June 11, 2016

The Lingering Garden in Suzhou, China: Re-discovered!

Framed views, grotesque rockery and some "Chinglish" in one of Suzhou's classical Chinese gardens



"Re-discovered" in the sense that I never knew these pictures from our family's China trip in 2012 existed until I was trying to retrieve some files from my camera' built-in memory and these popped out. Going to Suzhou's Lingering Garden was one of my favourite memories during our three week vacation/pilgrimage to China nearly four years ago. I got to see an authentic example of classic Chinese garden design which is characterized by a miniaturization of natural landscapes (mountains and oceans) and a sympathetic relationship between people and nature around them.

I profiled the Lingering Garden a few years ago with a post titled The Lingering Garden in Suzhou, China: Classical Chinese garden design at Liu Yuan which shows many examples of the use of strange-looking or grotesque (maybe to Western eyes) limestone rockery commonly found in Chinese garden design. I also showed examples of how water is used to contrast with such "hard" elements when seen from various "stages" or viewing "platforms."

In your garden, you might want to consider where the main "viewing stage" is (your patio, deck, favourite bench?) and compose a scene that maximizes the view's beauty or significance. A technique that could help with composing this scene is framing, as some pictures below show:



Framed view at Lingering Garden Suzhou China by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Framed view at the
Lingering Garden Suzhou China 


You may find the above a little lazy or maddening but there's very little symmetrical about Asian gardens because, well, there's little in nature that's perfectly centred along an X-Y axis. I found this appealing as the drab concrete interior wall contrasts with the bright green Philodendron (?) leaves. Even the octagon frame of the window isn't symmetrical.



Framed view of rockery at Lingering Garden Suzhou China by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Framed view of rockery at the
Lingering Garden Suzhou China


These are windows (but could be doors) that fold out to create an amazing triptych. I wish I could approximate this overlooking my backyard but those pesky raccoons and mosquitoes would get in the way!


Lingering Garden Suzhou China by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Lingering Garden Suzhou China
grasses and shrubs


Yes, there's a whole lot of green going on but that's what I expected in the dead of summer. I'd imagine the views would be more colourful in the spring and fall with the blossoms and autumn foliage. I found the monochromatic greens very calming and restful, especially with the cicadas whirring away on that hot summer day.

In the picture above, I adore how the grasses (maybe sedges) spill over the rocks. A way you could closely capture this is by using the mostly-green version of Japanese Forest Grass  (Hakonechloa macra ‘Albostriata’ Japanese Forest Grass) or Pennsylvania sedge (Carex pensylvanica)



Lingering Garden Suzhou China framed view of rockery by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Lingering Garden Suzhou China
framed view of rockery

Another framed view above, this time forcing the viewer to contemplate the odd-looking rocks.



Lingering Garden Suzhou China rockery by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Lingering Garden Suzhou China rockery 




Lingering Garden Suzhou China window screen by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Lingering Garden Suzhou China window screen 

I just like the lattice work above in front of a translucent panel which diffuses the appearance of the branch hitting against it.



Rock garden at Lingering Garden in Suzhou China by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Rock garden at Lingering Garden
in Suzhou, China 

The white-wash wall starkly outlines the rocks and plants.



rock garden at Lingering Garden Suzhou China by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Rock garden at Lingering Garden
Suzhou, China 

The same area from another view. There were many of these little "pockets" scattered throughout, offering the visitor (me) a short respite from our tour guide screaming in her megaphone to get ready to leave.



Rockery at Lingering Garden Suzhou China by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Rockery at the Lingering Garden
in Suzhou, China 

Just like mountains have many outcroppings and caves, this version has the same but miniaturized to human scale.




Screen at Lingering Garden Suzhou China by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Screen at the Lingering Garden
in Suzhou, China 

Another screen but this time much more ornate. I don't know about you but I kind of see some sort of hibiscus or Rose of Sharon flower if I stare long enough.



