The Kubota Garden

Foundation Newsletter

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Volume 16, Number 1
Spring/Summer 2006

The Mission of the Foundation: The Kubota Garden Foundation is a non-profit corporation established to support, enhance, and perpetuate the Kubota Garden within the spirit and vision of Fujitaro Kubota.

From Our President:

Throughout the Puget Sound region, we’ve been experiencing some unusual and unwelcome weather over the past few weeks--storms have brought unseasonably cold temperatures, strong winds, lots of rain and snow, and even hail!  However, if the past is any guide, once April rolls around, we will have forgotten all those storms and their discomforts and find ourselves in the midst of a burgeoning Spring.

And if it’s April, it’s time to start planning for our Spring Plant Sale on May 13 by checking to see which plants in your garden need to be divided. When the time is right, you can prepare those "babies" for the plant sale, either in individual pots or in a plastic bag.  Just let Rusty Llewellyn know so we can arrange for nursery volunteers to put them in pots. This is our biggest fundraiser of the year and it’s important to have a wide variety from our extended community.  Most all of your garden plants are welcome!

A new honor has been bestowed upon our treasured garden-- in conjunction with the Seattle Department of Parks and Recreation, Plant Amnesty has designated Kubota Garden as a "Heritage Tree Collection!"  Please join the Board and some special guests as we enjoy a Heritage Tree Celebration at the Garden at 11 on Saturday, April 15.

It is an indisputable fact that the lifeblood of every non-profit organization is its volunteers.  The Kubota Garden Foundation has been fortunate to have attracted and retained a group of stalwart and dedicated folk who have generously donated their resources (time AND dollar$) to our efforts since our beginnings back in the mid-1980s.  As president of KGF, I’m concerned that some of those who have participated the most may be approaching burnout and could wind up just drifting away from us.  If you have supported the Garden in the past with your dollar$ but not your time, please consider pitching in to help out whether it’s pulling weeds and clearing out brush or stepping up to help with fund raising or publicity or a plethora of other tasks that need doing to keep us afloat!

Our biggest project for 2006 will be extending the wall from the entry gate past the parking lot.  This effort is instrumental in transforming entering the Garden from a merely pleasant experience to one of stepping into an oasis far from the noise and tumult of urban life, especially that of vehicular traffic.

 Wishing you a walk in our Garden, the hidden treasure of southeast Seattle.

Zee Straight-Weiss, President

The Gardener's Report:
What a winter!  The threats of severe cold turned out to be just that.  I suppose I should sit down and look through my old records some time but it doesn't seem like we have had a winter that caused significant cold damage in over a dozen years.  I keep telling people that it will happen some day so don't get too complacent in your appreciation of this wonderful garden.

 In my last report I spoke of the "boring" area above the dry stream area that leads into the Spring Pond.  Our Sound Transit stones are placed on the first section of this hillside and an irrigation system is currently being installed thanks to funding from the Foundation.  Our next project in this area is where it gets very exciting.  Much of the plant donation from Gordon Mulder will be used in this area to create a garden of dwarf conifers.  I've secured a number of very special specimens from a variety of sources that should be planted this March.  Walking through the Kubota Garden one sees a large number of dwarf conifers so this is very much in keeping with plantings that commonly were used in their landscapes.  This is certainly one of the distinguishing characteristics that immediately identify a Kubota landscape to me.  We will get about half the project done this year with more for the future.

 Another small project we carried out this winter is improving the trail just behind the Japanese Garden.  This small unnamed trail gives a visitor a wonderful view of the back side of a large grove of Camellias as well a nice walk beside our only Kalmia.  You can find this trail by walking around the entire Japanese Garden looking for a small branch on the uphill side of the Pond.

  Don Brooks, Senior Gardener

New Plants for Kubota Garden!
Don mentions in his article that the bare hillside above the Spring Pond will soon be planted with a collection of dwarf conifers and flowering shrubs thanks to  a gift from Gordon Mulder.  Gordon is a long time "hands on" helper in the nursery and Plant Sale and he called Don this winter and asked if the garden could use some more plants.  Gordon had in mind the largest donation ever received by the foundation. Don realized that the bare hillside not covered by the ProParks budget could be planted much sooner than he had ever hoped.   Gordon's gift will also allow purchase of several good sized specimen trees for other areas.

This gift is deeply appreciated for several reasons.  The new plants will enhance a large area near to the garden entry; first impressions are important even for a garden.  The size of the gift allows the purchase of special trees and shrubs of size and interest.  The planting can be done now  so the results will be enjoyable now.  Visitors will see new trees all over the garden.  Finally, the unexpected nature of the gift encourages all the foundation workers to keep everlastingly at it, to keep working to improve the garden and to know that Kubota Garden has good friends.  Thank you, Gordon! 

