Reflections of the Spirit: 2japanese Gardens in America

Maggie Oster, Author Penguin Putnam $40 (240p) ISBN 978-0-525-93566-7
Principles of Japanese design are arcanely enchanting; they include simplicity, asymmetry, sensuous subtlety and a mingling of the highly wrought with the seemingly offhand. Japanese gardens, in particular, seem steeped in silence and timelessness, offering a place for purposeless thought that can redeem. And of course, these goals and qualities are adaptable to American, as well as Asian, landscapes. Oster ( 35 Garden Blueprints ), a Kentucky gardener, almost palpably makes that suggestion in this elegantly designed and illustrated sourcebook, discussing various components of and approaches to the gardens, and citing examples in this country. In a chapter, for instance, on the uses of rock and stone in gardens, a two-page spread depicts and comments on varied steps, pavements and ornamental rockery in turn, with examples drawn from private and public gardens in the Northeast, Midwest and South; the layout itself, spare yet intense in feeling, is vaguely reminiscent of a garden detail. And in close-ups of flowering trees, with captions carefully adrift, Oster calls for us to respond to the flowers first, and only then to the words. She is a conscientious surveyor of the Japanese genre, but also an inspirer. She explains, yet goes further. (June)
Reviewed on: 05/31/1993
Release date: 06/01/1993
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