The garden of Elena Astashkina

 

The Japanese gardens in Russia

The area of the garden is 15 ares

The year of the beginning of its creation is 2004

As soon as I saw the photos of Elenas garden on the Internet a few years ago, I felt a bond between us. Having defined it as a Japanese one, I started reading an article. Could you imagine my surprise when I found out that Lena didnt think her garden was Japanese. However, she added that the Japanese philosophy is the basis of her garden. I couldnt agree with her. There might be a gazebo or rocks in the garden. Thats not the point. The image of the garden, the feelings it brings up, poetic melancholy, which I felt there, are of great importance.

The garden of Elena Astashkina

I was interested why Elena had decided to make a Japanese garden or, using her own definition, a garden based on the Japanese philosophy. Id like to quote Elenas answer here.

The words Japanese garden sounded fascinating to me. While studying at Moscow Architectural Institute, I bought a book Le Jardin Japonais. Unfortunately the book was in French, nevertheless, Ive read it from cover to cover several times. I was scrutinizing every single detail, taking them to pieces and assembling again. Then I began buying up all the books on Japanese gardens. I couldnt stop admiring their natural beauty, without any intricate details, I tried to reveal their secrets. I was obsessed with the idea of turning a part of our land into a Japanese garden. But how could I do it if there is a house, a fence, neighbours houses which dont look Japanese at all. I wasnt going to copy the elements from the books. The most important task for me was to create a complete art image. I gradually realized that book cliches couldnt express a strong impact of Japanese landscapes on us. I feel close to Ogawa Jihei XI, a famous gardener also known as Ueji, and his philosophy. In his gardens the past with its traditional canons is closely connected with the future to which some features of European landscapes are skillfully added. I call my garden the garden for strolls. Its Russian with a Japanese soul, as we cant get rid of the spirit of the place. I mean, one will be able to see the houses around, even if big trees are planted.

The garden of Elena Astashkina

Elena loves and studies gardening carefully, she also analyses and uses various techniques thoughtfully. Such an approach to creation of a Japanese garden will definitely bring success. Besides, Elena has visited a lot of gardens and parks in Japan. As I was studying all the books thoroughly, I had a feeling that I had been there before. The garden of moss Saiho-ji in Kyoto and the city park in Nara made the greatest emotional impression on me. I also enjoyed modern gardens in front of the houses in housing estates, a good example of combining the past and the future. Its quite difficult to understand which type of a Japanese garden Elena prefers more: mysterious Saiho-ji, a garden and a temple at the same time, a hospitable park for walking where you can see deer, small private gardens which are closed for visitors. On one hand, Elenas garden is absolutely different. On the other hand, I can feel it very well. Its open and closed at the same time, its straight lines are alternated with fuzzy strokes and splashes of colours emphasize monochromaticity. Every spring flower, every rock, every twist of a path let us see the author, who put her soul into this place.

The garden of Elena Astashkina

The garden of Elena Astashkina

The garden of Elena Astashkina

First, Elena worked out a plan of the future garden, but in her words, it turned out to be naive and thoughtless. Despite being drawn faster, the 2nd plan was much better thought of. Later some new ideas appeared in the process of building as if the garden itself suggested what it liked or what was odd. The people had to listen to it. Although the piece of land is on the slope of a hill, there was little difference in height. Elena has changed it and now there two big hills in the garden. On one of them there are some maples ginnala brightly flashing in autumn, on the other hill- spiraea, which creates extra volume there.

The garden of Elena Astashkina

The garden of Elena Astashkina

The hardest part for Elena was to make the garden match the surroundings, i.e. fit in a kitchen garden, a parking place and barbeque zone. Besides she wanted to hide those landscapes which didnt go with the image of the place. I want people to feel that they are in an enormous garden where there is always something new waiting for them. Labor-intensiveness was another obstacle as well as high prices. It was necessary to use machines to set big rocks, so people had to give them up and pick only those ones which could be put with the help of workers.

The garden of Elena Astashkina

The garden of Elena Astashkina

In my introductory article I defined Elenas garden as a hermitage garden, even though it would be more correct to speak about just a few elements. As a matter of fact, hermitage gardens are stroll gardens but smaller in size. They used to belong to aristocrats who became writers, artists, priests or masters of a tea ceremony after their retirement. The complicated structure of these gardens was one of their peculiarities due to which the way through the garden seemed longer and the place itself looked much bigger. In the end the path led to a secluded nook for meditation. Examining Elenas garden, Ive paid attention to the paths which havent been built straight. They turn round the thickets of spiraea or a rock. Sometimes spreading saxifrages literally make a visitor pick another longer way. All those paths lead to a gazebo for waiting, where one can meditate, read or learn something. Elena also adds that its nice to sleep in this summer house or maybe just chat with a friend.

The garden of Elena Astashkina

The garden of Elena Astashkina

Elena works skillfully with the shape of plants. One of her favourite is spirea Little Princess. Frankly speaking, I thought those were boxwood and azaleas at first, as they were beautifully winding round the rocks. Being a professional landscape designer, Elena wouldnt plant so many delicate plants in our climate. She found a suitable substitute. In general looking at this garden, you realize there is nothing unnecessary or accidental, each plant takes its own place, each rock has its role in the garden composition. Nothing could be added or taken away. Lena explains that gardening is the most enjoyable and easiest activity for her. She doesnt take a shopping list going to the nursery, because Elena has an image and a feeling of her future garden. She also thinks its really important to go past a plant you like and stick to the colour range and garden composition in order not to spoil them.

The garden of Elena Astashkina

The garden of Elena Astashkina

The garden of Elena Astashkina

Penetrating the heart of Elenas projects, realizing individuality and originality of the place, I finally understood it couldnt be regarded as a garden of this or that type. You can come across the gravel sea with islands (dry landscapes), a waiting pavilion and step-by-step paths (elements of tea gardens), there is a special place in the house from which one can admire the garden like it is done in the gardens of contemplation (tsubo gardens). The amazing combination of all these elements has resulted in a unique Japanese garden which could be called a riddle. Smooth outlines of plants, primroses in sunny haze, a mysterious gazebo half-hidden in the tall thickets, bright flashes of autumn maples- there is something romantic and lyrically sad about it.

The garden of Elena Astashkina

The garden of Elena Astashkina

I believe Elena keeps the secret of her garden on purpose, as if she is protecting it, letting strangers see only what they are allowed to see. I still hope to reveal the mystery of this wonderful garden. Elena has plenty of ideas and plans for the future: the entrance gate, the waterfall are being reconstructed, next there will be a pavilion hanging over water. I was especially intrigued with the name of a terrace-the moonlight terrace, from which you will admire the moon, listen to the sound of rain and frogs singing in the pond.

The garden of Elena Astashkina

I would like to finish the story about this marvelous garden with one more quotation taken from Elenas letter, it contradicts my opinion in a way, though: one has to be a Japanese, a poet to have such a delicate perception. Unfortunately, Im just a landscape designer, who tries to feel like they do, but its impossible to learn it from books. We can talk about it, we can try to do it, maybe it will look good, but well never do as delicately and deeply as them. Our mentality is absolutely different. We are always in a hurry and make our gardens among other things. While all famous Japanese gardens have been creating by dynasties for centuries, people have been imparting their knowledge and love from generation to generation. Maybe thats why these gardens are so attractive.

The garden of Elena Astashkina

The Japanese gardens in Russia

Photo & text: Irina Andrianova

 

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