 Mary Anne Parmeter

 The Kubota Garden Cook Book Report:
Your committee: Linda Fricke, Phyllis Grant, Gwenda Llewellyn, Susan Roberts and Jacquinot Weisenbach have been busy collecting recipes and sponsors, preparing recipes for printing, and reviewing pictures of Kubota Garden. 

 The book will be a lovely garden souvenir as well as a useful cookbook.  Your August newsletter will have pre-publishing order forms and prices.  The book will be available for pickup or purchase at our September 9 Plant Sale and Annual Meeting.

Many thanks to all our recipe donors.  Some folks sent in multiple recipes.  The committee is grateful for these because it gives us an expanded choice for our categories.  Unfortunately, individual contributors are limited to only five entries; makes some tough choices for your committee.

 It is not too late to donate a recipe or to become a sponsor.  Please print or type your recipe and send it to Jean Hobart, 100 Williams Avenue North, Renton, WA 98055.  Sponsor donations help us offset the publishing costs, thus freeing up more of the proceeds for the garden.  Send your checks made out to the foundation to the above address, marked "Cookbook donation".   Sponsors will be acknowledged in the cookbook.

 Jean Hobart, Chair, Cookbook Committee

To Extend the Wall:
The foundation's newest board member, Bob Weisenbach, is leading the effort to put the wall on top of the underground footings just south of the Entry Wall.   Completion of this section of wall will frame the garden as seen from the parking lot and will increase the sense of seclusion in the garden itself. The 140 foot extension is presently decorated by extraordinarily attractive yellow markers and exudes a slight sense of alarm.

Bob is an architect and has developed the list of required materials, a development process, and a plan to  seek donations of materials.  The wall will require concrete blocks, rebar, steel posts, stucco, wood and sheet metal shingles for the roof.  All members of the foundation are requested to think about whether they can provide any of these materials or recommend other sources.  Donations of labor to erect the concrete blocks, apply stucco, fabricate the wooden roof structures and apply the shingles are also sought. The membership is further encouraged to donate funds to this new garden project.  As the project develops there may be a role for volunteer labor and the membership will be notified.  Please call the foundation’s voice mail at 206 725-5060 if you have information or donations.

The board is extremely pleased to have Bob’s energy and abilities directed toward the wall project.  It’s the next new thing at the garden!


Heritage Tree Collection:  A Celebration of Eminent Trees at Kubota Garden, Saturday, April 15, 11 a.m.
One of our favorite non-profit organizations Plant Amnesty, (dedicated to stop the torture and mutilation of trees and shrubs in Seattle, King County, the USA, and the larger world) sponsors a program with the City of Seattle to recognize truly wondrous trees in our community.  Almost 30 have been recognized in the city and show off plaques to the general public and certificates of merit to their human near and dear.  Tree lovers nominate the objects of their affection to the city via a handy form on the city's web site.

The Kubota Garden Guides nominated the Grand Fir and a group of tree experts and arborists duly visited the garden to see if it were up to snuff.  The garden vamped them and the arborists decided that Kubota Garden is home to so many splendid trees that they decided to recognize the entire tree collection as a Heritage Tree Collection of the City of Seattle.  Only the Arboretum and Volunteer Park have been so honored.

State Senator Ken Jacobsen, friend of birds and trees, and Arthur Lee Jacobson, author of Trees of Seattle and Pied Piper for all Green Growing Things, will join Cass Turnbull of Plant Amnesty to confer this honor upon Kubota Garden on Saturday, April 15 at 11 a.m. There will be sparkling cider and cookies, tall hats, festoons, and a procession to seven eminent trees, selected after hours of enjoyable discussion by garden guides. 

This is a public celebration so bring your friends, enjoy some scintillating company, celebrate the garden, get started with spring, and meet some fascinating plants up close and personal.  Have you ever met the Fera Feras?

 Mary Anne Parmeter

The Spring Plant Sale--May 13,  9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
In 2006 the Spring Plant Sale will be a week later than usual but still on Saturday and still offering wonderful bargains and company.  This year bonsai pots will be among the unexpected treasures for sale.  The usual plant sources will provide horticultural gems for the smart buyer.           

Volunteers will be working to assemble the sale starting May 1, working at the nursery from 9 a.m. to noon.  Please leave a message for Chairperson Rusty Llewellyn at the foundation’s voice mail number, 206 725-5060, if you would like to help in the preparation or at the sale. Volunteers may buy 3 plants during the work parties two days before the sale as a thank you from the garden.

