About Me

My photo
Just a meandering soul sharing my backyard. Visit my Flickr page too! www.flickr.com/photos/meanderingwa/

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Kubota Gardens

I woke up this morning at very dark'o-clock listening to the rain torrenting off the roof past clogged gutters. The first deluge of the Fall is here.

I pondered what I would do this day. Being in bed, listening to the rain is a cozy thing. I spent Friday night with my sisters and together it pretty much gave me the feeling of wanting to feel "home". To me that means my childhood neighborhood in Rainier Beach. I knew at this season, on a gritty rainy day I needed to see Kubota Gardens. http://www.kubota.org/

Entry gate by Gerard Tsutakawa, son of sculptor George Tsutakawa. The representation of the sunrise is a nod to the tradition of honoring the Sun Goddess, Amaterasu.

Fujitaro Kubota was born in Kochi Prefecture in Shikoku Island, Japan in 1879. He came to America in 1907 and established his home. In 1927 he acquired the land that the garden sits on and studied landscaping. He and his son Tom worked the land and were key figures in the Seattle garden and landscape industry. The family was interred in Mindoka, Idaho while Tom served in Army Intelligence. The garden was completed in 1962 but remained a private place, not open to the public. I can remember walking past and wondering what it was like inside. I do remember getting one opportunity to enter with a school group. It was Toms wish that the future provide for the elders and other citizens who could not climb "the Mountainside". Since then, a flat garden was established with plenty of benches for sitting.

In 1987 the city of Seattle acquired the garden and the land is protected and cared for by the Kubota Garden Foundation. They offer tours for groups as well as on a drop in basis on the fourth Saturday every month at 10 am, April through October. There is a chance for one tour at the end of this month.

I wandered about. Trails and paths lead here and there. Few signs or markers point the way, one must explore. Small paths no more that a person wide take you into and out of groves.

Stone steps are well placed. Several creeks and waterfalls cross the property and with last nights rain they were running swift and muddy.

I saw the genius of Mr Kubotas work. It was as if he knew exactly how to plan this garden so that 50 years from now, "Marti will appreciate this wonder, or that vantage point". Every plant and tree looks like it was planned to be just so. But, at the same time, nothing looks manipulated or structured.

The Moon Bridge is a focal point of the water complex. It symbolizes the difficulty of living a good life. A steep rounded pitch "Hard to walk up and hard to walk down".

Maples and conifers of every kind dominate the landscape. I cannot begin to identify the international encyclopedia of plants. I assume most of them are Japanese and Asian in origin. The garden paths show you wonderful views and hidden surprises. Small paths take you off to see something from a different advantage. The magic of such a place is in what you choose to see, both in close detail and in the broadest sense.

The colors were starting but I am sure that in a few more weeks the full effect of all the Maples changing will be stunning. Robins flew about in noisy flocks. They are feeding on Ash and other berries. No doubt most of them are pretty gorged on fruit. As the Fall progresses and the fruits age on the trees and plants they start to ferment. It is not unusual to see Robins drunkenly hanging on branches, floppy and drunk.

A Yew species and berries. It is from the bark of this Genus that Taxol was discovered.

I drove home past my childhood home . I marveled, once again, how the city did such a great job at making the length of the blocks shorter and the hills less steep. I stopped in front of the house and could see that there is still at least one apple tree in back and it was filled with apples. Oh how I wish I was brave enough to go beg some of those apples from the current resident. I took the long way home via Seward Park and Rainier Valley, 23rd Ave to Montlake. So much has changed and so much remains the same.

I came home with well over 150 photos. It is hard to select favorites to share with you but here they are.
A variegated cedar

I wish the sky had been an easier backdrop for this twisted old tree.

Hydrangeas added a burst of color.

The Heart Bridge, crossing Mapes Creek, a replica of a traditional red bridge on Shikoku.

A cone of an unknown conifer. It was stout and solid, unlike many of our cones.

These bushes resembled a Laurel species and the blue berries with red twigs were dazzling. I feel like I have seen this plant in Belize or in Tikal, Guatamala.

It would be a wonderful experience to see this garden in snowfall.


  1. First of all, I think more people need to read and comment on your blog. Second: I wish I could print out this entire post, frame it and put it on my wall. Third: Your first paragraph reminded me of a wonderful book that I can't remember the name of. It was about Japanese immigrants to the NW in the 1800s. And it was really, really good.

  2. Gasp! Marti, you have outdone yourself. These pictures are breathtaking. I felt like I was walking in your shoes, along those pathways.

  3. Thank you Inger and Louise. It was the perfect day for such a walk. I need to get down here more often.

  4. I went to school with Al Kubota who took over from his father. After all those years of living in the 'hood, I've never been to the Gardens. I need to get there.

  5. Might be a chance for you Susan and Linda to get together!