Monty Don’s new book Japanese Gardens: A Journey

Monty Don has a new book that’s a companion to his popular BBC show. It’s called Japanese Gardens: A Journey.

Monty Don and photographer Derry Moore traveled to Japan in spring and autumn, and captured the history and beauty of Japanese gardens in these spectacular seasons.

But remember, you can create a Japanese-inspired garden anywhere even in your own backyard at home.

The goal is the same whether it’s in a formal Japanese garden in Kyoto or in a garden of your own design: to create of oasis of beauty and peace

Get Monty’s book to see how it’s done in Japan and, if you don’t already have it, get A Tea Garden in Tivoli, American Garden Design Inspired by the Japanese Way of Tea to see how you can do it too.

Moss obsession

By the side entrance to the Tea House is a flood run-off ditch that fills with water in the spring and fall. It’s in deep shade and I’ve become obsessed with cultivating moss in this small area.

Last spring I ordered a 6 foot square sheet of moss from Moss Acres. The moss came packed in a box like a thinly folded carpet which I carefully spread over my bare mud patch. The spring was short and during the summer we went into a deep drought. The moss didn’t make it.

Early this spring I noticed there was some native moss creeping in from the west side of Tea House. What’s better than cultivating something that wants to grow naturally?

I went around my garden and found two other species of moss hidden behind trees and scattered in soft cushions about the garden. With a forked trowel I scooped up thin layers and placed them in the muddy Tea House entrance area.

So far the weather this spring has been fabulous for the moss. It has rained and rained and been mildly cool.  I ‘think’ the moss is liking it. I ‘think’ it’s spreading. I hope so. I love this area. It has a quiet and profound feel as if the moss were exhaling something pure and lovely.

The challenge will be this summer when it gets hot and dry. Moss doesn’t like to be watered. Instead it likes fine mist and only rainwater. I don’t have a misting system and the Tea House is too far away for me to dig one in. I can only provide shade and regular watering from the tap.

Perhaps this year the rain will be more plentiful than last, and the moss, which naturally grows here, will establish itself strongly enough to withstand the vagaries of our weather. I’ve planted some nice companions for it: epimedium, ferns, marsh marigold.

Right now it’s a beautiful gem of a place.





If I wasn’t careful I would cover my entire property with flowers, trees and shrubs. But there is something refreshing about pulling back, becoming more simple and allowing the natural rhythm of the landscape to unfold. I’m learning restraint and allowing the understated to become revealed. (more…)

A black fence

This past fall I finally put in a deer fence and added a gate to my small garden. I have a white Victorian house and after much thought decided to paint the fence and gate BLACK. In fact, “Panther Black.” It was kind of daring.

I painted it in the early spring before any flowers or leaves on the trees. It was a surprise to some, but I liked it, but now that the peonies are out and the garden is in full force, I think it’s a marvel.



A Japanese Garden

Here is a beautiful quote from the curator of the Portland Japanese Garden, Sadafumi Uchiyama. He expresses the essence of a tea garden and for me, the essence of Japanese art and culture.



First winter storm

winter gardening

First winter storm


The first winter storm has arrived. The garden has been swept clean of leaves and we’re ready for the long, cold months ahead. The winter garden is very beautiful with just the first dusting of snow. It’s at this time that we see clearly how the evergreens and fence give the garden its structure. By mid-summer they will have faded into the background hidden by lush ferns, grasses, shrubs, and trees.

It’s a small garden and I had endless design possibilities. I could have created a formal English style garden or even modeled the backyard on my favorite Japanese designer Mirei Shigemori’s checkerboard moss garden. But the essence of this garden is contemplative. It should feel as though one were walking on a path to a rustic retreat in the mountains.

Mirei Shigemori moss garden in Japan

Mirei Shigemori’s moss garden in Japan

A formal English garden which would have suited my backyard but changed the entire feeling of the space.

A formal English garden would fit in my backyard but the style would change the entire feeling of the space.



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