Garden Bathing

I like to garden bathe. I immerse myself in the garden, letting it wash over me. It relaxes and restores me.  I use the term garden bathing as an analog to the Japanese concept of forest bathing (shinrin-yoku) that has similar benefits.  Forests are far from my house, but, fortunately for me, my garden is just on the other side of my door.  Right now the star jasmine are in bloom, their white blossoms permeating the air with the fragrance of a tropical Eden.  The sound of the water stream cascading into the pond helps calm any stress ripples inside me.   And when a breeze passes through, it adds the rustle of bamboo to the far-away feeling. 

My baths are not always long and quiet.  Many are short and livened by visiting birds.  Occasionally a basking fence lizard will give me a friendly gaze.  Garden bathing settles my universe into its rightful order.  I think the world would be a better place if everyone had a way to settle their own universe into its rightful order.


Mr. Sun is rising later these days, reducing his languid visits to short greetings.  He still warms my garden, but his warmth is pale and fleeting. Leaves are changing to straw yellow and dust brown before falling away, mementos of summer littering the paths.   Tree skeletons bring a grim mood. 

 I miss the liveliness of new growth.  I miss the carry-me-away fragrances of summer blooms.  And I miss the long, lingering warmth of Mr. Sun.  Spring seems so far away.  Alas.  Alas.

Dessert Blooms

Like floral whipped cream my wisteria blossoms bring me great delight. They drip their fluffiness, inviting a taste of their special fragrance. My wisteria is of the Chinese variety. It has all its blooms early in the spring before its leaves form, providing a stunning visual and fragrant impact. All year I look forward to this event, and because the plant grows larger every year, this event gets more and more delicious.wist01

C’mon, let’s dance

With throbbing drums and brassy fanfare, the tree peonies have splashed into the garden. Their festive color, flouncy heads, and fragrance of yesterday’s roses grab my attention with a smile.


Their breathless invitation– “Come with me. We’ll have a good time.” –sets my imagination to working.


For a shy person like me, such invitations always make me hesitate. And then, alas, my chance has slipped by.



baseballsIt happened in the spring. I was taking a stroll through the garden and noticed a baseball lying below the honeysuckle.   Hmm, I thought. The honeysuckle is in the southwest corner so it didn’t come over the south or west fence. It had to come from the east or north. I picked up the baseball and continued my stroll. I found seven (!) more baseballs. Some were in places such that it was impossible for them to come from the east or north, but they could have come from the west or south. I can understand how someone could lose a baseball through an errant throw or hit. But would they keep throwing/hitting seven more? From different directions around my garden? Who has that many baseballs? Who has that many new baseballs? (They were all new.) No one has knocked on my door asking for lost baseballs. So now I am the proud owner of eight used-only-once baseballs. It certainly isn’t clear how they got into my garden. However, it did happen in the spring and, with the spheroids scattered among the shrubbery, it does fit the modus operandi of the Easter bunny. Now, I didn’t find any irrefutable evidence that there had been a large rabbit in my garden, but I’m just sayin’ …


DSC_0765 The kumquat tree has been blooming. Its small white flowers form at the bases of leaf stems. When mature they open their petals and, in the shelter of their personal leaf, each offers a soft delicate citrus fragrance. They are like shy people with marvelous voices but sing only in the shower. A single voice may not travel far, but a chorus has a presence that surrounds and uplifts.DSC_0769 Being next to the tree in bloom is like being next to an open window to a fragrance dreamland. And when their song is over, each one leaves a small green remembrance. It will grow into a bright orange fruit with a taste sweet and tart and bold, belying the shyness of its parent.

2014-02-02 11.26.22In the spring Suzie will make kumquat conserve that we will enjoy immensely. And we will wait in anticipation for the next generation of shy blooms.


Star Jasmine!

The star jasmines are blooming. The whiteness of their pinwheel blooms jumps out from their background of dark green leaves. I planted gobs of them: they cover a section of one wall; they claim a swath in the middle of the garden; they dance around the rock. They are now repaying my planting efforts by enveloping the garden with a cloud of sweet tropical scent. They dominate the garden, and I love it.


Star jasmine shielding the garden from the rest of the world.


The Rock with its cape of bamboo and lei of star jasmine.

Flowers Now!

The blooming time of year has arrived in the garden. During these months different blooms make their appearances at different times, providing a constantly changing atmosphere of fragrances and of visual delights. Some of them are short-lived, a week or less, so being away at the wrong time means waiting an entire year to enjoy them again.

Plum blossoms

First to arrive, and already gone, are the plum blossoms, marking the end of winter.  Following closely are the blooms of the weeping snow fountain cherry.  Like the plum, they last only about a week.



Weeping Snow Fountain




Tree peony – rose form

Competing with the cherry are the tree peonies. They emulate a holiday fireworks show, full of spectacular flash but with a too-short life.

Chinese wisteria

Bumble bee harvesting wisteria nectar.

Still blooming now is the Chinese wisteria. Unlike the more common Japanese wisteria, the Chinese wisteria shows its blooms before it leafs out. Their crowding concentrates their delicate fragrance, inducing a Wow!-What’s-that? reaction when a whiff drifts by. And the bumble bees hustle amidst their bounty.

Pittosporum blooms

Elbowing their way to the front of the aroma line right now are the Pittosporum blossoms. They are small with five roundish petals, their stark white color sliding to yellow as they age. Their fragrance is reminiscent of citrus, but without the delicate sweetness. The bushes in my garden are about eighteen feet high. You can see them showing off their blooms over the bamboo behind the rock in this picture. Skirting the rock is star jasmine, building up its energies for a big presentation coming soon.

The garden is tingling with blooms lining up for their turn to show off.   Summer is just beginning

Pavilion Topper

As I was building the pavilion for my garden, I didn’t spend much effort thinking about the roof apex. Just putting the structure together took enough of my concentration and effort. But after I was done, the roof looked rather plain and uninteresting. It looked unfinished. It definitely needed a topper, but I didn’t know what. I thought maybe there was some sort of traditional item or design, or even some sort of general pattern for the topper. So I examined a lot of photos of Chinese garden pavilions. The rooflines, as you might imagine, looked “Asian” (style varied with the region in China), but there was no obvious pattern for a roof finial. I was free. I was not bound by design tradition. I could put whatever I wanted up there. But what did I want?

I wanted something that would complement the roofline, something significant, but not so flashy that it would draw your eye from the rest of the structure or from the garden. I looked through catalogues of roof finials but nothing seemed quite right. So I went back to looking and squinting at my unadorned roof, trying to get an idea. Finally I decided that a sphere eight to ten inches across would do everything I want. It would be the period to the roof statement. It would be definite, but subtle and not an exclamation point.

Do you know how hard it is to find an all-weather sphere eight to ten inches in diameter? Name a store and I bet you it doesn’t sell them. Not even the on-line finial websites I looked at had them. I started thinking about how to make one.

One day, while I was in the process of mulling over how to make an all-weather sphere, my wife and I toured a private garden. It was dense with foliage that reached out for you and abstract sculptures that seemed to smile. It also had bantam chickens wandering around, each with a unique plumage pattern as though they were part of the garden design. The garden was intriguing. But most intriguing to me was the profusion of bowling balls lying among the bushes and tall grass like eggs of some science fiction creature. My “Aha!” light bulb went on. After a friendly visit with the garden owner, my wife and I left for home, proud new owners of an old bowling ball.

And that bowling ball now adorns the top of my pavilion, a period, not an exclamation point.

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