoping for a four legged-roofed structure. It would have to be narrow and appropriately sized for the bell and the space where I intend to place it, most likely near the back door where it could act as a sort of door bell. I will spend a good part of the next few months planning and working on a design.

Carp in the Bed

A carp leaps up
the autumn moonlight
- Masaoka Shiki

While visiting the Portland Japanese garden, I came across a pair of carp made of molded cement in the gift shop. I like the shape, size, and low profile. I also like that they had a greenish tint to them. I had always been on the lookout for something that would allow me to imply water in the bed of the garden, but I did not want to add anything to ticky-tacky. These molded carp were perfect., so I purchased two and had them shipped home.

The carp arrived today and I proceeded to set them in place. First, I removed some of the large stones and placed a small level bed of pea stone where the carp would rest without fear of damage. Once placed, I hand placed some of the more medium sized stones around the carp. I didn't want them buried under rocks, nor did I want them popping out and resting on top of the bed. 

As you move away, they are a bitter harder to see.

From the edge of the garden they are almost invisible to the eye.

This is exactly how I want them to appear. I want the visitor to the garden to be surprised by the appearance of the carp. Its sort of like a Zen experience. If you go looking for them you won't find them, but if your just standing there taking in the view, then perhaps you will be surprised by their sudden appearance - enlightenment at its best.

Here is an alternative angle from which they might be viewed:

Monday, August 17, 2015

Lan Su Chinese Garden

As part of my family vacation to Portland, Oregon, I was also fortunate enough to visit the Lan Su Chinese Garden ("Garden of Awakening Orchids"). 

Lan Su Garden Map

This garden is the result of Portland being connected with the city of Suzhou, its Chinese sister city and built between 1999-2000. The garden was built along the style of the many Ming Dynasty gardens that populate Suzhou. Chinese craftsman who came from China to the United States were employed in the construction of the garden (very similar to the process employed by the Chinese Scholars Garden on Staten Island).

In addition to a wide variety of plantings, the garden also features a large two-story tea house. Having the opportunity to have tea and a light snack was a highlight of the visit. The views from the second floor were also spectacular.

Below are some of my favorite photos from the visit: