How much stone is enough?

inkognitoOctober 20, 2004

If you had to proportion the amount of stone to the other things in the garden how would it work percentagewise? Excluding sansui, or 'zen' gardens, are the proportions different in a Japanese Garden to any other?

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kobold(Vancouver BC)

Hi Inky!

IMHO quality over quantity!!!! and artistic effect ( oh boy! don't ask if it has to be Johnson's or Warhol's kind)

For example, Mediterrean Gardens, Rock or Alpine Gardens can have even more rocks, but different. But I am not expert in Japanese Garden, you and the "Rest Of The Gang" are.


    Bookmark   October 20, 2004 at 8:28PM
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From what I've seen, the proportions of rock to other things in Japanese garden are often - but by no means always - higher than in other sorts of garden.

What is the best proportion of the one to the other must, I should have thought, be very much a matter of personal taste.

One Japanese garden in particular, has sometimes seemed (to me) to have so many rocks that they make me feel uneasy. Because of this, I amended the picture of it to see how it would look if I removed a hefty proportion of them.

I think that I like it better with fewer rocks, but I realise that if I did happen to own it (fat chance), and if I did alter it in that way, all sorts of people would be down on me like a ton of bricks, accusing me of vandalism.

Here are the two pictures showing what I mean -

Vandalism or improvement? Click here to judge.

    Bookmark   October 20, 2004 at 8:37PM
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Gorfram(7b W Oregon)

Herb, I do like your altered photo better. But before anyone breaks out the tar and feathers:

IMHO, the problem with the first photo is not the total tonnage of rock in the garden, but that it was divided into too many pieces. In other words, too *many* rocks, but not too much rock.

I've seen this in a number of gardens, presumably because it is easier, and cheaper, to set three 250 lb stones than one 750 lb stone.

IMHO, the answer to "How much stone is enough?" is "A Lot". I think that many American J. gardens suffer from a comparative lack of stone, which leaves them without the aesthetic "ballast" seen in many J. gardens in Japan.

- Evelyn

    Bookmark   October 20, 2004 at 11:39PM
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nachodaddy(quiet, I’m trying to meditate!)

Hi Inky;

I am trying to figure out this one myself. I wish I had an answer like 124.751 kg/m3 to reference but I unfortunately do not.

I have a pretty blank canvas to play with and want to get the stones in B4 major planting and digging out the pond.

IMHO I guess I can answer it with another question "how much stone do you want".

I agree with Herb above, there can be a point where there is too much stone. Coaching soccer is another passion of mine. I am always looking for geometric progression (triangles and diamonds) when I watch play and my head was spinning when I looked at Herb's unaltered drawing.

Quantitatively, I prefer 3,5,7, groupings when I look at stone. Still working on 9 and 11. Taking that into consideration, I am designing my garden based where those groupings do not interfere with others, then I can figure out how much stone to order. It can be a bit maddening. I have almost took the "let's fill up a truck and have them dump it on the driveway" approach. That would be the qualitative approach IMHO.

Going back to soccer. Once, after a few too many Newcastles, I thought of a rock grouping, 11 v 11, that would simulate a soccer match. Different colors and sizes to simulate each respective team and the positions. It was pretty cool at the time. Lost it. The neat part of it is that it would have been my "little secret" because it would have not been that apparent to the casual observer (it wasn't a karesansui 150 meters by 100 meters with two goals on the ends). I digress.


    Bookmark   October 21, 2004 at 12:16PM
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LouisWilliam(Z5 MA)

Like all matters of taste, the answer is "it depends". I have two large areas of exposed granite bedrock. One is smoothed and worn and the more of it I expose, the better it looks. The other, lower and with a broken, jagged surface, was cold, agitated, and unpleasant when I exposed too much (60' x 40') I covered most of it back with soil. Too many small stones look restless and lost, but one large stone with the same volume can be perfectly at home. So much depends on the relationship of the stones - are they the same material, with similar surface condition, are they placed so they relate to each other,etc. It is hard to have too much stone but it is easy to have badly installed stones.

    Bookmark   October 21, 2004 at 5:05PM
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Jando_1(Zone 5 IL)

:)And like the perfect stone for your turtle in the pond Louis, it depends on the purpose of the stone in the area you are working on. What does the area call for and what stones will work to make your area complete or create the scene you are trying to convey.

Maybe not how many but what is thier purpose in the landscape you are creating.

Cheers Jando

    Bookmark   October 21, 2004 at 9:50PM
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yama(7b Ga)

Hi Inky
one day you feel like one glass of sake is make you feel good and you feel that is enough. another day, you feel good and you want have 3 glass of sake . some other day you have good company like me you want have more than three , you want to finsh up whole bottle. No one can tell you how you feel .
you are the designer, you are the builder , you are the artist. you are the dreamer..... Don't ask . you know what to do.... make your customer and your self happy and make profit . It is simple as 123................ mike

    Bookmark   October 21, 2004 at 11:33PM
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mikey: mon ami this was not a question about consumption, especially when sake is what we English would call an aquired taste. What I was asking is if it is possible to arrive at a formula. Consider the other questions (ma mu) that are less practical. Is it possible to aportion space/ rock/ other stuff that would arrive at an ideal?

    Bookmark   October 24, 2004 at 6:39PM
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Gorfram(7b W Oregon)

Since we are all agreed that the amount of stone needed is impossible to quantify, I'll take a stab at doing so :)

My guess is that of the "visual volume" available to be filled in the garden, stone should take up no less than 30%, and not more than 65%.

The largest stone should in general be about 5-10% of the "visual volume" in any given view, but should not be much larger than an SUV in any case. Smaller stones should follow the 3:5, 5:8, or 1:1.61 proportion rules.

Stones smaller than a washing machine start to be visually dangerous, and care must be taken that they don't look scattered around, as if a dragon just got all of his teeth knocked out in a barfight :)

In general, stones smaller than a breadbox should have a practical use as edging, paving, etc., in addition to being attractive and aesthetically deployed.

("Stone" refers to stone visible above ground as set, "visual volume" I'm not going to try to define unless you really want me to :)

There. Please feel free to disagree (politely) with the above, that's what I posted it for :)

- Evelyn

    Bookmark   October 24, 2004 at 8:26PM
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yama(7b Ga)

Hi Inky
some time ago I mentioned ratio of evergreen plants and diciduous trees in Japanese garden. but I cannot find any books mentioning ratio of stone in garden.
It is art part of landscapeing which you have to obtain your self.
size of garden, color, texure of stones, client's wish. designer's design intent. of course money matter reflect to use of stones in Japanese garden.
It is not easy to answer to your question.
you have to suffer your self to get an answer.
I have not met you yet, but exchaing ideas , reading your many posts in this forum past year and half or two years.
I have firm believe that you can find answer your self.
we are all student. we learn from past, from good books and bad books. learn from others. we are learner, also we are teacher our self, If carefully observe photos of J gardens, you will learn how others in past and present useing/placeing stones, and teach your self. It may take time , just matter of time you will find out your self. ..............mike

    Bookmark   October 24, 2004 at 10:49PM
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Gorfram(7b W Oregon)

My estimates above are for Japanese gardens. Less stone-intensive gardening styles might use the lower end of the ranges suggested, or less.

- Ev

    Bookmark   October 24, 2004 at 11:08PM
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Evelyn -

I'm intrigued by your suggestion that of the "visual volume" available to be filled in the garden, stone should take up no less than 30%, and not more than 65%.

Where on that scale would you place the two versions of the Japanese garden that I posted earlier?


    Bookmark   October 25, 2004 at 12:40PM
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kobold(Vancouver BC)

Hi Herb

you have a very good point. I loved your changed version much better,they used fantastic rocks, but the original seemed too chaotic for me and wasn't even 30 % of the "visual volume".


    Bookmark   October 25, 2004 at 2:49PM
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Gorfram(7b W Oregon)

Well, let's see...
Since I was cagey enough not to define "visual volume" before, I'll define it to my purposes now:

Take Herb's first photo and draw a curved line loosely around the area containing the rocks, excluding the sky, trees and building, where perhaps we agree that stones are not meant to be :) Draw another curve loosely around the open area in the middle of the pond, which provides "positive space" and again, is somewhere where stones are not meant to be. The area contained within the irregular "donut" shape thus created is a two-dimensional view of our "visual volume".

If one calculated the area of the "donut", and then added up the areas of all the stones within it, I believe the stones would come in at about 50-55% of the total "donut" area: nicely within the range I mentioned above.

In Herb's "vandalized for improvement" :) photo, the remaining stones are probably 25-30% of the "donut": scant.

*But* it cannot be just the raw numbers (if, indeed, the raw numbers are any help at all :)

Photo #1 has the right *amount* of stone, IHMO, but many of them are in the bigger-than-a-breadbox smaller-than-a-washing-machine danger zone, and I can easily imagine that a toothless dragon has just wandered out of the field of view in search of a denturist :)

Photo number #2 has roughly the right *number* of stones (again IMHO) but most of them could stand to be larger (perhaps if we watered them? :)

Since restraint trumps excess every time in Japanese gardening (except in that one example someone's gonna cite to prove the rule :), I find Herb's Garden #2 preferable.

- Evelyn

PS. Herb, I have a feeling I should recognize Garden #1, but I don't. Which garden am I criticizing so freely?

    Bookmark   October 25, 2004 at 5:39PM
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Evelyn - I think it's Daigo-ji, in Kyoto.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2004 at 7:03PM
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The Rubens site seems to have some new pictures that I think are interesting in the light of Inky's question.

Click for the opening page

    Bookmark   October 25, 2004 at 10:41PM
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Gorfram(7b W Oregon)

I think my rule holds for the picture you gave the separate link too, Herb, although it falls apart in several of the other photos.

The photo you linked directly to also raises the question of exactly how many dimly lit monks are needed at far right to make one's J. garden complete :) :) :)

- Evelyn

    Bookmark   October 25, 2004 at 11:46PM
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Evelyn - I hadn't noticed the monk! When I look at the big version of the picture, he seems to be taking a photograph.


    Bookmark   October 26, 2004 at 8:15PM
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Gorfram(7b W Oregon)

Hmmm.. I suppose my frustratingly slow dial-up downloading helped. That and his white sock/tabi :)

But I didn't notice that he was taking a picture :)
(It's just like in that ancient koan: what do we see when someone takes a picture of a monk taking a picture of someone taking a picture of... :) :) :)

- Evelyn

    Bookmark   October 26, 2004 at 11:17PM
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botann(z8 SEof Seattle)

There are tropical Japanese Gardens and there are high mountain Japanese gardens and all sorts in between. To me, the higher up you are making the garden appear to be, the more rock. After all, it's more mountainous. The lower, more tropical, you use less rock. Usually, but not all the time of course. Very few rules are written in stone.

I like to use quarry rock for the ridges and mountains, and round rocks where the valley meets the water.

To add to the mountainous look I saw a Japanese garden where they plucked two of the three needles on every pine tree and then trimmed the length by about half. That was a real mountaintop type garden! It had a lot of rock.

I think it is gone now due to the Sea-Tac airport expansion.
I'll have to check.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2004 at 11:47PM
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yama(7b Ga)

Hi Inky
You have many friendly folks trying to help you.
You imitate from other gardens. It is ok.
you will have pain ,suffer, torment,agoneis thore .angish, hard ship,
you will find those words your self untill you find your self answer. ;););) .............. mike

    Bookmark   October 27, 2004 at 7:59PM
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yama(7b Ga)

Hi Evelyn. Andrea, June or any one

If you know how to cook beef stew , will you give recipe ?
I don't want have fancy cooking recipe. Kind of beef stew your grand mother or your mom cooked. or any of slow cooking reciepe. I don't want to stading in kichen long time and wacth it cooking.

Evelyn : will you ask to your mom how to make the best boild egg once again. how long I should keep in hot water ? what temperature ? Is there any trick to make boild egg better ?

please send me e mail. some people may not like un related topic.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2004 at 8:53PM
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You want a good boiled (or indeed cooked any way) egg?

Avoid most supermarket eggs. They're produced by chickens that are kept in little cages and fed what amounts to junk food for chickens.

Instead, get your eggs from a farmer whose chickens run free in a field, where they eat things like grass seeds, insects, worms, grubs and grass (yes chickens do eat grass - I know because I grew up on a poultry farm). They get exercise too. And the eggs taste like eggs and not colored tofu.

To boil an egg - pierce a tiny hole in the big end with a needle. That's because there's an air sac at the big end and if you don't make the hole, the air will expand & may make the egg burst when you boil it. Put a pan with some water (an inch of water's quite enough) on the stove & bring it to a boil. Put the egg in the pan, put the lid on, and let it continue to boil for 5 minutes, maybe 5 1/2 minutes if it's a jumbo sized egg.

It's done! Stand the egg in an English style eggcup & eat immediately. With lightly buttered brown toast. Use a small spoon.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2004 at 10:02PM
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yama(7b Ga)

Evelyn, Andrea, Herb
Thank you for your time and recipes.
I will try to cook it and let's you know .... mike

    Bookmark   October 29, 2004 at 1:45AM
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ScottReil_GD(z5 CT)

How much egg is enough?



    Bookmark   October 30, 2004 at 3:00PM
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There you go with the one hand clapping again Scott.
How to boil an egg.
Method number one: if the egg is to be eaten from an egg cup at tea time with toast cut into 'soldiers' for dipping use this method. First bring water to the boil in a pan reserved especially for eggs and then lower an egg into the boiling water with a dessert spoon, Allow to boil for a minimum of one and a half minutes (more to taste) then remove from water and lightly tap the wide end of the egg to break the air bubble and prevent further cooking. Serve with the sharp end up and cut a slice off with a sharp tap from a knife, eat the white from this cap with a non silver spoon first. The yolk of the exposed egg should be 'runny' (this is a matter of personal taste and requires experience). Add salt if you want and then dip your soldier into the yellow, scoop out what is left with your non silver spoon. Enjoy.
Method number two: if the egg is to be taken on a picnic whole or made into a sandwich, for egg mayonnaise or veal ham and egg pie use this method. Place egg(s) into the pan reserved for this purpose and cover with salted water, bring to the boil and allow to boil for six minutes only. Then, take from the fire and run cold water over the eggs, tap them on the side of the pan whilst the water is running and remove the shell. Leave the eggs in the cold water to cool.
A free range egg, that is an egg from a bird that has done some scratching in the dirt is worth more than one from a bird that has laid continuously in a false attempt to continue its species.
How much more?
Call it hen zen.

    Bookmark   October 30, 2004 at 4:34PM
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Inky - You astonish me - a non-silver spoon? Doesn't the real English way use a special, small silver spoon that has a gold-plated bowl? I know egg yolk turns silver black, but isn't that why they have butlers?

    Bookmark   October 30, 2004 at 5:25PM
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That would certainly be an ambition of mine Herb, to hold a conversation with Peter Cook and Tony Hancock and to explain why eating an egg with a silver spoon is a bitter experience. There would be standing room only in your pseuds corner at Private Eye.
Incidentally I appreciate your enthusiastic sparring.

    Bookmark   October 30, 2004 at 8:00PM
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nlin0273(z9-10 CA)

I believe that the rocks used in the japanese garden is dictated by a. are you imitating a mountain, a stream or a river. b. the size of the rock.

See in the chinese garden you usually have one or two rocks that stands alone that looks like a mountain. Because you are trying to bring the mountain to your garden.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2004 at 1:18PM
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kobold(Vancouver BC)

Or how much stone is not too much?

I got 2 truckloads of gorgeous green granite stones, some for 3 persons to lift, some for two but non for me. Most of them are on the flat shape, 8-12 inch thick.

Use them in groups or build up the slope with them and plant conifers, azaleas, rhodos just a few?

    Bookmark   January 17, 2007 at 10:36PM
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