Homeowners Dr. Chandler and Jane Paris Smith have long had an appreciation for Japanese gardens. So when they decided to bring the beautiful elements of the Orient to their own property in Vestavia Hills, they turned to landscape artists Max Garcia and David Swindal of GartenFest.
Situated on three acres with natural rock outcroppings, old growth hardwoods, and towering pine trees, the land had the ideal foundations for the garden. As with all of their projects, Max and David worked with the property’s natural topography in a way that allowed the garden to evolve without a drawing or even a specific plan. Because of this, every garden is a one-of-a-kind creation.
To anchor the Japanese garden, Max and David incorporated a tea house, an iconic symbol of the Orient. The house is framed by a Japanese architectural element known as a moon gate that serves as a pedestrian passageway. While traditional Japanese plantings surround the beautiful structures, the designers also incorporated unexpected varieties such as camellias and French hydrangeas to ensure colorful blooms year-round. To connect all of the garden elements, they added a serpentine stone path that winds throughout the space, bringing harmony and balance to the overall scheme.
What is a Japanese Tea House?
Tea houses are built with the sole purpose of holding tea ceremonies. The houses were first introduced in Japan during the Sengoku period (c. 1467-c. 1573), a time when the central government had little power and wars were commonplace. The structures were built mostly by Zen monks and served as a place of escape for those seeking tranquility away from the chaos. Such simplicity and solitude has continued to be the motivation behind tea houses of today.
A traditional Japanese tea house is surrounded by a small garden, often featuring a water pool and a path, or roji, that leads to the house. One doorway serves as both the entrance and exit, symbolically separating the quiet inside from the crowded outside world. There is no furniture in the house, and guests must kneel to enter, all in an effort to encourage humility and simplicity.
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