Donations of plants can be left at the nursery.  Put the plants in a plastic bag and include a note with your name and the name of the plant.  We will pot them up and, if not suitable for this sale, they will be kept for another sale.  

Interesting plant behavior: Last year the foundation did not sell our Blue Fountain bamboo, Fargesia nitida ‘Blue Fountain’, because it was rumored to be flowering and seeding.  When a bamboo seeds the plant dies shortly thereafter.  Sure enough, the Blue Fountain at the nursery has set beautiful heads of seed.  Blue Fountain bamboo poles will be available at the Plant Sale for decorative use.

Why are all those people walking around?
On May 13, the day of the Plant Sale, Kubota Garden will be part of a 11 kilometer (6.8 miles) volkswalk through the Rainier Beach neighborhood.  Walkers will start at the Rainier Beach United Methodist Church at 5500 S. Roxbury, visit Kubota Garden, Pritchard Island Beach and Dead Horse Canyon. The event starts from 8 A.M. to 1 P.M. and ends at 4 P.M. back at the church.  Pre-registration is not required.  Credit costs $3 but free participants are welcome. All must register, carry and return a start card. The route will be marked with signs and participants are guided by a printed direction sheet. 

 Volkssports sponsors noncompetitive events such as walking or biking a pre-marked course, in all seasons, and a great variety of locales. More information is available at 

2006 Garden Tours:
The “Drop In” Public Tours on Fourth Saturdays will begin in April and continue through October.  The 2006 dates are:  April 22, May 27, June 24, July 22, August 26, September 23 and October 28.  All start at 10 in the parking lot and take about 90 minutes.

Private tours for eight or more may be arranged by calling the office at 206 725-5060 and leaving a voice mail message. Three weeks notice is requested.  The tour scheduler will return your call.

2005 Reports

 Adopt-A-Park Work Parties Maintain Momentum through 2005
The 2005 year brought bright new faces to join our dedicated core group of volunteers. It was fun guessing which of the friendly and skilled staff would work with us each month, for Marcia, Giles, and Don are all wonderful teachers.

 We began and ended the AAP season with a waxing and buffing of the gorgeous bronze gate, and, as a spring “cleaning” activity, gave a thorough preservative treatment to the fir log posts at the gatehouse as well as the others around the entry area. Afterward, the garden’s grand entrance was fit for presenting to royalty.

During the year, we were involved in quite a variety of garden activities. Along with weeding invasives and non-invasives both on the gravel paths and in the beds, we lay weed barrier and thick compost around plants, we deadheaded Rhododendrons, we spruced up disease-ridden Blue Atlas Cedars, and we potted maple and other seedlings found primarily around the Stroll Garden. Because our volunteers braved heat and cold, and both sun and rain early Saturday mornings, treats of fruit and pastry with restful socializing were enjoyable additions to our work parties. We would leave the garden feeling accomplished with the improvements we’ve made that day.

I’d like to thank all of the volunteers who helped during the seven 2005 work parties, and hope to see them again next year: Adriane Ralston, Ben Ralston, Dylan Okimoto, Jean Bragassa, Jen Rezmer, Kay Bowen, Linda Dupuis-Fricke, Wayne Fricke, Michael Breuner, Gerard Tsutakawa, Anne Avery, Ellie Aaman, John Hagen, Mary Cider, Jean Hobart, Richard Knights, Mia O’Neal, Haven Wakeling, Ms. Rossen, Gwen Bowen, Karen Sternal, Steve Erickson, Cheryl Lawrence, Lisa Irwin, Margaret Schroeter, Bert Boken, Mike Bertoglio, and anyone else who had kindly joined us but had forgotten to sign the attendance list.

 I look forward to another year of fun and beneficial work parties in the magnificent garden along with many familiar faces and, hopefully, plenty of unfamiliar faces as well. Round up some friends and stop by sometime; you’ll be glad you did!  The 2006 dates are Saturdays: April 15, May 20, June 17, July 15, August 19, September 16, and October 14.  We work from 8 Am to noon.  Tools and treats provided.

 Alison Snow

2005 Tour Report:
We had 36 scheduled tours and a lovely bunch of folks they were too: elementary school classes, church groups, garden clubs, family groups. Word seems to be spreading that we are ADA accessible because we had an increased number of senior groups.  Mary Anne Parmeter led the public tours and was amazed to have 41 visitors for the August tour.  The Pro Parks improvements have definitely increased garden visits.