Sitting area at Lingering Garden Suzhou China by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Sitting area at the Lingering Garden
in Suzhou, China 

We never saw anyone actually sitting in these chairs but you can imagine the owners and their visitors enjoying refreshments while looking at the garden. You'll note the symmetry inside which is largely absent outside.



Lingering Garden Suzhou China signage by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Lingering Garden Suzhou China signage 

A Suzhou garden visit cannot end without showing one of many signs posted throughout for the benefit of native and tourists. The more direct and stern instruction "don't litter!" doesn't have the same wonderful lilting melody as this "Chinglish" phrase carries.

Want to see more poetic examples like the one above? I've bookmarked this great blog post titled The Signage of the Lingering Garden. You may smile or scratch your head but the sentiments are all noble.

June 03, 2016

Forest Hill, Toronto rock garden installation

A small slope yields much potential in Forest Hill


At first glance, it doesn't look promising: a weedy patch of soil on a small slope facing a shared driveway between two rental properties. My client was so desperate (maybe a slight exaggeration) to garden that she was willing to pay for my time and materials, even though she is a tenant. So it was on a whim and a lark that we met way back in March to see what could be done with the space below:



Forest Hill Toronto new rock garden before by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Forest Hill Toronto new rock garden before



I like these small projects and haven't put in a rock garden for ages so I decided to take on the challenge. My client is also very nice so that sealed the deal!

It's not a very large area, maybe 20 feet across and 5 feet high. The good news is that it faces south and gets full sun until afternoon and the soil isn't too bad. The rocks were already there so someone in the past made this into a rock garden of sorts. But time and negligence have taken their toll and the soil was choked with many types of weeds with the main culprit being creeping bellflower (Campanula rapunculoides) Anyone who's worked with this perennial weed that spreads vigorously by underground rhizomes knows intimately how difficult it is to eradicate it. Leaving just a bit of the fleshy pinkie-finger like roots is enough for it to regenerate.

I prefer not to use a non-selective herbicide so this entire face was hand-dug in order to remove as much of the roots and stems of this bad boy of a weed in preparation for the new alpine/rock garden perennials.

That was in April and when I returned a month later (after the client bought the plants), a few Creeping Bellflower shoots were still emerging. They were easy enough to dig out but vigilance is the key here to really get rid of the weed for good (even then...)

Here's the list of the rock garden perennials we chose which are hardy to zone 5 Toronto and lower: (Click on the links for more information.)




The "finished" garden below looks sparse but many of these rock garden perennials grow quickly so the bare spots should fill in over a few years. Of course, the challenge is to keep these pockets weed-free until then!


Forest Hill Toronto rock garden makeover by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Forest Hill Toronto rock garden makeover 



I used the same "boulders" (small rocks really)  that were there already but I suggest that if you were to attempt this, get bigger and nicer looking rocks and plenty of them. (I'd have more rockery than plants.)  The perennials are, of course, tiny at the beginning but will definitely fill in over a couple of years. I expect to see a blaze of white, pink, yellow and blue spring flowers every April-May. Weeding on a slight slope can be a little tougher but other than the occasional watering to get these small plants established plus the weeding (we didn't use mulch like pea gravel), this small rock garden is very low-maintenance.

More "before" and "after" pictures for this small Forest Hill rock garden:



New Toronto Forest Hill rock garden before by Paul Jung Gardening Services
New Toronto Forest Hill rock garden before 




New Toronto Forest Hill rock garden after by Paul Jung Gardening Services
New Toronto Forest Hill rock garden after



Forest Hill Toronto new rock garden before by Paul Jung Gardening Services Inc
Forest Hill Toronto new rock garden before



Forest Hill Toronto new rock garden after by Paul Jung Gardening Services Inc
Forest Hill Toronto new rock garden after



New Toronto Forest Hill  rock garden before Paul Jung Gardening Services
New Toronto Forest Hill  rock garden before



Forest Hill Toronto new rock garden after by Paul Jung Gardening Services
Forest Hill Toronto new rock garden after