Here is a selection of photos illustrating some of the things I encountered during my Kyoto journey. You can learn more about the plants, people, and places I discovered in my memoir, Cutting Back: My Apprenticeship in the Gardens of Kyoto.
Sakura, Cherry Tree
While in Kyoto, I lived in a traditional wooden framed house. You can look out my bedroom window here to see part of Kyoto with surrounding mountains, and a large sakura mentioned in my memoir.
Sakura Cherry Tree, Winter
Winter bedroom window view
Tamamono, sheared and mounding shrubs
My first few weeks in Kyoto, while searching for an apprenticeship, I visited gardens to try to observe and learn from the gardeners. I found these craftsmen shearing tamamono at Shisen-do.
At the beginning of my garden apprenticeship, our crew worked in a historic Kyoto restaurant on a canal. Can you guess which restaurant? This little matsu at the top of a hill near the restaurant established my position in the company for the rest of my journey.
Here I am on my favorite aluminum, tripod hashigo, volunteering at the Portland Japanese Garden, with some of the most talented gardeners in the United States.
This photo shows the handmade, and quite sturdy, wooden hashigo built by the garden craftsmen in the Kyoto landscaping company I apprenticed with.
The beauty of an ancient momiji, with weeping branches and graceful course to fine lines from the trunk out to the tips of small branchlets, can be seen from the moon viewing pavilion of Shugakuin Imperial Villa. This is a photo I took just before I began working in the garden.
Shidare momiji, laceleaf maple
Shidare momiji have mounding canopies and often grow low to the ground. This humble laceleaf resides under a redwood tree in a Japanese garden in California, former home of my precious late clients, Norma and Arnold Kalmar of Piedmont. Norma was a ceramicist, and her sculptures gave the garden heart.
Tatami, Japanese floor mat
Fat Boy, mentioned in the memoir, is relaxing in his favorite sunroom in his Berkeley, California home. His bed sits on a type of flooring, tatami, used in traditional and modern Japanese homes.
Kama, Japanese scythe
Here is my coworker, Kei Shoya, whose English helped me understand traditional ways. He is demonstrating the sharpening of kama at Shugakuin Imperial Villa. Kei is now an active landscaper in Kyoto, and sometimes California, with his own company.
Sentei-shi, garden pruner
Here are all the sentei-shi in the Uetoh Zohen pruning crew in a rare moment of stillness.
(left to right) top row: Saito-san, Masahiro-san, Kei Shoya-san.
bottom row: Leslie-san and our crew leader Naka-ji-san.
Fall leaves sprinkled on akoke-covered stone lantern I discovered in Gion, in a geisha’s garden. By the way, moss only grows where it naturally hovers in the air. I have found it in Kyoto, Berkeley and San Francisco!
Shirayuki-hime to shichi-nin no kobito-tachi, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
While working in a Japanese private estate garden surrounding a large home, my Japanese garden coworkers and I ran from project to project. Running around a corner into a new garden space, I spotted these most unusual working companions.
Nanten, nandina/heavenly bamboo
I often find nanten in the gardens of Kyoto, but this excellent specimen with a big cluster of red berries was found in the hills of Berkeley, California at the home of the Myers, with a nice patch of Berkeley moss and lush ferns to keep it company.
Sazanka, Camellia sasanqua
It snowed the winter I lived in Kyoto. Sazanka, native to Japan but found in gardens worldwide, bloom in winter! Although I felt chilled to the bone when it snowed, this native camellia in a private Kyoto garden looks as though it loves its beautiful white, winter coat. You can learn more about winter in Kyoto in Cutting Back-My Apprenticeship in the Gardens of Kyoto!