Thursday, May 26, 2011

Saturday, June 4 Tour of Chinese Garden: A Reminder

by Monzie

Here's a reminder that guide Dewey Webster is offering us a tour of the Chinese Garden (his other garden) at 1:30 pm, Saturday, June 4. Thanks, Dewey! 

The tour will leave from the garden's Discovery Center, a portable classroom at the entry courtyard and will last about an hour.  Admission is free for Seattle residents.

The garden is located at 6000 126th Avenue SW, adjacent to South Seattle Community College.   The garden is next to the arboretum, off the north parking lot.   An azumya in the arboretum offers a splendid view for those who would like to arrive around noon and enjoy a picnic lunch!

Carpooling from the Japanese Garden's parking lot is a good idea - allow 30 minutes for the drive going north to 520, west to I-5, south to the West Seattle bridge and follow frequent signs for exit and roads to South Seattle Community College.  

For background information, check and

P.S. Those who wish to carpool from Seattle Japanese Garden, please meet at the SJG parking lot at 12:30
•  + Check this 8/15/10 Seattle Times article about Construction on Seattle's Sichuan-style Chinese garden - fragment from the article:
[...] The project was started 20 years ago to mark the establishment of sister-city ties between Seattle and Chongqing, now a municipality with more than 30 million people. It's designed as a space for local organizations to explore Chinese culture, language, arts and horticulture. [...]

[...]To build "Knowing the Spring Courtyard," the 21 artisans are applying some of the same methods and materials they've used for centuries. One marks a line with ink and a brush while two others pull a wooden-handled blade back and forth to make a cut. [...]

Friday, May 20, 2011

Water in our Japanese Garden

SJG 5/19/11 • Kathy Blanchard and photo of Village
Gatehouse by Bob Hoshide; photo by Lynnda
by Lynnda

Yesterday was Unit 86's May continuing education meeting. It was warm and sunny, just a typical May day in our Garden! We welcomed Kathy Blanchard to the meeting since no one knows more about our water system than she does. Before we started our garden tour, Kathy was presented with a lovely framed photograph of the Village Gatehouse in autumn looking south with the kare sansui (dry creek bed) on the left. The photographer is Bob Hoshide who also was the architect for the gatehouse. Kathy still works for Seattle Parks Department but her duties no longer include being head gardener for the Japanese Garden.

SJG 5/19/11 • Moss covered bank of the stream before
it flows into the pond: photo by Lynnda
When the garden was originally built in 1960, the area was a boggy lowland that received runoff from all the surrounding hillsides. Originally, a small pond was present and a stream flowed north into it. In the mid 70's, there was a severe fish kill due to construction contamination from a hillside above the garden. The potential for future spills was realized and a collection system was designed and built to prevent this from happening again. A built water source was also designed using city water. Timers had to be installed so the creek and waterfall would turn off at night, allowing for adequate water pressure for irrigation purposes.

SJG 5/19/11 • Moss-covered banks of the stream before
it flows into the pond; photo by Lynnda
Did you know that the stream and the waterfall have to be tuned? This doesn't happen often, but it requires several gardeners to be at different locations, and adjust various valves to create the perfect pitch. The stream sounds softer than the waterfall, and the waterfall has a gentile and soothing tone. They both have their own source of water, and they are loud enough to provide a soothing mood regardless of the traffic outside the garden.

SJG 5/19/11 • Male Gadwall swimming with  koi;
photo by Lynnda
The pond health is critical to the koi health. The temperature is regulated by adding more water on warm, sunny days. As Kathy explained, the pond has moods and the garden staff can tell by the color, texture and the koi behavior when the stress level needs to be calmed. The murky nature of the water allows for better reflection, also providing mystery. One can't tell how deep the water is, although in most places, it's only 2 or 3 feet deep. There are deeper holes, known mainly by the gardeners and koi.

SJG 5/19/11 • Intricacies of the Japanese Garden pond
filtering system; photo by Lynnda
We had the rare experience of going in and out from the east gate which is no longer in use. We were shown where the storage tanks are (since no one had a confined space license, we didn't actually see them) but we did get to see the filter house. Several City departments work with the filtering system since this is critical to keeping the pond algae-free and odor-free. This type of equipment is usually used in pools or ponds with concrete walls, but the natural pond in the garden presents problems that take a team to resolve.

When walking through the Garden, the stream, waterfall and pond are such central compenents of everyone's experience. The background that Kathy provided enhances my appreciation of how much work goes into keeping it all so natural. Thanks to Kathy for such an informative talk and to all the gardeners who do such a great job at the Seattle Japanese Garden.  =D>

Sunday, May 15, 2011

an idler-- under the cherry blossoms I live

by aleks
(Click on the pics to enlarge them)
 5/13/11 - Kwanzan cherries in the commons next to SJG
They were playing ball under the kwanzan cherry trees in the commons, by the Garden parking lot, and every time the ball went up in the air, it caused thousands of pink petals to fall on them. I wasn't sure if they did it on purpose or wether it was an accident of ball playing, but it was a mesmerizing scene to watch so I sat in my car much longer than needed, just observing them while "I think to myself what a wonderful world" was self-playing in my head...