Many thanks to our garden guides Linda Fricke, Lois Griswold, Rusty Llewellyn, Mary Ellen Mulder, Dorothy Murphy, Mary Anne Parmeter, Clark Puckett, Katie Tamada, Joe Toynbee, Corinne Thwing and Ann Wiltse.  As good will ambassadors for the garden they do a wonderful job.

 Jean Hobart, Guide and Tour Scheduler

The 2005 Annual Meeting and Fall Plant Sales:
September 10, 2005 hosted the Fall Plant Sale and the Annual Meeting of the foundation.  Unfortunately, the first half of the day was very wet and cold and a vigorous test of the dedication of our volunteers and the customers.  The sale grossed $7,318 but many plants remained in the nursery after the gusty and wet day.  On October 8, thanks to the determination and vision of Jean Hobert, another sale was held in more pleasant weather.  This sale grossed $2,262.  Because fall sale expenses were very low, the garden kept most of the proceeds.

The afternoon of September 10 offered much better weather for the Annual Meeting.  Bento lunch and taiko drumming were enjoyed by all.  Councilman Tom Rassmussen attended and recalled his participation in the city’s efforts to acquire the garden in the mid 1980’s.  He has donated to the foundation a beautiful black and white photograph taken by the Seattle Times of Tom Kubota pondering the fate of the garden at that time.

Have you seen them?
Some 15 white cloth tablecloths used at the Annual Meeting are missing.  Phone calls to the various event workers have not helped so this is a call out to all who attended the meeting.  Do you remember anything about what happened to the cloths at the end of the meeting?  Please call the foundation’s office at 206 725-5060 and leave a message about what you remember.  Thank you. 

The Bloedel Tour Guide Exchange:
Our tour guides and gardeners were treated to a special tour on October 11th, 2005 at Bloedel Reserve on Bainbridge Island. It was a beautiful sunny fall day!  The garden was closed except for our group. This was an exchange for the Bloedel group visit to Kubota Garden in June. Thanks to Jean Hobart who organized this reciprocal tour. Mary Anne Parmeter and Ann Wilse were the guides at Kubota Garden.

This time Andy, the head gardener at Bloedel, showed the Kubota Garden gardeners the highlights.  Richard Brown, Director and Kate Gormly, Administrator shared with our group of guides their stories about Bloedel. They were good stories! We learned for example about free deer pruning invasive plants to the ground and other low cost ideas. At Bloedel they have a similar philosophy to Kubota Garden. The Bloedel group has no plant labeling, believing in the importance of the experience over species identification.

As we toured we experienced how the emotional experience ramps up slowly through the pasture land. There is a "his side" and a "her’s side" to the Reserve. Mr. Bloedel's barn was moved, however Mrs. Bloedel's remains. The barns were a structural symbol of this arrangement. There are 150 acres total and most of his half is woodland, her half is carefully crafted gardens. Our Kubota Gardeners were our drivers. Our compliments to Seattle Parks for providing the vans!

 Linda Dupuis Fricke

Arborist Volunteers:
On December 9, 2005,  twelve arborists recruited by Plant Amnesty donated a day of work to Kubota Garden.  They worked high in the trees around the entry area removing the dead, diseased, or demented limbs that weakened the health of the trees.  Four members of the foundation provided a hot lunch for all and thanked the arborists for their specialized climbing and pruning.

Treasures: Pots among the Plants
Remember when you were a kid finding your Easter basket and more surprises throughout the house and yard?  Delightful? Yes!  Fun? Yes!

That is exactly how a crew of KGF volunteers, Gwenda Llewellyn, Rusty Llewellyn, Mary Anne Parmeter and Jean Hobart felt one cool October morning.  Responding to a call from Senior Gardener Don Brooks, the group arrived at the garden and found treasure.

Carefully laid out along the rows of plants were dozens and dozens of bonsai pots.  Dozens.  Ranging from one inch pots to yard wide trays, they presented an astounding and beautiful sight.  The pots are generally small, all shapes, many colors and varying proportions.

This wonderful collection was donated to the foundation by Dr. J. Michael Egglin who has moved to a retirement facility.  He called Don who gathered up his gardeners and transported all the pots to the nursery where the foundation volunteers arranged them safely for the winter.  All will be available for sale at the Spring Plant Sale on May 13..

 Jean Hobart

Remembering Maida Miller
Our good friend and supporter died in Stanwood, WA on February 18, 2006, aged eighty-seven.  She is fondly remembered for her good humor and her graciousness.  She and her husband, Harry, were founding members of the foundation and were very active in all aspects of its growth in the early years. For many years she managed the members’ ticket table at the Annual Meeting. 

