Gardens - Featured Gardens

A Japanese-inspired garden that flourishes in fall

Karen York
Photography by
Allan Mandell

A Victoria couple applies the principles of Japanese flower arranging to their steep hillside property


Guiding principles of the Cunningham garden

  • Balance: Light and dark, rough and smooth, opposing elements are brought together to form a harmonious whole. No single feature is emphasized at the expense of the rest. Asymmetry is key and plantings are done in odd numbers.
  • Space: What is not there is as important as what is. Space is seen not as empty but as an essential component. Plants are not jammed together; sightlines are kept open; and trees are often thinned. 
  • Scale: Every component fits in relative to other components in size. It means careful planning for ultimate plant heights and/or regular pruning. 
  • Restraint: In ikebana, as few items as possible are used. Similarly, the Japanese garden has a limited plant palette, focusing more on foliage and form than on flowers and riotous diversity.
  • Linearity: Ikebana arrangements are based on lines— straight lines that bring stillness; radiating lines that create balance; combos of straight and curved lines that add complexity; and circular and diagonal lines that create movement. 
  • Harmony: The goal is not to be simply decorative but to capture the essence of nature, stimulate the imagination and inspire a deeper appreciation of the natural world. 

Here, a granite lantern and mossy rocks surround a tsubukai—a traditional basin with water trickling from a bamboo spout, provided in Buddhist temples for ritual handwashing. Gary assembled it using a discarded fibreglass mold filled with rock as the reservoir beneath.

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