with me as I create a Japanese Garden and
Spa in my own backyard from start to finish!
take you through the entire process: Show
you what inspired me, How I decided on my
final plan, Where I found materials, Any
problems I run into along the way and how
I work around them,
and the completed
Trust me when I say if I can
do this, so can you!
- JULY and AUGUST 2008
I have a problem
area on the westside of the yard and I've
been dreaming of a hot tub for years. I'm
taking the plunge (pardon the pun) and installing
a hot tub and creating a Japanese Garden.
I decided on the Japanese / Zen theme because
I've always found the architecture, designs,
and materials very calming. Perfect for
a backyard getaway with a spa.
area is approximately 35' by 28' and happily
fills with weeds as often as possible. It
ain't pretty. I started off with wanting
the spa furthest from the house for noise
considerations (there's a black square showing
the original location of the spa). You'll
see later on in my plans that I moved it
closer due to cost and safety concerns because
there's a two foot high wall right behind
the original location. Originally I thought
I wanted the entire area to be covered with
a deck. I used my hose to create an outline
of the area to give me and my family a better
idea of how it would look. The lawn chair
was brought in for contemplation. I immediately
started thinking about shade structures!
in mind I'm attempting to do this with a
very small budget. I go for the best quality
with the best price. Most Expensive isn't
always the best or the best way to go. And
if I can do it myself to save money, I will.
Have any idea how much a 35' x 28' deck
costs? A LOT!!!! If you can do it yourself,
go for it. I'm not allowed to use any powertools
except a sander for good reason, so
building it myself is out of the question.
So I started scrambling for a solution.
Then I started looking and you wouldn't
believe what I found! Here are links to
some incredible woodworkers' pictures of
Asian Inspired Decks, Patios, Pools, and
changed when I studied these new pictures
and then I found Mister
I can get a platform-style deck for a fraction
of the cost of a traditional deck! You can
order different sized decks and walkways
in different types of wood. I've chosed
the teak-type IPE. I think it has the perfect
look that I'm trying to achieve.
area has an odd slope to it since fill dirt
was brought in a long time ago when
a retaining wall was added. The area under
the spa and decking (to be explained momentarily)
needs to be fairly level. One day soon I'll
pick up an 8 foot board to start leveling
the area especially where the spa will go
(to be reused as a retaining wall or addition
to my new vegetable garden when I'm done
using it as a level).
a fair amount of research I decided to purchase
a spa from Colorado
These guys are awesome - super friendly
and informative! They give you the necessary
information about the materials spas and
pumps are made of. This is a big investment! Here
in Colorado where our temperatures can vary
up to 70 degrees in 24 hours, you want materials
that will last a long time. I chose a new
material for the shell that is thick and
most importantly for the klutz in me, it's
slightly textured making it less slippery!)
and the color choice was handled for me
- it only comes in white. Colorado Custom
Spas has a
Shoji style gazebo! I had to get it! It's
going to pull my visioin of a Japanese Spa
and Garden together perfectly! So the spa
is ordered with an arrival date of 3-5 weeks.
I'm making a frame of treated 4x4's that
will be filled with compacted gravel for
the spa to sit in, and the gazebo to sit
on. I need to ask one of my neighbors to
use their power tools to trim 2 pieces of
the wood though. I could have had the wood
cut at the lumberyard, but I didn't have
my measurements with me when I purchased
the wood (silly me!)
also working on making fairly level areas
mostly for the spa location, but also for
the 2 decks. There's a gutter overflow issue
at the far side of the yard that will require
a french drain to be created, and since
I want to put in some sort of storage shed
along that fence, I will also divert the
downspout water in buried tubing so the
water will go where I want it to! Sounds
difficult, but it really isn't.
electrician has been contacted and I'll
be ordering the deck and walkways from Mister
Boardwalk early next week.
I talked to them on the phone recently because
I was concerned I wouldn't be able to physically
handle the shipment of decks and walkways,
but the packaged weight is workable for
two people to move.
also chose some rock because I found the
least expensive way to cover this large
an area is with gravel. I'll be leveling
a bit first, then one more treatment on
the weeds, cover the entire area with landscape
fabric, then cover that with Granite Chips.
