Wednesday, 16 November 2011

November in the Garden

On a recent cool, but sunny,  November afternoon I visited the Nitobe Garden at the University of British Columbia (UBC).  Located on North West Marine Drive this 2.5 acre traditional Japanese garden is part of the UBC Botanical Garden. This time of year the garden is colourful, peaceful and open to all by donation. According to the UBC Botanical Garden website:
"Nitobe Garden is considered to be the one of the most authentic Japanese gardens in North America and among the top five Japanese gardens outside of Japan, the Nitobe Garden includes a rare authentic Tea Garden with a ceremonial Tea House."

"The garden honours Inazo Nitobe (1862-1933) whose goal was "to become a bridge across the Pacific." Among many other memorials to him is his portrait on the 5000 yen note."

"Each tree, stone and shrub has been deliberately placed and is carefully maintained to reflect an idealized conception and symbolic representation of nature. There is harmony among natural forms - waterfalls, rivers, forests, islands and seas - and a balance of masculine and feminine forces traditionally attributed to natural elements. Realizing that many native trees and shrubs could be trained and pruned in typical Japanese fashion, the garden's creators incorporated them as unique features. Some maple and cherry trees and most of the azaleas and iris were brought from Japan. A place of reflection, where each step reveals a new harmony, the garden is designed to suggest a span of time - a day, a week or a lifetime - with a beginning, choice of paths, and ending."
The central pond is a home to Koi, or carp, but they are not visible this time of year. When I asked where the fish were I was told that they do not feed them regularly at this time of year because they are not able to use the food, so the fish stay out of sight. I found a reference that suggests that the Koi fish have either a small or no appetite during the winter and that their ability to digest proteins in the winter is nearly zero; I think this is related to the lower temperature of the water in the fall and winter.

The trees, especially the maples, display spectacular colours this time of year creating beautiful reflections in the pond.

The garden contains small and mature deciduous trees as well as towering evergreens. Colourful leaves float in the water and collect around the small waterfalls. The sound of water trickling adds to the meditative atmosphere. People walk slowly in the garden, some sit on benches and appear lost in thought.

Nitobe Inazō's hometown of Morioka, Japan dedicated this plaque in his memory. He died in Victoria, British Columbia, which is now the sister city of Nitobe's home town.

The walkways, paths and bridges in the garden offer the visitor many vantage points to view the garden. The symbolism in the garden includes all of the elements and is focused by the paths and bridges which represent a span of time. Guided tours can be arranged to explain the garden's many elements.

There are several interesting lanterns in the garden: below are pictures and details of them. Lanterns were introduced into Japanese tea gardens by tea-master Sen-no-Rikkyu, after which they became a major garden element. The lanterns were necessary to guide guests to the tea-room for Japanese tea ceremonies that were often held in the evenings.

The tea-house is in one corner of the garden, it has its own small garden and is surrounded by a bamboo fence:
"The tea house of the Nitobe Garden, Ichibō-an (Hut of the Sweeping View), is a classical example of a structure designed for the practice of the Japanese discipline called chadō (Way of Tea). To that end, it is equipped with all the elements needed for the conducting of a complete tea gathering, namely, a waiting room (machiai), outer garden (soto roji), waiting bench (koshikake machiai), middle gate (chūmon), inner garden (uchi roji), main tearoom (hon seki) and preparation room (mizuya). "

The wall of the garden and the entrance way have a narrow overhanging tiled "roof" which is beautifully finished.

Just outside the garden I saw these "toadstools" among the needles and cones, and some leaves caught in a sunbeam also begged to be photographed.

Joni Mitchell "Back to the Garden"

It seems I have been busy with everything except painting recently. I am selling my cards and prints at a Craft Fair on the weekend and have spent a lot of time getting organized for that event. I have, however, managed to finish the following painting which is a watercolour that I have named Fall Colour III. It is the third, and last I think, in this series.

Fall Colour III
In the mood for a craft fair? Come and visit me at the Delbrook Craft Fair:

Delbrook Christmas Craft Fair: Sunday, November 20, from 10 am to 4 pm, at Delbrook Community Recreation Centre - 600 West Queens Road in North Vancouver. I have  a table (#86) in the Tamarack Room.

Thank you for visiting my blog, and happy Whimsy Wednesday. Hope to see you again next week,


  1. The towering evergreen strikes a majestic pose, Gillian, and the bridge photos are enchanting. Being guided by lantern light to the comforts of tea, seeing a simple leaf glow in a sunbeam and mushrooms unfurl by a pine cone illustrate the wonders of nature that the Japanese culture understands so well! :)

  2. Thanks for the tour of the beautiful garden. I've always liked Japanese gardens and this one is fantastic.

  3. Such exquisite peaceful gardens! Glad you took us this tour!

  4. just a beautiful place! would love to sit alongside that stream and listen to the water.

    good luck at your craft fair! you are so talented!

  5. Oh how peaceful! And love the video clip!

  6. Beautiful series and ending up with Joni Mitchell and Woodstock.

  7. WOW!!! Your photos look wonderful. That looks like such an amazing place.. So peaceful.. Best of luck to you at the fair!!! Your painting looks amazing..

    Hugs, Linda

  8. Thank you for taking us along on a glorious tour of Nitobi Garden. Your stunning images captured the serenity and tranquility of this beautiful place. Lovely in every way. Outstanding post!

    Fantastic watercolor! You are so very talented!

  9. HI GILLIAN...


  10. what a womnderful place. the photos are also fantastic!

  11. The Nitobe gardens sound wonderful. I'd like very much to see them in person.

  12. phew, you must have been working all day with this post. Lovely place.

  13. Autumn would seem to be the perfect tie to visits too. Beautiful.

  14. Such a lovely garden!!! And, you took beautiful photos of all the beautiful spots found there. I love the water and all the amazing reflections--serene, beautiful, and inspiring. Have a wonderful weekend. Mickie :)

  15. I haven't visited this garden, but hope to after enjoying your stunning photos and description. I picture you lying under that tree, traveling its path upward, finally coming as close as is humanly possible to touching the sky.

  16. Lovely garden... you've captured it peace and beauty!

  17. What a beautiful spot. It reminds me of a similar area I once visited in Maine only yours looks more extensive. Thanks for sharing your lovely photos.

  18. Beautiful photos in this post. It's a pleasure to observe them, since I myself love Japanese gardens. Your artwork is stunning.

  19. Oh, yes, this is a real Japanese garden! I found a lot of information in your explanations, many of them I did not know. I felt it so interesting to see the Japanese garden from the different angle, because we are apt to take many things as a matter of course and not to think them deeply.

    Thanks a lot for posting these beautiful photos.

    Best wishes,


  20. Absolutely breathtaking photos and equally amazing art. :-)

  21. nice Japanese garden, and looks very big too