Monday, October 29, 2007

First of all the basics:
We live in a townhome in Seattle’s Central district. The townhome is large enough for us (1800 sq ft) but the yard is fairly small. Having a Japanese garden is perfect for such a small space. We have basically two sections for the yard: a 25X10 ft section directly in the back of the townhome and a 6X30 ft section on the side of the townhome. The side section was previously used to store trash and recycling containers. It was also always in the shade since the neighbor has large trees that have grown to reach over our yard and actually touch our townhome. This side yard was the space we wanted to turn into a small, reflective, sort of Zen garden with a small Koi pond. When we bought the first thing we did was get a tree trimmer in to cut the large trees trimmed back (a pear, a flowering cherry and a plum tree). Originally this space was so dark that even a lawn would not grow here and for any plan, we would have done the tree trimming.

I didn’t take a photo of the original look of the side yard.

Note to take away: Always, always take a photo before you do any work at all. With digital cameras so cheap and essentially no charges for picture storage, there is no excuse. You will really value any photos taken before and during any projects you have.They will be as or more important than the ones taken after the project is complete!

The first picture I have is about halfway through the project. It is after the trees have been trimmed back.
I have also cleared out the dead lawn and laid down a layer of landscaping paper followed by about 3 yards of crushed granite gravel.

I also moved some of the plants around for a more balanced feel.

To separate the side yard from the front yard, I put up a fence and gate. While the end product looks great and very custom, it was basically a standard one fitted to the space. I purchased the fence, the gate and any hardware from our local Lowes ( and Oasis Water Garden (

Note to take away: We probably have singlehandedly kept our local Lowes in profit by all our purchases, but they are local and very helpful. It really pays to develop relationships with some guys to rely on. Be it gardening, pond management or just basics construction, you need professional assistance. If you have your purchases made at the same places you ask a lot of questions, you are more apt to get good advice.

This separated our trash from the front yard and gave our Koi garden some privacy but it did nothing to separate the koi garden from the trash. Not exactly the relaxing Zen like environment I was looking for. To accomplish that, we purchased a small trestle and cut it to size without impinging on the walkway. We planted a Akibia vine to grow up the woodwork and fill it in. We have three or more different species of Akibia vines around the yards. We have been told that they will pollinate each other and given enough sun, we might have some sweet fruit every fall…. Who knows?

Now since every Koi pond needs a quiet place to contemplate the fish and relax by the refreshing water sounds, we placed two ceramic garden stools and a small table. For the table we found a great rain drum originally from Thailand. This works great as a place to relax and read a book or even a place for a quiet romantic dinner.

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