Japanese Black Soil and Hexagon Garden – Seeing The Beauty of Dirt

I was struck by this garden when I first saw it.  I thought, “that will be nice once it is all planted up”. But then I translated the description and realized that this is a completed garden and that this Japanese style garden is designed to highlight the beauty of black soil.

japanese garden - Black soil and hexagon garden by n-tree www.n-tree.jp via www.pithandvigor.com

The description goes on to say (near as I can tell – google translate has its limitations) that the water feature is like the nearby ocean, with its wet soil and puddles. japanese garden - Black soil and hexagon garden by n-tree www.n-tree.jp via www.pithandvigor.com

This of course has me thinking about the maintenance of such a place.  I wonder if the constant tidying required to keep the dirt clean and clear is more or less than the effort required to maintain a lawn.

I suspect more.

Which I also suspect is at least partially the point.  To be meticulous in the grooming of the earth can be meditative and calming. japanese garden - Black soil and hexagon garden by n-tree www.n-tree.jp via www.pithandvigor.com

The more I look at it, the more I like it.

As I researched the  Japanese ‘bare earth’ idea I came across a reference to a practice of “swept lawns” (done with a homemade broom of dogwood branches).  It is a dying tradition of African-American gardeners in the Southern USA (particularly in GA).  Swept yards are thought to originate in tradition from West African ancestors and the practice, when done well and over time, leaves nothing – not even grass – only bare clay dirt, which in all practical senses becomes an outdoor room on a home that often is small and hot inside.

japanese garden - Black soil and hexagon garden by n-tree www.n-tree.jp via www.pithandvigor.com

Here in jungle-prone New England, my muscles hurt just thinking about how long I’d have to sweep in order to keep and maintain a bare patch of earth.  But I’m actually craving the idea and I am not sure if it is because I think it will bring me some great peace, or if maybe I am just struck by the novelty.  Or, I am drawn to preserving its unique traditions from multiple areas of the world, or probably I am drawn to those things that will be near impossible to have.

The Black Soil and Hexagon Garden was designed by N-tree – visit their portfolio to see more images of this project.

images by N-tree

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About Rochelle Greayer

Hi, I'm Rochelle and for 18 years I have worked as a landscape designer, author/writer, and design teacher. I've designed residential and hospitality (for hotels, restaurants, and spas) gardens across the USA and in the UK, Europe and the Middle East. After many years of teaching garden design topics in person, I launched the PITH + VIGOR Boot Camp series in early 2018. Through my blog, social media, and online courses (Garden Design Bootcamp and Planting Design Boot Camp) I aim to help homeowners learn how to confidently design and create home gardens that reflect their own personal and unique style.
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  1. GrassTiger on November 12, 2015 at 2:12 pm

    This is a brilliant project, but when it comes to smaller spaces it may become a little bit overhelming, isn’t it? (It is about soil and dirt – not for everyone’s taste). Apart from that – really nice job, N-tree.

  2. Matt on December 10, 2015 at 11:57 am

    What a fascinating garden. It looks so peaceful and calming. We are so used to very crowded and overfilled spaces, I think it’s refreshing to see a garden of this type. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Sit on grass mower on May 30, 2016 at 4:42 am

    Inspired from these pics. I love gardening and currently I am working hard to grow my garden and make it beautiful. Any ideas or tips from you will be appreciated. Agree with Matts. It is really peaceful.

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