I needed not hurry, because the young people were waiting for their 10:50 tour  - the very one I came to guide with 3 other docents, and it was only 10:30.  Their teacher, Joshua A., brings his 9th grade Honors Humanities students  from Monroe High School to the Japanese Garden for tours every year - it's a part of their Pacific Rim cultures study, and the students are usually a joy to be with: smart, sharp, polite and curious.

This year's group of 15/16 y.o. from Monroe HS was no exception: focused, asking intelligent questions, while being properly zen-relaxed at the same time - they told me that their only assignment was to enjoy the Garden and to note something of personal interest to remember. To match their relaxed attitude I changed the tour narrative a bit, and instead of taking them 'from station to station' and cramming their heads with details they'd likely forget, I guided them on a more leisurely stroll, mainly talking about general elements of the Japanese Garden, common to all Japanese gardens they'd likely visit in the future: the water, stones and pines and different 'rooms' of the Garden - orchard, mountains or fishing village.

SJG • 5/13/11 - Students from Monroe HS feed koi
... and have a good time.

Rosario (sorry if I misspelled your name) asked about the East Gate when we were passing it, so I said that Seattle Garden is likely the only one in the world with the entry gate on the 'wrong' side of the garden (due to the traffic issues outside), and what she is looking at is the original gate - the Japanese like to be in harmony with nature and enter the garden from the East, where the sun rises...

Once we reached the 'mountains', we paused to look at the Garden below and ponder its many levels, now revealed to our eyes:  Turtle Island, bridges, moon viewing platform and across the pond still half-hidden Tea House Garden and towering ginkgo trees.  Kathy was passing with her part of the Monroe HS students and pointed out to them the Kobe lantern above us - a gift from Seattle's sister city in Japan.  I welcomed her aiding my maybe too leisurely (or lazy - I forgot about the lantern!) narrative, so when my group of students followed with their eyes to what Kathy was pointing to her group, I only added: "what she said".

SJG • 5/13/11 - Students from Monroe HS read haiku; Kobe Lantern behind them

Since we were already sitting, we took the time to read seasonal haiku by Kobayashi Issa and this one seemed to be the group's favorite (I wonder if in connection with their earlier playing ball under the cherry blossoms):

Kobayashi Issa 1806
gokutsubushi sakura no shita ni kurashi keri

an idler--
under the cherry blossoms
I live 
(Translation by David Lanoue)
The Friday tour ended promptly at 11:40 and the students boarded the school bus which was taking them to the afternoon's stop of their day-trip of things all-Pacific-Rim: the Asian Art Museum.  Next Friday the teacher Joshua A. will be back with more students, and I will have to find new haiku poems for them, maybe about different trees than this week's...

Kobayashi Issa 1808
asu araba araba to omou sakura kana

tomorrow and tomorrow
will they still be?
cherry blossoms
(Translation by David Lanoue)
Because they won't. 

P.S.  The photos posted with the students' permission. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Seattle Butoh Festival & other announcements

by aleks

• Reminder about upcoming Guides' Cont. Ed. meeting next Thursday, May 19 - Water from garden entrance to exit,  by Kathleen Blanchard - SJG former master gardener, in Tateuchi Room

• One of our guides, Dewey Webster, is giving the Seattle Chinese Garden tour for SJG volunteers  at 1:30 on Saturday, June 4 - all volunteers welcome.  The Chinese Garden is located at 6000 16th Avenue Southwest Seattle, WA 98106 - click here for a map & directions  (adjacent to South Seattle Community College).  All visitors reading this please check the SCG website for hours, admission and events - it's a new and exciting Garden in Seattle!

• The info below comes from another of our guides, Joan Laage, a professional butoh dancer.

The Next WAVE Seattle Butoh Festival, running June 3rd through the 18th 2011, includes performances, workshops and forums.  International butoh masters Koichi and Hiroko Tamano, co-directors of San Francisco Bay Area based Harupin Ha, will be the featured along with New York artist Tanya Calamoneri and Los Angeles based Michael Sakamoto.  Butoh founder Tatsumi Hijikata called Koichi "the bow-legged Nijinsky.”  This may be the last chance to see the Tamano's work as they plan to retire later this year and return to Japan where the emperor has declared Koichi a national treasure.  Each evening will include DAIPAN members as well including Seattle Japanese Garden docent Joan Laage.   Information: Joan at or  DAIPAN is accepting donations through; we are deeply appreciative of any contributions you can make.
Black Widow by Serge Gubelman: Joan Laage will be performing on June 3rd at Velocity

JUNE 3rd & 4th   7:30 pm at Velocity Dance Center, 1612 12th Ave Seattle, WA 98122
Friday 3rd - Harupin Ha, Sheri Brown, Joan Laage, Helen Thorsen
• Saturday 4th - Tanya Calamoneri, Michael Sakamoto, Danse Perdue, Douglas Ridings
$15  or $20 door; information: 206 729 2054

