CUTLINE: ABOVE RIGHT - RICK AND KAREN FACKLER'S GARDEN FEATURES A NATURAL-FINISH WOOD PERGOLA WITH SLIDING LATTICED PANELS. THE PERGOLA IS DESIGNED TO PERMIT COMFORTABLE VIEWING OF THE WATERFALL AND POND NEAR THE PERIMETER OF THE FACKLER GARDEN.
CUTLINE: OPPOSITE PAGE - ``WATER IS THE MAGIC ELEMENT IN A JAPANESE GARDEN,'' SAYS KENYON, WHO LIKES TO ADD WATERFALLS, PONDS OR STREAMS TO EACH GARDEN HE DESIGNS. HE FEELS THE CONTRAST BETWEEN STONE AND WATER IS A SOURCE OF VISUAL INTEREST, AND HE TRIES TO MAKE WATER FEATURES VISIBLE FROM THE WINDOWS OF HIS CLIENTS' HOMES AND FROM THEIR PERGOLAS.
THE EVIDENCE OF HUMAN ACTIVITY
seems to dominate American gardens, from the neatly defined, straight-edge lawns and walkways to the carefully graded and color-coordinated flower borders.
In comparison, the best Japanese gardens look as though nature itself has transformed the landscape's basic components - often simply water, stone and moss - into garden compositions of natural perfection.
In order to maintain this natural ambiance, when Japanese designers add buildings, pathways and fences to their gardens, they make sure such ``hardscapes'' blend naturally and unobtrusively into the site.
Features such as natural wood surfaces on houses and porches, informal paths made of undressed stone, and rustic reed and bamboo fences blur the lines between natural and man-made components of the landscape. This strong integration between human structures and the rest of the garden is the main characteristic of Japanese gardens.
It's also one of the major stumbling blocks for garden designers who attempt to mix Japanese garden styles with American sites and houses. For instance, marrying the lines, textures, and colors of a Queen Anne brick tudor or a Woodinville Cape Cod to a Japanese garden seems bound to end in a mismatch.
But John Kenyon, a landscape architect who studied the principles of Japanese garden design in Kyoto before founding his Redmond-based Sundance Landscaping 10 years ago, knows how to avoid this pitfall.
Kenyon, 37, whose demonstration garden at the 1989 Northwest Flower and Garden Show won top honors, designs wood decks and pergolas to serve as transition ``rooms'' between clients' Western-style homes and the Japanese gardens he designs for them. Most of his projects, including structures and gardens, run between $25,000 and $75,000, with a few topping out over $100,000, he says.
Kenyon adapts some of the design features and functions of a classic Japanese structure called the ``engawa'' to his decks and pergolas. Engawas are raised wood verandas attached to traditional Japanese homes, often sheltered from rain or sun by the wide, overhanging eaves of the house. Because Japanese gardens are considered compositions in the same sense that paintings are, engawas originated as viewing points from the house into the garden. Japanese garden designers now use them to create a sense of continuity between the indoors and the outdoors through such design features as making the same wood planks, finished in the house and left rough on the engawa, serve as common flooring.
Kenyon designs his engawa-inspired garden structures to solve site problems in the gardens he creates. Chief among these from the design point of view is the flat facade of many Western-style homes.
``Flat walls fronting gardens make the discontinuity between house and garden obvious. Our structures introduce a three-dimensional element to the site. They bring the house into the garden, and vice versa,'' he explains.
Kenyon adds that it's crucial to customize the structures to fit the needs of each site. For instance, when Kenyon first established his own Japanese garden seven years ago in a rural landscape just north of Redmond, the original site came with a classic Northwest farmhouse that nestled into a small hillside. Kenyon dug a stream bed down the hillside, widened it into a pond on a level area near the entryway to the house, and planted pines and bamboos nearby.
IN ORDER TO CREATE A STRONG
visual link between the new Japanese garden and the house, Kenyon knocked down the house's entire front wall and replaced it with a tea room whose simple, elegant lines seem to flow through a glass picture window onto a spacious wood deck that extends over one edge of the pond.
The tea room and the outside deck, whose weathered mahogany floor planks blend with the house's rustic new front wall, act as an integrating unit between the house and garden. Sitting in the tea room facing the garden or strolling on the adjoining deck, viewers feel as though they are sitting in the very heart of the garden.
Kenyon also adapts his garden structures to his clients' practical needs. Rick and Karen Fackler live in a Redmond housing development of two-story wood-frame houses surrounded by relatively small garden spaces. The Facklers needed an outdoor living space that gave them year-round use, privacy from surrounding homes, and a comfortable viewing point from which to enjoy the waterfall and rock-edged pool that Kenyon created from boulders found on the property during construction.
KENYON BUILT A 12- BY 16-FOOT wood pergola off the flat back wall of the Fackler's house that connects to the adjoining kitchen and dining rooms through French doors. The natural-finish structure features clear acrylic panels placed over the wood-beam roof so it can be used in the rain. The pergola's walls are an innovative arrangement of sliding latticed panels reminiscent in design and function of Japanese shoji screens. Mounted on tracks, the panels can be moved around the structure's perimeters to provide privacy or protection from the sun or wind from a variety of points.
Vines such as Akebia quintana and evergreen Clematis armandii twine through the lattice to create a leafy bower. In the future, when trees and shrubs planted near the garden walls for seclusion grow to maturity, the panels can be removed entirely.
Earl Johnson's new Lake City Way garden demonstrates how Kenyon designs structures to act as visual focal points in the garden, and also to divide a site into several distinct garden areas, each with its own mood and setting.
When Johnson acquired the property several years ago, he had already decided to establish a Japanese garden. Visiting Kenyon's garden in Redmond, Johnson was particularly intrigued with the role water played there, from the placid, mirror-still pond, to the rushing stream.
He asked Kenyon to design a garden that included a prominent water feature, as well as a garden structure from which to view it year round.
The original site features two levels linked together by a steep bank of boulders. Kenyon created a waterfall that runs down the bank in several tiers to a pond at its base. He also designed a pergola that sits in the middle of the lower level of the garden to serve as the major viewing point for the waterfall and pond.
The 8- by 16-foot pergola is made of unpainted wood and its north side faces the flat back wall of Johnson's home.
Because of its central position, the pergola divides the lower garden into a series of small areas, or ``rooms.'' The first room is a 20- by 30-foot rectangle situated between the garden's entry, a wood fence punctuated by rustic sliding panel doors, and the east perimeter of the pergola.
This room has a formal mood enhanced by semicircles of brick edging that rim three striking katsura trees (Cercidyphyullum japonicum) lined up in a row along the garden's east border. The katsura trees are slow-growing Japanese natives with neat, heart-shaped leaves that turn brilliant yellow or scarlet in fall.
A SECOND ROOM, AN INTIMATE corridor lying between the south perimeter of the pergola and a 5-foot-high retaining wall faced in blue-green ledge stone, is planted with evergreen azaleas and Japanese holly (Ilex crenata).
It flows between, and unites, the lower garden's first room and its third, an informal, sunny lawn area that integrates the pond and waterfall with the western perimeter of the pergola.
Kenyon expects to continue designing and building garden structures in the future. ``We also plan to expand into building tea houses and traditional Japanese homes,'' he says, adding with a smile. ``I believe that one day, the perfect client is going to come along, and ask us to create a Japanese house and Japanese garden together.''
JAN KOWALCZEWSKI WHITNER IS A SEATTLE FREE-LANCE WRITER WHO SPECIALIZES IN PLANT AND GARDENING TOPICS. GREG GILBERT IS A SEATTLE TIMES STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER.