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Archives for February 6, 2018

Easy, pretty and cool: Terrariums are back in style

BOSTON (AP) — At a crowded, downtown bar one recent Saturday night, the lights were dim, hip-hop music played and most everyone had a drink in hand.

The bar itself was covered with succulents, and the tabletops with accoutrements like paintbrushes, plastic spoons and planters of potting soil. The crowd was here to learn the craft of terrarium building.

“Now, these succulents are very hard to kill, I promise,” said Lindsay Webber, the effervescent 28-year-old instructor of the class on terrariums. “You’ll only have to water them once every two weeks or so, and they only need a squirt or two of water.”

The two-hour lesson, called Plant Nite, was part of a program that started in Boston in 2015 and has spread to 32 states and Canada. It’s operated by a company called Paint Nite that capitalizes on the do-it-yourself movement and a clientele willing to pay for an experience — such as a primer on building terrariums.

These miniature landscapes are encapsulated in containers made of blown glass, ornate clay pots or a variety of other materials.

“I started getting into gardening a few years ago, and that’s when I saw these things (terrariums) getting popular,” said Diandra Escamilla, a 28-year-old Boston resident who attended Plant Nite. “I was seeing them everywhere, on social media — my friends started having them, so I started to get interested.”

Terrariums are hot. Many major retailers — not just gardening stores like Home Depot — are selling them. Some IKEA and West Elm stores, for instance, have offered build-your-own kits full of electric-colored rocks, tiny animal figurines, moss and popular succulents — hearty plants adapted to live with little light or watering. Likewise, terrariums have a devoted following on many social media websites, such as Pinterest, Twitter and Facebook, where plant-lovers exchange pictures, ideas and opinions of the miniature glass gardens.

The latest terrarium trend took off in the beginning of the decade, according to Maria Colletti, author of “Terrariums — Gardens Under Glass: Designing, Creating, and Planting Modern Indoor Gardens” (Cool Springs Press, 2015).

“Everyone thought it would be a phase and even drizzle away,” Colletti said.

That wasn’t the case.

Colletti, who teaches classes on terrarium building through the New York Botanical Garden’s adult education department, said terrariums’ portability and low maintenance makes them greenery mainstays that are here for the long haul.

“What could be better for an office or home to have a bit of nature where we view our miniature green world every day of our lives?” she said. “As our electronic digital world’s requirements increase, terrariums remind us of the larger wonder of the planet we live on, Earth.”

Terrariums date back at least to the early 19th century.

They enjoyed a pop-culture moment in the 1970s, said Megan George, author of “Modern Terrarium Studio: Design and Build Custom Landscapes with Succulents, Air Plants and More” (Fons and Porter, 2015).

George and her mother own a Durham, North Carolina, plant shop called Zen Succulent, where customers can partake in a DIY terrarium bar. Today’s terrariums are different, she said.

“The terrariums in the 1970s were in large globes that sat on the floor — they might have a large base to it,” George said. “People are living in smaller spaces now and they want something that fits on the tabletop; something that also functions as decor.”

For Swetha Ramachandran, 28, of Boston, who attended Plant Nite, a terrarium’s appeal is simple.

“They’re cute,” she said, matter-of-factly. “And I like the containers they come in.”

Copyright © 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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WOW To Do List: "Tea by Design II" today


Tea By Design II 

Calusa Garden Club of Marco Island’s fundraiser “Tea by Design II” will be held at 11:30 a.m., Tuesday, Feb. 6, at Marco Island Yacht Club. Featured speaker and floral designer is Janice Hamlin. The event includes lunch, tea, a floral design demonstration by Hamlin, a live auction of Hamlin floral designs, as well as a silent auction of jewelry, wine selections and floral arrangements. Ticket price is $60. For tickets, contact Dale DeFeo, 239-394-2737 or any Calusa Garden Club member. Contact the Garden Club at, or on the Garden Club’s website,, or visit the Club’s Facebook page Calusa Garden Club. 

