A sage's wise words, and a glass of wine
"When a garden is used as a place to pause for thought, that is when a Zen garden comes to life and makes a lasting impression on your heart," said Anne to me as she watched me work.
"Muso Soseki said that," she added. "Who?" I ignorantly asked. "Muso Soseki was an abbot of a Zen monastery and he also created Zen gardens, surely you've heard of the Moss temple at Kyotos Saihoji!" I hadn't.
What I am doing is putting up another huge flint stone we had dug up.
I have two already on old tall stone plinths. That one over there edging the gravel courtyard is the Moonstone because on a clear night the moon casts light directly on to it and it softly glows in a silver-blue light. It took three of us to lift it into position! The other stone on a plinth just over near the potting shed is the Altar Stone which has a curious cup-like hole where birds of all sizes drink the cool water and we put special treats out for them.
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This one is just as big and I was putting in the stone plinth for it beneath the old Christmas tree. The number of displayed stones is important because three is the symbol of the unity of body, mind and spirit – a triad which is one of the oldest of Indian symbols.
This tree has quite a story. It was planted by previous owners after Christmas 1953 and now here it is – an ancient, very tall Christmas tree. It is very special to us, and now I am building a small square beneath its branches. In the centre will be this flint on its plinth and the square covered in smaller flint stones. Flint like this is for happiness and prosperity. We will have to name the huge flint stone – probably the Spirit Stone?
To this site I will put down a paving slab path, not a long one, but leading to the square and then all around beneath the tree I will plant it with shrubs underplanted with green ivy. The shrubs? Because of the Christmas tree I want a seasonal association and the shrubs will be snowberries. (This is how you can play when rebuilding a garden!)
You have to be careful with symphoricarpos albus laevigatus which could easily swamp a smaller garden and can grow up to nine-feet tall. Here I will plant it quite thickly and keep it carefully pruned to restrict height and width and also increase its gorgeous snowberries.
For a smaller garden you have to look to the hybrids bred by Mr Doorenboss, one of the greatest Dutch horticulturists for the answer. 'Mother-of-Pearl' is a small, dense snowberry shrub which becomes weighed down with rose-flushed, white, marble-like berries. 'Magic Berry' is small in stature but big in the number of rose-pink berries produced and 'White Hedge' is small, strong, upright but still compact and has so many berries that the branches often need supporting.
Now is a good time to plant one of these hybrids. It will enjoy an ordinary well-drained soil and the company of larger deciduous trees. My larger 'Albus' will love the shade of the Christmas tree and the drips from the overhanging branches and enjoy the company of the ancient's roots too.
Yes any snowberry bush will send out some suckers but it is a simple matter to chop them out at an early stage.
"What else did Muso What'sit say then?" I asked lovely Anne. "He said it's time for a glass of wine," she replied taking my hand and leading me away from my work. Nice chatting to you!