Shofuso Japanese House and Gardens is among the locations featured in Sukiya Living Magazine, the Journal of Japanese Gardening. The article was written by Japanese garden designer and craftsman Asher Browne, who has been Shofuso’s garden consultant for the past decade. “A functional space, like a walking path, is not only easy to use but also a treat for the eyes and a pleasant experience,” writes Browne as he shares the process of redesigning and landscaping the stepping stone pathways in Shofuso’s roji garden.
Before the 2016 renovations, there were no clear pathways linking the house, the pond-side terrace, and the teahouse annex. The original stepping stones were too thin and narrow to support Shofuso’s level of foot traffic, and it was difficult for visitors walking in opposite directions to pass each other on the pathway. The stones were also set too shallowly in the ground, making them potentially hazardous, and the pathway rose and fell with the the garden’s intentionally irregular terrain. Browne’s updates to the garden design included creating terraces for visitors to pause and enjoy the garden, as well as the stream which feeds Shofuso’s pond.
As part of renovating the garden, a new shoe removal stone, called a kutsu-nugi-ishi, that was uniformly flat and long. The stone which was ultimately chosen was reclaimed from Pennsylvania’s Gravity Railroad, where it was used as a foundation stone. A piece of blue stone was used as part of the viewing platform along the stream’s edge. These rocks, as well as the new stepping-stones, were brought in to Shofuso in November, after the site closed for the season.
More topsoil came out of the garden than new materials went in. As part of expanding and leveling the side path area, the path area was re-graded, and muck from the stream was removed. Moss, dwarf mondo grass, and liriope were planted as ground covers in Spring 2017, while azaleas and Japanese holly from other parts of Shofuso’s garden were transplanted to the streamside garden to aesthetically match existing plantings.
“The Side Path project illustrates that one of the most overlooked qualities in Japanese gardening tradition may be the aspect of meshing function and beauty,” Browne comments. By creating a more functional stepping stone pathway, this garden renovation not only establishes Shofuso as a more authentic example of Japanese garden design, but also makes the garden a more pleasant and aesthetically beautiful space for guests.
Read the full article here: Sukiya Living July/August 2017, “Harmonizing Function and Beauty at Shofuso” by Asher Browne