The Reinvention of a Tsukubai Garden

Nestled in the East Falls neighbourhood of Philadelphia lies a charming Japanese-style garden inspired by the Tsukubai. The tranquil ambiance and meticulous attention to detail inspire all passersby who venture to look beyond the fence. As you sit on the back porch, you feel a sense of peace and transcendence, leaving the stresses of everyday life behind, inspiring you to find your own moments of tranquility in the midst of chaos.

20 years ago, my client built a Tsukubai garden with a friend – a Japanese-style garden with a stone wall and bamboo.  The garden was like a relic and when Garden InSites came on board, the Tsukubai still remained, along with bamboo and a deteriorating stone wall and fence.  We wanted to keep the nostalgia and the Japanese feel so we kept the Tsukubai and 2-1/2 years later a mature garden lives and continues to inspire my client and passers by.

Every decision to make a change to the existing garden was taken with care. There was a giant Catalpa tree, majestic but very messy, dropping blooms, seed pods, and large leaves at the main entrance to the home. We decided to remove the tree and promised to plant trees more appropriate to the space. We planted Japanese conifers and a maple; the Magnolia virginiana is native and was chosen because the leaf texture resembles bamboo.

Our fearless mason, John, had access to granite from an old, overgrown quarry. He devised a crane on the back of his truck to move the stones in place. Together, we created a stone ridge for the garden.

Stonework taking shape Summer 2021

We removed bamboo in several rounds of digging. The builders of the new wall and gate are Jim Gorman and his crew.

Our garden, which is in full sun, is planted with dwarf conifers and azaleas and thyme acts as ground cover to resemble moss. During springtime, small species tulips bloom in intervals with waves of white, orange, and yellow.

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