Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Escape to Asia. without the Flying an Asian-Inspired Garden Makes a Backyard a True Retreat

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Escape to Asia. without the Flying an Asian-Inspired Garden Makes a Backyard a True Retreat

Article excerpt

In his Tahoe Park, Calif., backyard, Joe Rincon created a love note with a postcard view.

A graceful waterfall splashes into a cool pond stocked with silver and orange koi. Stone lanterns light a winding path to a charming teahouse through a fantasy forest of trees trimmed to resemble puffy clouds, mimicking their bonsai brethren. An arching red bridge beckons to a secluded patio, another bit of paradise. Dwarf red Japanese maples, cherry blossoms, lavender wallflowers and magenta azaleas add pops of spring color.

One step out on the deck and the heart relaxes, breath slows and stress disappears. Traffic fades into the distance.

"I made this as a gift to my wife," Mr. Rincon explained. "She inspired me."

Said Zelda Rincon, "It's really, really pretty. We give each other suggestions. We're not experts; we just try things."

Their Asian-inspired garden makes their backyard a true retreat, inviting relaxation. Such gardens have seen a resurgence in popularity as homeowners seek ways to get more use and enjoyment out of their outdoor space.

"Asian gardens are tranquil and harmonious, a place full of symbolism for quiet contemplation and an aid to meditation," explained Orangevale, Calif., garden designer Susan Silva, who recently completed two Asian gardens for clients. "Whether a client's yard is small or large or just a small area within the yard, an Asian garden always fits in well to a design and everyone always enjoys having one."

In addition, the gardens can be water-savers. They include little, if any, lawn. Water for fountains, ponds and other features is recirculated, giving the feel of abundant water without using that much.

"Or you could go with a dry Zen garden," Ms. Silva suggested. "Gravel and sand are used to represent water; that also makes for incredible water savings."

Like bonsai (the art of creating tiny sculptured trees), Asian gardening can be labor-intensive. Everything has a place and is kept in perfect balance.

"It's not for everyone," said Joe Rincon, who retired after 37 years at Kaiser Permanente as a nursing assistant. "It's very time- consuming; a lot of trimming.

"I've been working on this garden for over 20 years," he said. "I'm very devoted to it. It's not for the average person."

Asian elements can be incorporated into larger landscapes. Ms. Silva, for example, turned an unused side yard into a winding path that invites a slower pace.

"Often, one is placed in a hidden corner for a private getaway," she said. "In the hustle and bustle of life, it's always nice to take a break to an Asian garden to rest and revive."

Asian gardens include the highly disciplined, symbol-laden Japanese gardens, which represent centuries of philosophy. Less formal Chinese gardens as well as the tropical gardens of Southeast Asia also inspire gardeners, primarily through plant selection. …

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