I chose granite chips instead of pea gravel
for two reasons: 1) the pea gravel had a
slight pinkish color to it, and 2) pea gravel
will have a tendency to roll, whereas the
granite chips are less round so they'll
stay in place better on the slight slope from the foundation of the house. An added
bonus is that the granite chips are grey
- a nice neutral color that will highlight
the decks and spa even more!
I had to move the tree..... again! Poor
thing has been moved twice since the spring,
but it's a Sunburst Honey Locust and they're
18 - I learned something important this
week - Respect The SLOPE because slopes
can be deceiving! I laid out the frame of
4x4 timbers only to find the downslope timber
was actually above ground. I want this spa
and especially the gazebo to STAY PUT and
that means all timbers have to be at ground
level or slightly below. Honestly, I freaked
out a bit this past week trying to figure
out a solution. After a good night's rest
it came to me... I dug even deeper and stacked
2 timbers on the furthest downslope location
and bolted them together with sturdy metal
straps. I do not recommend using a screwdriver
for this task. If you don't have an electric
drill, Buy One! Creating the frame
this way will help support the weight of
the spa in one place so it doesn't shift
downward in the future. Also, once I get
that last timber cut to size, all of the
frame will be bolted together with "L"
brackets to give it overall stability and
prevent movement. Then the gazebo posts
will be attached to the frame using Post
Brackets. Overkill? Maybe. Do I feel confident
my spa and gazebo will stay in one place?
placed my order with Mister Boardwalk with
an arrival time of 7 - 10 business days
so I have a lot of work to do before everything
gets here. I sprayed the weeds a few days
ago, but they still look quite happy which
makes me not so happy. For a little instant
gratification for all my hard work thus
far, I splurged on a discounted Japanese
Lantern. It stands about 2 1/2 feet tall
making it the perfect entrance lantern.
I also got a little present for my poor
uprooted tree - I found 4 small 3x3 boards
and made a little framed basin for the tree.
Look for leftover timbers at your local
building supply store (I visit Sutherlands
because they're so nice there and the prices
are very reasonable). This tree frame cost
me 4 bucks. A friend of mine lent me the very
long level. This tool has been invaluable
while placing the framework for the spa
and finding the level for the deck areas.
Don't be afraid to ask neighbors, family,
friends if they have tools you can borrow
during projects, but return them ASAP in
the same condition you received it.
can sit in my yard now and "see"
how it will look when all the pieces are
in place. And I can think about plants I
want to move into this area. I'm so excited!!!
And sore... I really need a soak!
to Mid October - I've been really busy leveling
areas, laying down weed barrier, and moving
granite chips. The decks and walkways arrived
from Mr. Boardwalk and you are not going
to believe how awesome they look in person! My
pictures do not do them justice. They
were REALLY heavy, but with a little help
and ingenuity, I was able to move them into
place. The hardest pieces were the 6x6 decks
since they come as one piece and I believe
the ship weight was 115 pounds each. The
walkways are 8 feet long and the ship weight
on those was 55 pounds, which is workable
for me if I'm careful. And the 8x8 foot
deck actually came in 4 pieces which were
fairly easy to manuever.
see what else have I been doing.... Oh,
I dug 2 small channels for the downspouts
(one is buried down the side of the yard
to open up in an unused area, and the other
I made a dry river bed). And I made a bridge
for the wooden walkway to cross over the
dry river bed that takes you from the grass
to the Japanese Garden. I got 3 large pieces
of Pennsylvania Blue Stone to use as stepping
stones from the path to the smaller deck.
I enlarged my new vegetable garden and reused
my old broken trellis for my new grape vine
because I wanted to do something besides
move rock! I also met with the electrician
who will "hook me up" once the
spa arrives. And now I'm just waiting for
the spa to be installed so I can complete
moving the rest of the rock in place, take
a soak and a really deep breath, and put
the Shoji-type Gazebo together! (Ok, I'll
admit I'm a little afraid of THAT project!)
just scrolled down and looked at the samples
of traditional Japanese gardens I have below
and I realized something: It looks like
I'm creating a combination of all 3! Well,
except the moss... I love moss but I also
live in Colorado and am realistic! But then
again..... the location of the gazebo may
create some really nice north facing shade....
hmm, I wonder......
get new pictures up this weekend. I think
you'll like what you see!