Museum of the Everglades dual exhibits  

Museum of the Everglades is proud to present a unique dual exhibit: “Wind Across the Everglades – Celebrating 60 Years” in tandem with “Plume Hunting – From the Forefront of Fashion to the Brink of Extinction” in the Pauline Reeves Gallery. The exhibit will be on display from now until Feb. 17, at Museum of the Everglades, 105 W Broadway, Everglades City. “Wind Across the Everglades” is the dramatic story of Audubon Warden Walt Murdoch, played by Christopher Plummer in his first starring role, fighting to protect endangered birds from a cutthroat gang of plume hunting poachers led by the ruthless “Cottonmouth” – played by a surprisingly sinister Burl Ives. The “Plume Hunting” portion of the exhibit provides the history of the illegal trade on which the story of the film is based. At the turn of the last century, the demand for fancy feathers for ladies’ hats was so great that the plumes were worth more than their weight in gold.  

Adult and child beginner sewing 

Learn basic sewing skills and create a pair of reversible aprons fit to your size. Enthusiasm needed, prior experience not required. Bring a sewing machine and manual if you have one. Ages 10 and older. Students purchase their own supplies. Classes from 6 until 8 p.m., Feb. 6. Make it on Marco Classes at Frank E. Mackle Community Park, 1361 Andalusia Terrace, Marco Island. Information on cost of class, material fee and to sign up call 239-642-0575, 

Art Gallery Opening Reception: Annual Photography Exhibit 

From 5:30 until 7 p.m., Feb. 8: Photography exhibit opening reception: enjoy wine and cheese and mingle with the artists, supported by the Friends of Rookery Bay and United Arts Council of Collier County. Information: 

Naturalist led Swamp Walks 

Scheduled for Saturdays Feb. 10 and Feb. 25. The Feb. 10 walk will be led by park biologist Mike Owen. On these five-hour adventures, naturalists lead participants deep into the swamp in knee high water. Swamp walks, by Friends of Fakahatchee, are $75 and begin at 9:30 a.m. For required reservations and additional dates through March, visit and click on tours and events. The park entrance is on State Route 29 in Copeland, FL. 

Saul I. Stern Cultural Series 

The Jewish Congregation of Marco Island, in partnership with the Jewish Federation of Collier County, announces the opening of the 24th continuous season of the Saul I. Stern Cultural Series. Patrons tickets are $75 for the series which includes preferred seating. The series for members of JCMI are $50. The series for non-members is $60. Individual tickets are $20 for JCMI members and $25 for non-members. Information: 239-642-0800. 

  • At 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 10: Rabbi Tokayer is the retired Rabbi to the Jewish Community of Japan.  He served for eight years. In addition, he attended life events in Hong Kong, China, India and Korea.  Rabbi is a noted scholar and historian. He has written over 20 books in Japanese. His translation of the Talmud into Japanese sold over 20,00 copies. Rabbi has made it his life work to study the history of the Jews in the Far East. His Information is unknown to many and his presentation holds the audience’s attention. 
  • At 7:30 p.m., Saturday, March 3: Naples Brass Quintet – These outstanding musicians combine a program of classic and modern music.  The musicians’ presentation is brilliant as is their charming introduction of the melodies. The evening concludes with a Viennese table and Starbucks tasting.  

Kids’ putting contest 

A kids’ putting contest will be held from noon until 3 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 11, at the Marco Golf Garden, 971 Winterberry Drive, Marco Island. Admission is $25 and allows two adults and up to 3 children age 12 and under; includes 18 holes, hot dog, chips, beverage, face painting, DJ musical entertainment, prizes for contest winners, and free T-shirts for kids while supplies last. Purchase tickets at the door or on line at  This is a benefit for the Marco Island Nature Preserve and Bird Sanctuary. Information: 239-394-9285.  

Left Bank Art Fest  

The Left Bank Art Fest is from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 11, at the Esplanade. Juried artist include photographers, jewelers, painters, wood, stained glass, bronze, pottery and metal. Free admission and free parking. Information: 239-290-7927.  

Guitarist Glenn Roth 

Marco Island Center for the Arts presents fingerstyle guitarist Glenn Roth from 4 until 5:30 p.m., Feb. 11, at Marco Island Center for the Arts. The concert will take place in the Art Center’s Lauritizen and Rush galleries. The ticket price is $25 for members of the Marco Island Center for the Arts and $30 for non-members. For reservations call the Art Center at 239-394-4221 or visit the website at His compositions suggest multiple guitars, but it is really just one guy, 10 flying fingers, and one instrument. Roth is a licensed performer of the MTA’s “Music Under New York” program.  His concert hall is the vaulted splendor of Grand Central Terminal or the tunnels and platforms of the New York City subway system. When he is not “underground” he plays concerts throughout the northeast and tours nationally and internationally. 

Essentials of Digital Photography Workshop 

From 9:30 a.m. until 12:30 p.m., Feb. 12: If you want to get the best pictures possible, and truly understanding your camera’s features, the Essentials of Digital Photography: How to get the most from your digital camera workshop is for you. This class covers the essentials of your digital camera. You will learn how to use your camera’s shutter, aperture, ISO control and the drive modes to create images with impact and creativity. No previous camera or photography experience is necessary, just a desire to learn. Sonny Saunders has over 35 years of experience in photography and instruction and is renowned for his ability to communicate to a wide variety of students. Information: 

Make a T-shirt bag 

Come make a sturdy t-shirt bags with a bit of yarn to take to the Farmers’ Market. No sewing needed. Bring a t-shirt. From 1 until 3 p.m., Monday, Feb. 12. Make it on Marco Classes at Frank E. Mackle Community Park, 1361 Andalusia Terrace, Marco Island. Information on cost of class, material fee and to sign up call 239-642-0575, 

Friends of Fakahatchee presentation 

Calusa Garden Club of Marco Island will host Patrick Higgins, president of the Friends of Fakahatchee board, at its meeting at 1:15 p.m. Feb. 12 at Wesley United Methodist Church Fellowship Hall. Higgins will present a slide presentation that shows the unusual ecosystem of Fakahatchee Strand State Park. Community members are invited to attend. For more information, contact the Garden Club at or on its website,, or visit the club’s Facebook page ‘Calusa Garden Club’. 

Darwin Day 

Feb. 12: In celebration of the birthday of evolutionary biologist Charles Darwin, the Rookery Bay Environmental Learning Center offers “buy one, get one free admission.” Cannot be combined with other offers. Information: 

Palms, Trees Storms 

The City of Marco Island’s Beautification Advisory Committee is hosting a free community presentation from 2 to 4 p.m. Feb. 13 in the community room, 51 Bald Eagle Drive. Dr. Doug Caldwell, UF|IFAS Extension Collier County and certified arborist, will share hurricane and landscape practices and concepts to minimize high wind damage. He will also talk abut the best trees and plants to use on Marco Island after Hurricane Irma. Dr. A.D. Ali, regional technical advisor for Davey Tree Expert Co. and certified arborist, will discuss tree restoration and arborists’ role in managing an urban forest. Finally, Jessica McIntosh, coastal training program coordinator at Rookery Bay, will explain how to fertilize appropriately. Information: Laura Litzan, 239-389-5010. 

Fashion show/luncheon 

On Feb. 15, the NCH Marco Healthcare Auxiliary will be hosting an annual fashion show/luncheon and silent auction to be held Hideaway Beach Club.  We invite you to join us in support of our efforts in raising funds which will directly benefit the Marco Island Healthcare Center and the delivery of quality healthcare available to all residents and visitors. Ticket prices for the Lunch and Fashion Show are $55. Information: 239-393-4058. 

