Friday, November 16, 2012

Special events: Japanese landscape & culture

Katsuhito Nakasone hosting a Traditional Japanese Tea Gathering in 2009
Photo by Jon Gardiner/Duke Photography

Visitors to Duke Gardens can learn a lot about Japanese culture and horticulture by strolling through the W.L. Culberson Asiatic Arboretum or attending a Japanese Tea Gathering.

Beginning later this month month, you can learn even more, in a variety of workshops featuring Katsuhito Nakasone, a visiting landscape architect from Toyama, Japan, Durham’s sister city.
In “The Japanese Tradition of Tea,” a lecture on Nov. 28 from 6:30-8 p.m., Nakasone will draw from his own experience designing and building his family’s teahouse and the surrounding garden. He and Nancy Hamilton, coordinator of Japanese cultural events at Duke Gardens, will draw parallels to the Duke Gardens teahouse and tea garden in the Japanese Pavilion and discuss the transformative
nature of the tea experience.

The following morning at 10:45 a.m., Nakasone will host a traditional Japanese Tea Gathering. Guests to this intimate event will experience the rich tradition and warm atmosphere of the tearoom as Nakasone presents tea and shares his unique perspective. He will also bring his favorite blend of tea, as well as sweets from Toyama for all to enjoy a taste of tea from afar.

A sodegaki workshop will follow on Friday, Nov. 30, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. The Japanese style of garden design has many strategies that help a visitor focus on detail, shift their perspective and begin to feel connected to nature. A beautiful bamboo screen is one such strategy. Called sodegaki, or sleeve screen, the screens are often intricate and patterned with a variety of joining, fitting and tying techniques.

Examples of sodegaki. Photos by Paul Jones.

Nakasone will work with Masashi (Mike) Oshita, of Japanese Garden Service in Asheville, will create a sodegaki during the workshop, so attendees can learn the techniques to build their own.  The workshop will conclude on site in the Japanese Garden with the placement of the new screen.

Designing new moss and maple grove garden is the focus of the final workshop, on Tuesday, Dec. 4, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Participants will observe a team of designers as they discuss, evaluate and finalize selections of specific trees, moss selection and placement, and tree-pruning strategies for a new garden. The team will comprise Nakasone, Oshita, Asiatic Arboretum curator Paul Jones, Portland Japanese Garden curator Sadafumi Uchiyama and stone mason Brooks Burleson.

The design choices for boulder placement and pathway development will be defined before the workshop but discussed with participants. Over the course of the five hours, participants will see the new garden design emerge in the arboretum, hear about garden preparation techniques and sourcing information, and be encouraged to discuss alternative solutions. Burleson will also demonstrate his technique for building the stone path. 

The workshop will conclude with a complete layout and finalizing of plans for installation. The workshop location will be indoors and out, adjusting with weather conditions.

Preregistration is required for all of these workshops and the tea. If you would like to register or have questions, please call our registrar at 919-668-1707 or email For more information about Gardens workshops, please go to We look forward Nakasone’s visit, and to seeing how the expertise and artistry he so generously shares will enhance the Asiatic Arboretum for all.

Sarah P. Duke Gardens creates and nurtures an environment in the heart of Duke University for learning, inspiration and enjoyment through excellence in horticulture. The Gardens is at 420 Anderson St.

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