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Garden Photo of the Day

Zen Garden

By Alexandra Dittrich

David Besozzi lives and gardens in Glenville, NY.

"Starting back in 2007, I found myself in need of some landscaping after completing the construction of a new garage. I did not allocate any funds for landscaping in my initial budget, and so, with a wheelbarrow and a shovel I began what has become my hobby and passion.

In the beginning, I opted to go with a Japanese style garden, one that mimicked a karesansui—a rock or Zen garden. Although the central feature of the garden would be a dry stream bed, the topography of the yard dictated that the edges of the garden would slope or step in towards the dry stream bed. I then planted a variety of plants along these edges.

Over the years I have experimented with different plants. The garden has become more shady over time, hence the use of more shade tolerant plants as time has passed. Plantings include numerous variety of hosts, Japanese forest grass, junipers, clumping bamboo, astilbe, corabell, and much more. A dwarf Japanese maple acts as a focus point near the center of the garden.

Additionally, there are some several lanterns throughout the garden: a short yukimi lantern, mioshi post lantern, tachidoro pedestal lantern. There is also a Buddha statue that anchors the far end of the garden, and a Gaunyin statue that gazes towards Buddha from the other end. I also fenced in the garden and constructed a series gates, a moon window, and a sukashigaki style “see through fence.”

Over time the garden has continued to grow in size. A kaiyu-shiki-teien style, or stroll garden has developed along the far side of my garage. This area was once used to park a camper but is now slow developing into a natural expansion of the garden.

Over the years, the garden has become important to me in many ways. First it fulfilled a need to beatify my property. More importantly, it has come to sustain my love of gardening, a love that I admittedly did not hold prior to 2007. Its evidence of the power that nature can have over the human condition. In fact, as a result of these endeavors, I decided to name the garden, Songni Yuan. Translation: Pine Mud’s garden. Pine Mud has long been my Chinese name (given to me while studying Chinese in college). What could be more appropriate.

To find out more and read the history of the garden and all its plants and features (as well as my visits to other Japanese gardens), check out the garden blog I maintain (essentially a garden diary): My Zen Garden.

By the way, I have met Stan Hobbs (another subject highlighted on the GPOD here) and visited his garden. We both live in the same town—unusual that there would be two very nice Japanese style gardens in such a small place."

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  1. frankgreenhalgh 08/23/2016

    Hi David - Thanks for telling us about the evolution of your amazing garden - and of yourself. Yes gardening does 'get under your skin' or 'in your blood', and influence you in unexpected ways. Love all your constructions and the colour scheme, and the fire pit area. Lucky you didn't allocate any funds for the landscaping, David!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Cheers, Frank

  2. user-7007498 08/23/2016

    David: Your garden is very impressive. I love hearing the story about how you got into gardening and the evolution of your garden. I myself became serious about gardening about 15 years. I had no prior role models, and quickly was pulled into the peacefulness and beauty that comes from a garden. I can't imagine a better place to be after a day at work.

    While your garden is a very different style of my own, I love the simplicity of the plantings and consistency of the theme. Your gate and bamboo fence are stunning. I also love the dry stream bed accented by beautiful borders. The Japanese maple is the perfect accent, and looks great against the bamboo fence. Well done, and thanks for sharing your fantastic garden..

  3. user-3565112 08/23/2016

    David, Your gardens are quite an accomplishment & I really like how you've managed to incorporate different styles in each area. I can see you spent a lot of time on research & have the discipline needed for this type gardening .Everything comes together perfectly. The fence & gate design & craftsmanship are outstanding.
    Terrific work & good luck ,Joe

  4. diane_lasauce 08/23/2016

    Simply stunning David...immaculate! Are you the woodworker too? I wish your garden was in my neighborhood...
    How do you manage to keep all those deciduous leaves out of your garden come fall? Diane

    1. dbesozzi 08/25/2016

      Not really a woodworker, just read a lot of "how-to" books at the library. Every fall I battle the leaves. To do so, I use a WORX 210 MPH 350 CFM Electric 12 Amp Leaf Blower/Mulcher/Vac with Metal Impeller (they sell them at Home Depot). Its great - outside the garden I can blow, but inside the dry rock bed/stream I can vacuum. Without it, It would be a real struggle to maintain the garden. I also have to crawl around a lot to keep up during the rest of the year.

      1. diane_lasauce 08/25/2016

        Bravo David! I am about to divorce my property and 15 YO gardens, as my knees not longer enjoy the endless chores.
        I greatly appreciate your meticulous attention to detail.

  5. sharongoetchius 08/23/2016

    Absolutely beautiful! Love the story of how it all came to be! Wish I could come sit for a bit, as that fire pit area is SO inviting! Thank you for sharing! 🌸

  6. thevioletfern 08/23/2016

    Peace! I love that the universe stepped in to offer you your new passion by way of circumstance. How fortunate! All of your details are pristine.

  7. wGardens 08/23/2016

    Wonderful! I love the unity which included the circular features throughout as well as the green paint .... the fabulous gates and arbors ~ the bell stand. Did you design and construct them? (Gosh, I'd love to hire you if you did!....! :-) ) Thanks so much for sharing. Enjoyed your story behind it as well.

    1. dbesozzi 08/25/2016

      During the winter I make plans for each summer - fences, gates, etc. I usually just read about Japanese gardens online, look at pictures, and get ideas when I can visit a garden. I then have to get approval from my wife before I spend any money - she keeps me on a tight budget.

  8. User avater
    meander1 (Michaele ) 08/23/2016

    Your zen garden really is a triumph of staying true to the spirit and style and yet providing so much personal creativity. Your color choices are wonderfully soothing and yet, with the inclusion of the pops of yellow, have an appealing energy. On my laptop screen, the deep green looks like it has an undertone of teal . The craftsmanship of all your wood structures is impeccable and everything is in such harmonious balance and proportion. This is truly a beautiful garden and my day feels like it has a great start from getting to having a cyber walk about through it. Thank you.
    ps Your blog is a treasure trove of pictures of other zen gardens that you've visited in your travels as well as your own. I'm off to do some morning gardening but I will enjoy spending additional time in your blog come lunchtime.

    1. dbesozzi 08/25/2016

      This summer I was able to get in another 10 garden visits. They are starting to take over the blog. I need to get back to my own garden. As usual, there is always much work to do to maintain it.

  9. NCYarden 08/23/2016

    Well done, David. Love the style...always admire the restraint with such gardens. At best I can inject a little influence, but want too many plants to saturate my property.
    Even more I like your personal gardening discovery. I think many of us can relate to the narrative. I certainly never anticipated being a garden zealot. Your woodwork is fantastic as well. Very beautiful space. Thanks for sharing.

    1. user-7007498 08/23/2016

      David S, I am a lot like you, and Tim, and probably many others on this site. I can really appreciate the reflective style of a Japanese garden, but I have no restraint. If I have a place for mulch, then I know I have a place for another plant.

      1. NCYarden 08/23/2016

        Right on! Love the mulch analogy...so true.

      2. User avater
        Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 08/23/2016

        I have to admit that something strange is happening to me. Another GPODer (Eddi) was over last month and she commented that she was surprised she could see mulch in my back garden. Thursday I ripped almost everything out of a different, small section of garden that was looking weedy; nothing of real monetary value or sentimental was harmed in the making of that bare ground. I mused and meditated and found a few plants and a tiny shrub to move in and then mulched around, with a couple of stepping stones added to more easily do garden maintenance. I kind of like the bare space....Although I'll wager that eventually it will be full again, because Tim abhors a vacuum...

        1. user-7007498 08/23/2016

          This is not strange, Tim, it's therapeutic. I try to do this to an area of the garden once or twice a year. I do like the simplicity for a short while, but my plant lust always gets the better of me. It does keep the creative juices flowing.

          1. NCYarden 08/23/2016

            Kevin, you're right. The garden demolition I have been doing this past week has been down right cathartic.

        2. NCYarden 08/23/2016

          Tim you "scare" me at times...the dualism we sometimes have. So all this week I have been cutting down and pulling out plants in an substantial area toward the front of the garden. Very bare right now and growing...a few more to go. Gonna be some prime garden real estate. I'm actually enjoying the vacancy (and the new open views), but alas there is no way that much space will remain, or that much mulch brought in.

          1. User avater
            Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 08/23/2016

            Believe me, this isn't first time someone has told me I'm scary!
            :) Is your weather cooling, as ours is? That certainly helped feed the reaper.

          2. NCYarden 08/23/2016

            Weather is quite nice right now. Worked out in the garden under lights well into the evening last night it felt so good. Supposed to have a week of this...fingers crossed.