Lunch with Friends  

The next Lunch with Friends is scheduled for 11 a.m., Feb. 15. at the Family Church, 1450 Winterberry Drive. Adults 60 years and older are invited to gather with old friends and make new ones, too, while enjoying lunch provided by a local restaurant. To RSVP, call Nancy at 706-566-8532. 

Birds of the Beach Workshop 

8 a.m. until 12 p.m., Feb. 17: In this class, Adam DiNuovo of Audubon Florida will discuss the life history of these birds and the amazing journeys many of them make annually.  The classroom session is followed by a field trip to practice identification skills. Information: 

Lion’s Club pancake breakfast 

From 8 until 11 a.m., Feb. 17 at United Church of Marco Island. Tickets: $7 each in advance: $8 at the door. To purchase call Lee Pershing at 239-293-2700 

Kiwanis car show 

The Marco Island Car Show hosted by Kiwanis will be held at the Marco Healthcare Center from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m., Feb. 18. Drivers of show cars will be asked to pay a $20 entrance fee. This money will be used to help the Marco Academy in their rebuilding from the hurricane. Trophies will be awarded in 15 categories. Refreshments will be available for purchase. A vendor will display miniature autos capable of transporting adults. A 1963 original Indianapolis Race Car will be on display. Performing are the Celtic Spirit Irish dancers, Marco Academy cheerleaders, and the Judo club from the YMCA. Steve Reynolds will be playing hits from the 50s and 60s. Spectator fee is $5 per person. Information: John DeRosa at 239-272-0816. 

Marjory Stoneman Douglas Festival 

The 14th annual Marjory Stoneman Douglas Festival is Feb. 20-24. The festival features seminars, discussions and demonstrations celebrating the heritage, history and environmental science of the Everglades. Named for the pioneering conservationist who made the preservation and protection of the Everglades her life’s work, this year’s event will explore the past, present and future of the region known as the River of Grass, with presentations by scientists, rangers, historians, authors, artists, and local Native American leaders addressing a wide variety of topics. For the full schedule of events or for more information, visit or call (239) 695-0008 

Lunch Learn: Doc Anna: Swamp Doctor of Florida 

From noon until 1 p.m., Feb. 20: Hear from expert speakers and enjoy a meal during the Lunch Learn Lecture Series sponsored by the Florida Humanities Council and the Friends of Rookery Bay. Registration fee is $15 (includes lunch).  This month’s lecture, “Doc Anna: Swamp Doctor of Florida” recounts the life of Dr. Anna Darrow who, in 1909, became only the second woman doctor licensed in Florida. Portrayed by Florida Humanities Council Chautauqua Scholar Carrie Sue Ayvar. Information: 

Florida residency workshops 

The Law Offices of William G. Morris, P.A. will conduct a series on the potential benefits of Florida residency including establishing and maintaining Florida residency, taxes and related Issues, homestead exemption, qualifying for in-state tuition rates and creditor protection. As attorney William G. Morris explained, “There’s more to becoming a Florida resident and maintaining that status than living in the state six months and one day out of the year.” These free, one-hour workshops will spotlight those issues and more. Kevin O’Fee of Edward Jones, also on Marco Island will serve as moderator. The sessions are Feb. 21, March 14 and April 11. The Wednesday sessions will start at 5:30 p.m. at Keller Williams Realty, 830 Bald Eagle Drive, Marco Island. RSVP: Kathy Ansted, 239-394-2412. 

St. Mark’s Annual Flea Market 

Marco Island’s largest flea market is 8 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 22 at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, 1101 N. Collier Blvd. The annual giant flea market is the place to find one-of-a-kind treasures and great bargains. It’s bigger than ever this year; our storage shed is bulging. There are lots of surprises in the Ladies Boutique, Women’s and Men’s Departments, Housewares, Kids Corner, Books, Linens, and the very popular Jewelry Counter. Come early and grab a coffee and a donut. Don’t miss the bargains. If you would like to volunteer and be a part of the festivities contact: Carol Pippen, 239-394-7679 or email: or stop by the St. Mark’s church office. 

