Wednesday, September 29, 2010

SJG Plant List 2010

This is a smile for Kathleen Smith: a long-time AF Unit 86 volunteer, who worked with Seattle Parks and Recreation to research the plant collection of the Japanese Garden for the original list and created the Plant List Booklet in 1995, and updated it until 2008.

Kathleen no longer lives in a walking distance from the Garden, and it took a committee of 8 people to prepare a current update - work that she did all those years by herself.

Plants of the Japanese Garden List 2010 is available at the booth in the Garden, and also on the Seattle Park and Recreation's   JG webpage.  Click on 'About Garden' (or scroll down to that section) to find a list of park resources including the 'Japanese Garden Plant Booklet.'

This is for you, Kathleen!  THANK YOU!

まかぬ種は生えぬ (Makanu tane ha haenu) -- (lit. It doesn't bud if you don't seed)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Important Message from the Nominating Committee

I'm copying this from the 'comments' section, for greater visibility:

All Volunteers: The SJG has many very talented members! We hope everyone will contact a nominating committee member (Mary Ann Cahill, Mary Nagan and Mary Ann Wiley) and offer to be a candidate for President, Secretary or Treasurer for the 2011 year or suggest someone who would be a good candidate.

物は試し (Monowa tameshi) -- give it a try (lit. things are to be tried) Just do it in English

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Respect for Elders Day Sept 20

SJG 2010 - Respect for the Elders Day;
photo by Monzie
What started out as an iffy morning weather-wise in the garden on Respect for Elders Day (keiro-no-hi) ended shortly before noon in sun bursts that forecast a fine afternoon.  On cue, the turtles began scaling the rock on Turtle Island's south side to encouraging words from small bands of visitors circling the lake.

I caught up with an 11-member group from the International District Community Center who clustered on the moon-viewing platform, excitedly pointing to the fish as ducks and koi competed for food and  laughing as a turtle sedately paddled by to join the feeding frenzy  The resident heron was elsewhere...

The group moved on to the tableland to pause at a newly planted Mt Fuji cherry tree. This was site  of a ceremony last week attended by the Japanese ambassador to celebrate the garden's 50th anniversary.  At the tree's foot stands a small, white, irregularly-shaped stone bearing a plaque, which reads:

SJG 2010 - New Mt. Fuji Cherry; photo by Monzie
"Prunus Shirotae (Mt Fuji cherry)
This tree is a propagation of the one planted by Japanese Crown Prince Akihito in 1960
Best wishes for another 50 years of friendship
Between the US and Japan
September 16, 2010
In celebration of the 50th Anniversary.
Japanese Ambassador and Mrs. Ichiro Fujisaki
Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn
Consulate-General of Japan, Seattle
Japanese Business Association of Seattle"

My own tour group of 12 curious seniors wanted to see all - no skirting the hills - and game for picking their way across stones at the base of the falls  When told the age of the black pine overlooking the north end of the lake (plus or minus 100 years), a wave of appreciation swept through.  "At last, something older than I am," came from the rear.

SJG 2010 - Origami table; photo by Monzie
Back at the gatehouse, guides Sue Clark, Jeanne Peterson and Lynnda Laurie presided over the origami table set up under cover outside the Tateuchi Room where they led absorbed visitors through paper folding steps.  I admired the completed birds, boxes, balls and my favorite, a jumping frog with an Olympic-record leap. 

Close by, departing visitors examined the exhibit of photographs of the Katsura palace taken in 1960 by Ishimoto Yasuhiro.  As I left the gate, a growing group of respected elders sat under a red tent in the courtyard, now protected from the sun rather than rain, waiting patiently for the next tour.

SJG 2010 - Strolling through; photo by Monzie
Sources tell me that Respect for Elders Day, which celebrates a Confucian value, is a relatively new national holiday in Japan, observed on the third Monday in September  Its origin was in a village in 1947. (It takes a village.)  Within three years, the observance spread throughout the prefecture (province) and achieved nation-wide status in 1966.  Among the day's customs:  distribution of free lunches and sweets to those over age 60.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Other Gardens: Dallying with the Dahlias

Here is the first post from the guest-blogger, our fellow guide, Monzie.  Can you guess who Monzie is? I put a pic of Monzie in the right-side bar. aleks

My dahlias are doing poorly this year (not a bloom yet); so last weekend I popped over to the Seattle Dahlia Society's annual dahlia show in Lake City for some inspiration.

After a "hi" to the society's greeter behind the welcome table, who had a show-stealing puppy on her lap, I joined 12 others browsing among one zillion gorgeous scarlet, orange, yellow and white blooms on five long tables, helpfully arranged by type of dahlia - you know, formal and informal, decorative, cactus and semi-cactus, ball and so on - many with award ribbons alongside. Spectacular blooms for a p patch; too much for a Japanese garden.

Passing by the really, really big ones - a bright lemon yellow flower as big as a dinner plate - I headed for the ball and mini. Setting out to be uncharacteristically organized about this thing, I picked out the eight dahlias that appealed to me most, wrote down their names, then retraced my steps to take a picture of each in the same order. Enjoy a few above!

Now I'm set to buy tubers for next year. But, still, how to avoid producing more reluctant dahlias? The answer was at hand! In addition to a very well done display on how to grow them, there was a $2 pamphlet with large print and close-up photos with arrows clearly pointing to "eyes", "neck", "center bud" and "side bud", etc, which described eight steps. My big take away was Step 1: Plant tubers in potting soil until they sprout then transplant. Aha! That's giving them a head start. Goal: Early blooms in 2011!

Unit 86 needs new officers

Our Unit 86 a.k.a. 'Japanese Garden Guides and Volunteers' group needs you!

The nominating committee would like to hear ASAP from anyone who wants to be considered as officer  for the next year.  The positions that need to be filled are:  President, Secretary and Treasurer.

SJG - Photo by Mary Nagan 8/24/10
The tenure for each post is one year and it is another way to give back to Unit 86 and to learn more about the inner workings of our group.

The process of nominating starts right now, and hopefully will be completed by our 10/23 Fall Meeting.  All positions come with full support from previous office holders.

If you are interested in serving in any of the above positions, simply leave a comment on this blog and I will respond privately by connecting you with the nominating committee, or email me on my comcast account, or contact any of the currently serving officers.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Katsura, Katsura

SJG 2010 - Ishimoto's work in Tateuchi Room
Not bad at all:  from not knowing much about Katsura just a few days ago,  I chanced upon not one but TWO presentations on the topic in one day.  Thursday morning a lecture arranged by our educational committee for the guides who are about to start  monitoring Ishimoto's Katsura exhibition  and given by the architect and Urasenke tea student Chris Ezzell (of Japanese Garden Advisory Council);  then, in the evening, during an actual exhibition opening reception, a commentary on the photographs and the whole presentation from Ken Tadashi Oshima, Associate Professor of architecture at UW.

Katsura Imperial Villa is actually not a villa in the western sense, but a cluster of buildings and gardens, built in 17th century for the members of the imperial family near the Katsura river on the outskirts of Kyoto; and now one of Japan's most important cultural treasures.  Also known as Katsura Detached Palace, it is considered one of the greatest achievements of Japanese architecture and consists of Old, Middle and New Shoin  ('drawing room'), tea houses and a strolling garden.  It was meant to be used in warmer months of the year and the main theme of the place is moon-viewing.
SJG 2010 - my own, 'unique' composition: Prof. Oshima
and the kitchen sink...  oh, well :(

The photographs are black and white, strikingly beautiful and, we were told, artistically very innovative and avant-garde, considering the time they were taken (1950s).  Ishimoto's unique take on Katsura - grid-like composition and unusual perspective, as opposed to earlier, traditionally nostalgic photographic depictions of the place - became influential in the field of architectural photography since they were first presented (if it's not obvious to the reader:  I also know not much about photography, just writing down what I think I heard).

Seattle has a big museum downtown, and a separate Asian museum on Capitol Hill,  yet SJG in Arboretum was chosen as place for the exhibition, because of close cultural and environmental ties between the Garden and the subject of the photographs. During his commentary Prof. Oshima actually sent us out for a stroll in the Garden, to look for those connections ourselves, and it was there, on the East Path,  that  I run into two fellow guides, one of them waving Katsura brochure (he visited there last May) and excitedly exclaiming:  'there it is!". He was pointing to OUR rocky peninsula, which is indeed, a copy of similar installation in Katsura Villa, which, in turn, was inspired by miles of rocky coast elsewhere in Japan - some real meta-connection...

Because of the rather small size of Tateuchi Room the photographs will be shown in 2 installments:  the second part of the exhibition will arrive to SJG at the beginning of October. So, please come and visit again, then.

The Katsura photographer, Mr. Ishimoto, was born in 1921 in San Francisco and currently lives in Tokyo;  I found it quite touching to hear that he personally prepared descriptions which accompany the photographs (look below the photos).

Reception: delicious Umeboshi came with written instruction: 'do not eat the pit (seed)  inside the plum'.  Isn't there something really odd about our need for excessive caution?  

A few related links for your enjoyment:

Wikipedia article on Katsura
Katsura Detached Palace from Japan Atlas, Historic Sites
Katsura Walking Tour, from Columbia University, NY
• Wikipedia article about Yasuhiro Ishimoto
More about Yasuhiro Ishimoto, from Museum of Contemporary Photography
Review of Ishimoto's Katsura work from Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (2/2010)

雨降って地固まる (ame futte chi katamaru) Literally: after the rain, earth hardens 
Meaning: Adversity builds character./After a storm, things will stand on more solid ground than they did before.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Other Gardens: The Fragrant Garden

Many SJG volunteers (if not most) share the love of the gardens in general; our in-between-tours conversations often focus on other worthy of visit gardens and it was from a fellow guide that I learned about Ethel L. Dupar's Fragrant Garden.  It is a private, walled garden designed expressly for blind people and located on the campus of The Lighthouse for the Blind; this weekend I caught the last of their annual 5 guided tours open to public.

Eastern Mint - Ellen L. Dupar's FG
The tour started with handing out 2010 plant list,  hand-wipes (for removing plant oils from fingers), and an announcement that a bag of coffee beans is available for tiered noses (it worked amazingly well, and was passed around constantly from somewhere half-of-the tour).

Then over an hour of hands-on, touch and sniff pleasure of contact with aromatic collection of foliage and blooms in raised beds and pots.  Helen Weber, Master Gardener of The Fragrant Garden and our guide, moved ahead with garden pruners and handed out fragrant branches, while explaining which plants attract hummingbirds or bees, which are culinary or medicinal and which parts of the plant hold the scent:  sometimes leaves, sometimes flowers.

Chocolate Cosmos - Ethel L. Dupar's FG
Somehow I didn't want to part with the fragrant snippets and half-consciously stuffed them in my pocket while moving along the tour; we were also offered cuttings of plants we might want to start at home: Fruit Scented Sage and Vietnamese Coriander.

No wonder  I was lightheaded  by the time I reached home after the tour - my car was a traveling orgy of coconut, curry, pineapple, chocolate, mint, orange, thyme, marigold, basil and camphor scents, all trapped in a small space.  For more  info about The Fragrant Garden visit Ethel L. Dupar FG website.

晴耕雨読 (seiko udoku) Literally: clear sky, cultivate, rainy, reading 
Meaning: Farm when it's sunny, read when it rains.