A Japanese Meditation Garden In Topanga

Three maple bonsai trees, two yellow one red, and varieties of colorful shrubs were planted throughout the yard. Accents were gray gravel, a gravel pathway, synthetic grass and a “dry river bed” of shiny black rocks that “flowed” in contrast under the Japanese Red Stone enamel-painted bridge. Boulders, large aqua stones and a stone seating bench complemented the total design.

Due to the drought our beautiful front lawn went from dark green to ugly brown. When the water restrictions were lifted, a makeover was in order. My wife, Denise, and I decided we didn’t want a desert succulent yard; everyone seems to have one and we wanted something unique. Denise’s creativity blossomed: How about a Japanese garden? 

We searched the web for Japanese garden ideas but there are so many, we really didn’t know where to begin. Fortunately, a landscape makeover was in progress a few doors away from us by Ron Corona, owner of Environmental Sculpturing. After a few meetings and going over ideas, we agreed on a rendering. 

The most important element we wanted was five different size mounds throughout the yard. Ron was able to find free dirt on a Topanga Canyon work site and hauled it to our future garden. The dirt was amended with rich garden soil and underground drip sprinklers were installed. Slow-moving sprinkler heads were chosen to cover the mounds where Korean grass that grows in clumps to various heights, was planted. When established, a breezy day creates an attractive ripple effect and needs trimming only once a year. In addition to the mounds, a dry river bed was a must. Using assorted sizes of black stones, clear gloss was applied for a continuous wet look. The “river” flows around the mounds and under the bridge painted with traditional Japanese Red Stone enamel.

Three maple bonsai trees were strategically placed, two yellow one red, and a variety of shrubs with color were spread through the yard.  When mature, each plant can be shaped into various designs and forms.

Gray gravel was placed on one side of the yard interlocking with plants and synthetic grass was placed opposite. A gravel trail leads to the bridge between the two grasses ending behind the bridge.

Complementary to the design are boulders placed in a standing position, large aqua stones and a stone seating bench.


By Bob Wheeler


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