Bargain Basket fashion show 

Doors open at 2 p.m.; show starts at 2:30, Thursday, Feb. 22, at the United Church of Marco Island. There are 200 tickets available at $30 each; tables of eight may be reserved. Tickets can be purchased at The Bargain Basket Thrift Store. Hors’ d oeuvres and desserts will be served and a raffle will take place at the event. Tickets for the raffle can be purchased at the event. The theme is “Fifty Years of Fashion,” chosen because it is the 50-year anniversary of the United Church of Marco Island.   

Science Saturday 

Feb. 24: Science Saturdays provide an opportunity for families to spend the day at the Environmental Learning Center enjoying programs, labs and activities centered around a different science theme, on the last Saturday of every month. This month’s theme is The Wonders of Water. Information: 


There will be an arts crafts fair in Everglades City on Saturday, Feb. 24, to coincide with the last day of the annual Marjory Stoneman Douglas Festival at the Museum. Art-in-the-Glades takes place under the pavilion in McLeod Park across from the museum from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Local artists and crafters will offer photos, prints, handmade soaps, jewelry, and other items for sale. And, if you feel hungry, delicious baked goods will be available for a donation to benefit a local charity. For a festival program or to download an Art-in-the-Glades poster, visit For information, call Marya at (239) 695-2905. 

No knit yarn and ribbon scarf 

Create a lovely scarf from ribbon and yarn for warmer weather. Using dissolvable interface, yarn and ribbons, you will layout your own personalized scarf. The instructor will sew the scarf together and the scarf may be picked up the next day at the Community Center. From 1 until 3 p.m., Feb. 26. Make it on Marco Classes at Frank E. Mackle Community Park, 1361 Andalusia Terrace, Marco Island. Information on cost of class, material fee and to sign up call 239-642-0575, 

Happy Hour for Hope 

Marco Island Meals of Hope’s next “Happy Hour for Hope” is 5 to 7 p.m. Feb. 26 on the Marco Island Princess, 951 Bald Eagle Drive. The Princess will not be leaving port for this event. Admission is $20 and everyone is invited. For more information, please contact Bill “Captain Happy Hope” Morris at (239) 642-6020. For more information on Marco Island Meals of Hope, visit 


Bounty, Booty, and Boats 

The Marco Island Historical Museum is presents “Coastal Trade — Bounty, Booty, And Boats of the Gulf and Glades from Naples to Key West” from artist Paul Arsenault. The exhibition will be on display from now through March 2, at the Marco Island Historical Museum, 180 South Heathwood Drive, Marco Island. Paul Arsenault’s exhibit includes not only paintings that represent the pioneer days of Southwest Florida’s maritime trading networks, but folk art, posters, and artifacts that relate to this heritage. Information: 239-642-1440 or 

Marco Island Farmers Market 

Every Wednesday through April local southwest Florida vendors will be selling home good items and crafts from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Veterans Community Park, 901 Park Avenue. Items include: fresh fruits and vegetables, baked goods, salsa, sauces, fresh flowers, seafood, soaps, and much more. 

Master Gardeners 

The Master Gardener Walk-In Plant Clinic has returned to Lowe’s, ready again to offer advice and answer all your gardening questions. If you are having trouble with your plants, they can diagnose the problem for you. It could be bugs, fungus or overwatering. It could just be the cold weather. Come and visit.  Master Gardeners will be there from 12:30 until 3:30 p.m., Tuesdays (through April) waiting to help you. You can find us in the garden area. Master Gardeners have been trained by the University of Florida on many correct horticultural practices and problems. Pruning, fertilizers, bug identification, grass problems, just to name a few. please bring bugs or infected material in a sealed plastic bag. Pictures on your phone or tablet will help in diagnosing. Lowes is located on the corner of 951 (Collier Boulevard) and U.S. 41. 