JUNE 11th “Art on the Fly”  2:15 pm  at Whole Foods Market, 2210 Westlake ;
3:15 pm  at Lake Union Park,  860 Terry Ave N  *Free

JUNE 18th  8:30 pm, Teatro de la Psychomachia, 1531 1st Ave S

JUNE 3rd 11:00am -1:00 pm Historical Context of butoh (with films), butoh pioneer Joan Laage and panelists, Frye Art Museum, 704 Terry Ave
JUNE 5th 4:00-6:00 pm Zen/spirituality/philosophy of butoh with butoh & Zen scholars at Seattle University, 901 12th Ave.  Please use the Broadway entrance to the college and follow the signs to the Wyckoff Auditorium- Engineering Department Room #200.
JUNE 9th 7:00-9:00pm Contemporary Cross Currents, Katsura Kan, Tanya Lockyer and DAIPAN community discuss butoh’s interface/influence with the contemporary dance aesthetic at Cornish College for the Arts, Raisbeck Hall, 2015 Boren Ave.

DAIPAN Workshops: June 4th -7th
• JUNE 4th – 5th  KOICHI & HIROKO TAMANO (SF)            
This is a unique opportunity to study with artists who embody the techniques and spirit of Hijikata, having studied and performed under him for over 10 years.  Through the workshop, participants will learn a variety of practices that explore an intensified, embodied presence using nature imagery, the imagination, and rigorous physicality.
Check for times, prices, workshop descriptions and artist bios.

DAIPANbutoh Collective welcomes you to support our exciting current project The Next WAVE Seattle Butoh Festival 2011. DAIPAN is a community of performers linked by butoh philosophy and aesthetics.  Originating in Japan in the aftermath of WWII, butoh energetically questions the nature of country, history, and personal identity, and tries to envision the creation of a future springing from the devastation.  We formed our collective to support local and international performers and to provide outreach and education through workshops, classes and symposiums.

Here are several ways to support our festival:
Donations - See and look for “Next WAVE Seattle Butoh Festival 2011.”  Through Kickstarter and our partnership with Shunpike, donations are tax deductible.
Buying an AD - buying ad space in our programs; contact Helen Thorsen at 206.723.2315.

Friday, May 6, 2011

First Tour of the New Season

by Lynnda + pics by aleks (a.k.a. 'the other guide')

Thursday was my first official tour of the 2011 season. This was my first tour of my second year of guiding. I've been rereading my training manual for the last month. We were given so much wonderful information that it is hard to decide how to limit a tour to one hour.

(click on pics to enlarge)
SJG • 5/5/11 - Cherry blossom at the orchard

And here comes the group - 14 women from West Seattle, and no other guide! Wait - here comes the other guide! Now I can more easily walk over the shedding stone. My group started at the glass windows in the T Room, incredible art that won't be seen unless we detour to the back of the building.

SJG • 5/5/11 • Through cherry blossoms: Gardeners  candling the pines on Turtle Island

The weather contributed much to the tour. It was chilly with leaden gray skies, but the azaleas in bloom seemed more vibrant. Raindrops on the various maple leaves that had begun to leaf out gave the colors more intensity. I especially like looking up into the Japanese Maple, Acer Palmatum Shigitatsu Sawa, at the SW corner of the Tea House. The reticulated veins were magnified by the rain drops hanging on the leaves' edges. There was a calmness that pervaded the Garden. Not one single turtle showed its head. Gardeners were on ladders in the pond, candling the pines on Turtle Island. Maybe they scared the turtles away.

SJG • 5/5/11 • Close up cherry blossom
My group seemed to enjoy their tour, and I encouraged them to come back again to take a tour with other guides. Each of us has our own information and way to present it, and there would be different plants in bloom, different weather, and a completely different visual effect on a sunny day.

P.S. From aleks: can somebody please tell me the full name of the cherry blossoms currently in bloom?  Those are the full, double or triple ones, darker pink than pale pink yoshino....
P.P.S. 5/10/11 - Oh, these are kwanzan cherries...

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Seen in the Garden Today: Primula japonica

by rpacht & aleks
Primula japonica • Japanese primrose • sakura-so

rpacht took some pics on his public tour yesterday:)....  He has problems with posting them himself, so it's a communal post....

SJG 5/4/11 • Primula japonica patch • Photo by rpacht

SJG 5/4/11 • This guy posed for us much to the delight of the children
on my public tour yesterday.  Photo & caption by rpacht

SJG • 5/5/11 • Primula close-up by aleks
Japanese Primrose is a charming herbaceous perennial with its bright flowers in shades of pink and held atop wrinkled, wavy cabbage green leaves. This makes an ideal plant for the wet shaded spots in a garden. 
This is an herbaceous perennial which grows to 18”-24”. Leaves are oblong-ovate and have toothed margins. The plants grow in a rosette mound. 
More at the WSU page...