          3. User avater
            meander1 (Michaele ) 08/23/2016

            Must be something in the air...my husband and I just removed a bunch of junipers today that I have been feeling restlessly dissatisfied about for the past year. I smoothed out the ground and mulched the space immediately (all the better to deter weed seed germination) and now I have time to think. It is such a relief to have scratched that itch and have them gone.

          4. NCYarden 08/24/2016

            Oh, Michaele, so good to know we're in similar company. Something definitely sweeping across the "East," I suppose. Time for something new, but removing these plants does not come without hesitation, even when I know the itch is being scratched. Timing is good though...Fall just around the corner. Just enough time for a little thinking.

          5. User avater
            meander1 (Michaele ) 08/24/2016

            Exactly my thought process. I won't rush the planting part...I'll just let thoughts marinate.

      3. User avater
        meander1 (Michaele ) 08/23/2016

        Ditto, Kevin, I am incorrigible about bringing plants home from almost anyplace that sells them. When I was a child, I used to cajole cats and dogs to follow me and then look plaintively at my mom when she insisted we find the real owner. But, yay, when it comes to plants that I have bought, I am their "real" owner!

  10. user-4691082 08/23/2016

    Wow, David...spectacular! I need to learn some of that restraint! I agree with NC Yarden, I am too plant greedy to have that kind of garden. I will be heading over to your blog a little later...

  11. User avater
    treasuresmom 08/23/2016

    Absolutely beautiful!!

  12. VikkiVA 08/23/2016

    You have created a true paradise. Your garden is stunning. Thank you for sharing. Vikki in VA.

  13. User avater
    Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 08/23/2016

    What a treat today, David! Love it. As commented by others, your restraint in planting palette mixed with amazing hardscape has succeeded in spades. I am dying to have some sort of Tori gate in my small yard-your gates are amazing. Love your lanterns, too, and the round viewing window is spectacular.
    I'm not being a smart-ass here when I ask if it is a typo in your description that says you had a need to beatify your property, instead of beautify? Since beatify means to bless, consecrate, sanctify or hallow, it is either a well-chosen word with which all the gardeners here can empathize, or a quite a meaningful and happy accident!

  14. sonjafeatherstone 08/23/2016

    This is bar none the most inspiring gardens I've seen. It's peaceful beauty makes me think if I can take one section of my half acre and make my own little zen garden. I've already picked the area to focus on. Thank you!

  15. Sheila_Schultz 08/23/2016

    Wow David... viewing photos of your gardens has taken me to a very quiet and thoughtfully peaceful place. Every element is perfect and somehow comforting. I'm in awe. Your choice in colors for the incredible woodwork is sublime. Thank you for sending this post to share with GPOD.

  16. Cenepk10 08/23/2016

    How lovely ! So perfect !!! A little slice of heaven on Earth ... Tremendous vision Realized. Amazing.

  17. User avater
    Linda on Whidbey 08/23/2016

    David, my husband and I visited a well known garden last week that was totally opposite of yours. It was so overplanted that the paths were hard to find and you couldn't really appreciate all of the amazing plants. It left us both feeling a bit unsettled, like we should start pruning:) Your garden, on the other hand, gives one a feeling of peace and restfulness. Very impressive! Great choices in plantings, fencing, fire pit....just love it all and admire your restraint. I'll be checking out your blog.

  18. User avater
    HelloFromMD 08/23/2016

    Hi David, I am enjoying your pictures of this marvelous space you have created. My gardens are plant centered, but yours are about a type of meditative and controlled space. A place where someone could feel rested from the wildness and randomness of life. Some places with a similar scheme are so minimalist that the plants almost fade entirely from the space. You have an excellent balance between the empty space and the planted areas. Great work.

  19. wittyone 08/23/2016

    While not being a practitioner of such an edited and controlled garden ,I none the less, love the beauty, simplicity and calmness evident in your garden. Someone below commented on it's being a contrast to the general wildness of life in general and that certainly holds true. You've done a great job. I'm putting your garden blog on my "to check today" list right now, I often need a taste of serenity.

  20. Foxglove12 08/23/2016

    Wow! Beautiful. Very welcoming and zen.

  21. Denisey 08/24/2016

    Fantastic Garden! Thanks for sharing!

  22. ginnystokes 08/24/2016

    Very nice!

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