Monday Night Bingo 

Monday Night Bingo is back at the Jewish Congregation of Marco Island, 991 Winterberry Drive. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. and bonanza is posted at 6:15 and the game is called at 7. The Bingo Committee serves a complimentary supper of a kosher hot dog on a special roll, sauerkraut, relish, pickles, chips, fruit, coffee, tea, ice cream and pastries. Gift certificates are available, perfect for all occasions. The game is open to the public. Information: 239-642-0880. 

Bingo at the Y 

Every Tuesday at 1 p.m. through March 27 in the Youth Development Center, The Greater Marco Family YMCA, 101 Sand Hill Street. Join the only afternoon Bingo on Marco Island. Come and socialize, play and win! Fees: $14 for a small packet; $22 for a large packet. Complimentary coffee, tea and snacks provided. Doors open at 12:15 p.m. Call the Y Membership Desk for more details, 239-394-YMCA (9622). 

Knights of Columbus Bingo fundraiser 

The Knights of Columbus San Marco Council #6344 host a Bingo fundraisers in the San Marco Parish Center with the doors opening at 5:30 p.m. and the game starting at 7. Bingo is every Thursday from through April 5.  This event is open to the public and everyone is invited. Information: 239-389-5633 or 

Guided boat and kayak tours 

Two-hour guided kayak tours let you explore backwater bays and mangrove tunnels while learning about your surroundings from an experienced guide and naturalist. Tours provide opportunities to see wildlife such as wading birds, osprey, fish and dolphins. Tours include free admission to the Environmental Learning Center on day of trip and proceeds support the non-profit Friends of Rookery Bay, Inc. Kayak and boat tours are offered Tuesdays through Fridays from November through April. Learn more and register for tours and events at 

Free English classes 

Free English classes will be held every Tuesday from 6:30 until 8:30 p.m., through March 27, at Marco Presbyterian Church, 875 W. Elkcam Circle, Marco Island. Information: 239-394-8186 or email; visit 

ACBL-sanctioned bridge 

ACBL-sanctioned bridge at 1 p.m. each Tuesday at the Jewish Congregation of Marco Island, 991 Winterberry Drive. Wayne Goodrich, director. Information: Jean or Abe Brown, 239-394-4272. 

JCMI mah jongg 

Mah Jongg every Thursday from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m., at the Jewish Congregation of Marco Island, 991 Winterberry Drive. Reserve spot by calling Shirley at 239-389-7872. 

Mackle Park mah jongg 

Mah Jongg is held from m 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. Thursdays at Mackle Park Community Center, 1361 Andalusia Terrace. There is a $10 yearly fee. Information: 239-642-0575 or 


Canasta is held from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. Tuesdays at Mackle Park Community Center, 1361 Andalusia Terrace. There is a $10 yearly fee. Information: 239-642-0575 or 

Island Knitters 

A group of knitters meets from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. Wednesdays at Mackle Park Community Center, 1361 Andalusia Terrace. There is a $10 yearly fee. Information: 239-642-0575 or

Duplicate bridge 

Bridge is held from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. Fridays at Mackle Park Community Center, 1361 Andalusia Terrace. There is a $10 yearly fee. Call Gwen at 394-0675 for available spaces.       

Round Robin Tennis 

Round Robin Tennis is available at various times and days for men and women at the Greater Marco Family YMCA, 101 Sand Hill Street, Marco Island. Eight clay courts are available. Round Robins are free to Marco YMCA members and $15 for community participants. Players must register to play in Round Robins. Registration or information: 239-394-3144, ext. 224. 


