This year, after wintering in Andalucia, I returned to the U.K. to start creating a dry landscape Zen garden, or karesansui. Gravel would represent water; raking marks, waves; and rocks will suggest islands or mountains. Areas of white gravel emptiness, to provide serenity.
The site chosen was next to my pottery studio and anagama kiln in the middle of a field. It offers a beautiful vista into a neighboring meadow, which would soon become the shakkei, borrowed scenery forming the garden's backdrop. I wanted to create a meandering flow of gravel with rocks, landscaped on either side with mounds of top-soil and a boundary of clumping bamboo.
A crescent-shaped path of Scottish cobblestones would lead out into the field towards Japanese cherry trees. In the garden itself the planting scheme was going to be mostly evergreen - dwarf pines, miscanthus and other grasses. A stone lantern, ishitoro and a stone washbasin, tsukubai would provide focal points and lend a Japanese atmosphere.
The sound of water —
in the dry gravel garden!
As the Zen garden project developed, we encountered problems in design — should there be tobi-ishi, stepping stones, going into the garden? Should there be hanashōbu, Japanese ensata irises, or momiji, acer palmatum? As it turned out, all three were omitted, in an acknowledgement that less is more.
The final piece in the creation of the garden was a conical pile of gravel, symbolic of Mount Fuji, placed where the garden merges into the English countryside.
A day of quiet gladness —
a cone of gravel rises
in the Cotswolds