It was Maida’s idea that the Rainier View Community Club donate their building to the foundation when the Community Club was closing down.  Legend has it that she was peeling potatoes for dinner one night when the idea came to her.  The foundation will be forever grateful to her and the Community Club for their donation.  Having an office has been of tremendous help in our work for Kubota Garden.     

Graveside services were held at Riverview Cemetery and a  memorial service was held at the Warm Spring Senior Community.  Remembrances may be made to the Senior Community, 20420 Marine Drive, Stanwood or to the Rainier Beach United Methodist Church in Seattle.

Member’s Corner

Tour Scheduler Needed:
Jean Hobart has served as Garden Tour Scheduler for several years and would like to change jobs. The scheduler receives the requests for tours, contacts the requester to verify details and then calls the guides to assign a tour guide to that particular tour.  The scheduler mails a tour report form to the tour guide as a reminder and the report is returned to the scheduler by mail.  The scheduler needs to have voice mail through QWEST because that allows for a convenient transfer of the original call directly to the scheduler.  Last year Jean scheduled 36 garden tours. If you would like to help the garden from home and talk to some very agreeable people, leave your name at the foundation’s voice mail (206 725-5060) and Jean will call you.

Office Grounds Clean Up:
Joe Toynbee will lead a spring “Clean up the Grounds” work party at the office on April  5, starting at 1 p.m.  The office is located at 10915 51 Avenue South and needs weeding and pruning and seasonal cleanup.

Book Review of Traditions in Translation: the Gardens of Fujitaro Kubota by Thomas M. Robinson
Thesis for a Masters in Landscape Architecture at the University of Washington, 1992.

Tom Robinson’s objective is to investigate the relationship between the gardens of Fujitaro Kubota in the Puget Sound Region and the traditional gardens of Japan.

The United States have a different cultural context than Japan.  Our way is to be upfront, putting all the cards on the table, all at once.  While we equate this directness with honesty, they consider such an attitude to be over simplified and inconsiderate of human feelings.  The “indirect” approach favored in Japanese culture introduces us to Japanese concepts in garden design.  In the Japanese garden the view is always incomplete.  The eastern mode is experimental and intuitive. What you fill in with your imagination is as important as what you actually see.           

In Japan itself mountains cover about 75% of the land area and earthquakes and volcanoes have changed the landscape.  Mountains can have slopes of 30 degrees but most reach only 1500 feet above sea level.  The rivers in Japan are short, torrential and fall quickly into the sea.  Kubota’s home island, Shikoku, is hot and humid.  Mist and haze are frequent and shroud the landscape with a mystical quality.  The yearly rainfall is 60 inches with a mean temperature in January of 45 degrees and in August of 81 degrees.  Seventy percent of the people of Japan live within 24 miles of the coast.  There the pine trees, clinging to the cliffs and bent by the wind, express the struggle for life and the enduring spirit of the country.

A walled garden creates an inner world for the visitor.  It creates an illusion of larger space and symbolizes a sanctified world, a purified space.  Moon viewing parties take place in mid summer by the ponds at night.  Kubota Garden has a Moon Bridge and a moon viewing platform.  Mountains are for viewing, for painting, and for poetry.  Gardens are designed to appeal to all the senses: the wind chimes in the trees and the rustle of water over stones give a cooling effect.

In Japan a garden maker is revered as a person of wisdom and power. Shintoism and Buddhism are practiced side by side.  Dating back to the mythology of ancient Japan upright stones (the crane) and rounded stones (the turtle) represent energy and repose, age and wisdom.  Gardens are considered to be close to nature, a sacred area, a refuge. Tom Robinson talks about the “Seven Common Threads” of Japanese gardens

  • Japanese gardens present a vision of ideal nature, harmony of man and nature, order, balance, an expression of the inner spirit of nature. The goal is to improve nature, not just to copy it.
  • Gardens are to provide a pleasing experience for all the senses: sound, scent, color, movement etc.

  • China and Korea achieve through symmetry.  Japan prefers to design with asymmetrical balance and use of the diagonal and the irregular; light and dark, ying and yang.

  • Japanese design prefers the indirect approach, to create a visual music.

The thesis contains 11 chapters, several treating individual gardens designed by Fujitaro Kubota.  The bibliography includes 96 titles, one being an article by Senior Gardener Don Brooks “Recycling, a Garden Tradition.”

Robinson concludes that “Kubota Garden is a unique gift to the people of the Puget Sound region and to design professionals throughout the world.”

Notes by Juno Lois Griswold, Kubota Garden Guide

www. kubota. org

Kubota Garden Foundation Newsletter

spring/summer 2006