Spring Appraisal Faire 

Marco Island Historical Society (MIHS) presents the Spring Appraisal Faire 2018 from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m., Saturday, March 3, at Frank E. Mackle Community Park Community Center, 1361 Andalusia Terrace, Marco Island. Nationally renowned appraisers Wes Cowan, Nan Chisholm and Ken Farmer — featured on the PBS program “Antiques Road Show” — will evaluate items brought in by the public. Admission is exclusively for those bringing items to be appraised. Admission is $40 per item for non-members, and $25 per item for MIHS members. There is a limit of three hand carried items per person. On March 2, the guest appraisers will present “State of the Antiques World,” from 2-3:30 p.m., at the MIHS Rose History Auditorium on Marco Island. Admission for this presentation is $40 per person for non-members, and $25 for MIHS members. Information: 

An Affaire to Remember Gala 

The Marco Island Historical Society (MIHS) presents An Affaire to Remember Gala, co-chaired by Jim and Allyson Richards, on Saturday, March 3, at 6 p.m., at the Island Country Club on Marco Island. Cost to attend the gala is $225 per person. Proceeds benefit MIHS for the preservation of our community’s treasures. The evening will feature fine dining, dancing, silent auction and a live auction conducted by nationally-renowned appraisers Wes Cowan and Ken Farmer — who appear regularly on the popular PBS program “Antiques Roadshow.” Music for dancing will be provided by Winslow the Rockefellers.For reservations and information on the gala and other Spring Appraisal Faire events, call 239.389.6447 or visit 

Batfish Bash for the Bay 

From 6 until 10:30 p.m., March 16: The Friends of Rookery Bay invites you to save the date for a relaxed evening of Old Florida hospitality. Enjoy sunset views, cocktails, dinner and dancing and Southern Charm, of course. Advance registrations can be made at or by calling 239-530-5971. Information: 

For more event listings, navigate to the Entertainment section and click on the WOW To Do List at Calendar items must be emailed to and should be submitted at least a week before desired publication. 

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Decoding Japanese garden design one stone at a time.


“Squat and move it counterclockwise, clockwise, repeat, and repeat again,” Tomohiko Muto says as he motions to the American landscape professionals gamely trying to move a chunk of Columbia River Gorge basalt. The centerpiece rock they’ve selected for their project forms a natural water basin, the result of a depression created at the break point of columnar basalt. The stone’s heft eventually requires a dolly.

Under the guidance of Muto and other instructors from Japan, the students are engaging in tactile learning at a new program developed, in the main, by Sadafumi Uchiyama, ASLA, the curator at the Portland Japanese Garden (PJG) in Portland, Oregon.

Like many of his predecessors in Japan, Uchiyama hews to tradition in the Japanese gardens he creates. But his latest endeavor reveals an iconoclastic bent. Through an unusual seminar first offered this past summer as part of the PJG’s new International Japanese Garden Training Center, he hopes to debunk the long-held myth that “90 percent of Japanese gardening is secret, unteachable,” he says. “I dispute that.”

Instructor Kazuo Mitsuhashi (left) helping participants select stone for their projects. Photo by Jonathan Ley.

Uchiyama is a third-generation gardener. He studied with his grandfather, father, and uncles in Japan, as the craft is not taught in schools or universities. But at age 18, rather than join the profession, he left Japan to see the world. He worked on planning and reforestation projects in places such as Yemen and became aware of landscape architecture. In 1988, he came to the United States, earned a BLA and an MLA at the University of Illinois, and stayed. Seven years later, he joined the PJG, a return, in essence, to his roots.

The intensive, hands-on training course that he and PJG colleagues created brings to fruition an idea he carried around for 20 years: teaching North Americans the gardening skills and approaches that lie inside Japanese garden masters’ heads. The resulting 12-day immersive seminar, which this year had 16 participants, plus four instructors and several translators, is designed around his belief that a majority of Japanese gardening know-how can be taught. What cannot, he says, “the body learns” through experience.

Until now, most anyone seeking in-depth guidance from Japanese master gardeners had to travel to Japan, says Kristin Faurest, the director of the Japanese Garden Training Center. That requires time, money, Japanese language skills, and finding a master under whom to work. The PJG seminar, called Hands and Heart, teaches Japanese aesthetics, garden history and design, stone selection and placement, Japanese tool use, and pruning. Participants also engage in a morning tea ceremony to understand a Japanese garden’s cultural underpinnings and observe how Japanese garden masters behave. Kazuo Mitsuhashi, a Tokyo native and a tea garden craftsman for more than 40 years, says, “I hope students learn not just the material we teach but who we are as Japanese people and how we present ourselves, in ways that can lead to their own practice in the garden.”

