December 12, 2008

Garden Inspiration: Karesansui Style

Karesansui gardens are dry landscape gardens where sand represents water. Influenced by Zen Buddhism, these tranquil gardens can be small or large and either include plants or not.

At the gardens of Ephrussi de Rothschild in France, the Karesansui garden is a small vignette within the larger Japanese gardens. I've seen larger Karesansui gardens, such as the one in the Japanese Tea Garden at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. However, this little garden is on a small enough scale to fit in a backyard garden.

The green elements of this garden are simple and understated, shade-loving plants. Closely planted clumps of dwarf Mondo grass (Ophiopogon japonicus) are used along the edges of the sand. Small azaleas are used as colorful specimen plants. A 'Gumpo' azalea could be used. Small, clipped pine trees or a Japanese Maple might be interesting at the edge of the garden. Since Japanese gardens are designed for year-round interest, the use of evergreen shrubs will create a backdrop of privacy and seclusion for integrating the design into an existing garden.

That said, many Karesansui gardens don't include any plants. Perhaps you've seen the simple rectangular gardens filled with pebbles, rocks and sand raked to resemble the ripples of water.

A Karesansui garden is made for viewing and quiet meditation.

Photo and story by Freda Cameron. Location: Ephrussi de Rothschild, Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, France; May 2008
Freelance travel writer. My current fiction writing projects include a completed manuscript and several works in progress.

By the way, my name is pronounced fred-ah, not freed-ah. Thank you.

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