DECEMBER- Sorry, it's been a while since
I've been able to get pictures taken. The
spa and gazebo arrived in October and it
was a very exciting day! My landscaping
got a little messed up with the installation,
and then I found a great storage shed that
took up a ton of time to get that settled
in, and now winter has hit hard so finishing
touches will have to wait until Spring.
But... take a look at the pictures now!
gazebo actually has sliding shoji windows
on each side and a skylight you can't see.
You can either keep them closed for privacy
or wind block, or open them for a view or
more ventilation. I added bamboo blinds
for a little added privacy, but it's amazing
how much wind those blinds can keep out!
And the blinds will be useful keeping the
direct sun out of the hot tub in the summer.
spa is simply amazing! It's HUGE with plenty
of room for 6 people comfortably. The jets
are strong and in wonderful positions. I
only wish I had a spa cover lift thingy...
but I'm not sure it would work with the
gazebo, so I've learned to leverage the
spa cover in a way so it's not too hard
to manuever by myself. And that's really
been the only drawback. Oh, and I added
some solar lights to guide along the zig
zag walkway, but I forgot when it snows
they don't work from lack of sunlight! doh!
I'll be looking into "real" lighting
in the spring. I'm also thinking about different
plants and shrubs to install in the spring,
too. Now there are two north facing (therefore
shaded) areas - this side of the spa and
in the distance you can see the storage
shed. Now THAT needs to be covered with
something nice and green! I really want
to see a mungo pine or some really awesome
Japanese spruce bonsai type tree back here,
but they cost so much....
found an inexpensive bamboo fence that I
want to install for just a bit more added
privacy, but I haven't decided exactly where
to put it yet. Initially I wanted to put
it along the dry river bed at the curve
of the entrance to the garden, but I love
the lantern so much I didn't want to block
it. I may install it further back into the
grass area. I haven't decided yet. Any suggestions?
I think it's easier to wait than to
install, move, install.... I've done that
enough this past summer already!
entire area that I landscaped actually ended
up being more like 50' x 35'. In brought
the granite chips all around the house on
the other side so it would flow into the
backyard. I went over budget, but I saved
tens of thousands of dollars by using the
walkways instead of a deck, shopping deals,
and doing so much of the work myself. Am
I exhausted and happy winter has hit??!!?!?
You betcha! But now I get to
sit back and relax in my new Japanese Retreat
and dream about the ways my garden will
original spa location and hose
outlines deck area.
the weird slope of the yard.
Inspired Drawing - not quite
Inspired Drawing with huge price
Drawing and Plan
outlines spa, two deck areas,
slope stability by bolting 2
accent at base of tree
Japanese Lantern for entrance
to spa area
Deck area in separate part of
barrier, rock, both decks, 2
walkways and bridge in place.
Waiting for the spa!
Boardwalk Walkway (teak-type)
Gazebo - Looks and feels like
a Japanese Tea House!
Custom Spa Installed!
There is more to an Asian garden than bonsai. The Five Elements of
Feng Shui can be used; Earth, Air, Fire, Water, and
Wood. It's not essential to have all five elements in your garden... It's
important to find
what is pleasing to you.
Are you looking for the green lushness of
moss and ferns or the pure simplicity of a Zen Garden, or maybe something in
you'll find something here to help you create your own sanctuary.
Take a stroll through The Japanese Garden and
Ponds, streams, hills, stones, trees, flowers, bridges and paths are used to
create a miniature reproduction of a natural scenery which is often a famous
landscape in China or Japan. The name Tsukiyama refers to the creation of
Tsukiyama gardens vary in size and in the way they are viewed. Smaller
gardens are usually enjoyed from a single viewpoint, such as the veranda of a temple, while many larger gardens are best
experienced by following a circular scrolling path.
Karesansui garden reproduces natural landscapes in a more abstract way by
using stones, gravel, sand and sometimes a few patches of moss for representing
mountains, islands, boats, seas and rivers. Karesansui gardens are strongly
influenced by Zen Buddhism and used for
gardens are built for the tea ceremony.
They contain a tea house where the actual ceremony is held and are designed in
aesthetic simplicity according to the concepts of Sado (tea ceremony).
The Chaniwa garden typically features stepping stones that lead toward the tea
house, stone lanterns and a stone basin with a bamboo water spout (tsukubai).
The purpose of the Tsukubai
is for guests to purify
themselves before participating in the tea ceremony.
Odoshi in Japan
Tsukubai - Bamboo