Yamaguchi teaching pruning. Photo by Kristin Faurest.

The audience for the seminar is mainly midcareer professionals working in public Japanese gardens in North America, which is who attended the pilot seminar in 2016. But Faurest says the program’s focus has broadened given the interest among landscape design and construction professionals as well as students. Seminar leaders believe the ecological principles that Japanese gardening has encompassed for 1,000 years—gardening in tight spaces, managing stormwater in aesthetically pleasing ways, and planting trees in clusters and at angles as they thrive in nature—are relevant to all 21st-century landscapes, Japanese or not.

Among Uchiyama’s challenges is helping instructors articulate their thought process. Craftsmen in Japan aren’t trained to teach, he says. That means Japanese gardening “isn’t accessible to people who want to learn it,” he says, “and nothing’s on paper.” (At Japan’s universities, students generally can only study Western landscape architecture, which was introduced in the 1920s.) “Garden craftsmen are poor at explaining,” he says. But they can learn, as he himself has. He strives to get instructors to answer the question he was forced to consider years ago when a University of Illinois teacher asked him why he moved a rock a certain way. “I never thought about it, I just did it,” he says.

Compounding the teaching challenge is the fact that Japanese garden craft, as described by Marc Peter Keane in a talk this past summer in Portland, is “free jazz,” with few rules. Uchiyama tells students that in placing rock, 20 percent can be learned from a textbook, but 80 percent is “application that often diverts from or contradicts the norm.”

After four days of classroom and studio work, this year’s students were bused to Smith Rock, a quarry in southeast Portland. They were told to dress for hard labor. Under the guidance of an instructor, each of four groups was given three days to design from scratch a tsukubai, a place for guests to purify themselves before attending a tea ceremony. It contains a short path leading to a water basin surrounded by stones traditionally meant to hold specific objects such as a lantern. In Japan, says Uchiyama, the national exam for garden craftsmen allots students only four hours, working alone, for the same task.

To plot the site, teachers suggested that students first decide on basin placement. “Back up, get a wide-radius view,” the instructor Muto, from Kyoto, gently told his group. Then, “kneel up close to where the basin will be and take in the view, the trees behind.” Uchiyama urged his group, “Less talking. Use your eyes.” Students have the pick of the rock yard. Moving heavy rock themselves is new to some participants, and that’s intentional. In Japan, garden craftsmen design, install, and maintain their creations themselves.

Bonnie Bruce, a landscape designer from Portland specializing in ecological gardening in small spaces, says that learning about the weight of stone and its importance to the whole will cause her to design differently.

Steven Pitsenbarger, a gardener at the Japanese Tea Garden at San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, is used to physical work. Halfway through the seminar, his biggest takeaway was a design module where participants were asked to bring a real-life problem to the group. Referring to a sunken garden space he’s been wrestling with, he says, “The group not only gave me ideas for what changes are possible to make, but how to look at the process of deciding what changes need to be made.”

Sadafumi Uchiyama, ASLA, left, leads a seminar on Japanese garden design. Participant Alan Johnson and instructor Tomohiko Muto look on. Photo by Jonathan Ley.

Uchiyama knows he can’t teach everything in less than two weeks. In the next few years, the PJG plans to begin offering beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels, twice a year, with the hope that participants will attend all three seminars over a several-year period. “I know the complexity, the challenges,” he says. Other attempts to teach this art have failed owing to cultural differences, he says. Traditional craftsman that he is, he plans to be “slow, deliberate, and careful” about the program, learning from trial and error, and getting it right.

Apply for the 2018 seminars, July 19–30 (intermediate level) and September 20–27 (beginner level), at

Kyna Rubin is a freelance writer in Portland, Oregon.

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