Monday, September 10, 2012

Garden Visit: Hakone Estate and Gardens

While visiting family in the San Jose/San Francisco bay area a few weekends ago, we visited the Hakone Gardens (more info here). Hakone is the oldest Asian estate and garden in the Western Hemisphere, established in 1915. It covers eighteen acres with four different gardens. We went on a random Friday morning and walked into main part of the garden:
The garden, looking up
The first part of the garden you see is a full-sun (in the morning) garden, with many beautiful maples and a giant pond, all overseen by a traditional house on the slope. On our visit, most of the garden was showing off it's foliage, but there were a few waterlilies left:
Waterlilies in one of the ponds
 The true stars for me were the Japanese maples, many (most/all) of which can't really be grown in the desert (unless you have a shady spot and lot of water). Many of them were different shades of green, red, and yellow, and shaped into different shapes that showed off their unique forms, and made them fit into the landscape, yet stand out:
This isn't a maple (i think), but showed off a strong vertical accent
Yellow and Red leaves stood out against the blue sky
Green and Yellow, pruned into a more rounded form
This (also not a maple, I think) was in the shade in one of the smaller court yards.
The tree in the picture above was in the courtyard of one of the smaller buildings on the property. In person, it almost glowed red. For some of the trees, the trunks were shaped artistically into something you really wanted to spend a lot of time looking at:
A balance with the rock, tree and moss - one of those "scenes" I always like in formal gardens like this
 The pond and water feature was beautifully incorporated into the garden, as you would expect:
Looking back at the house and bridge from a viewing pavilion
 I loved the multi-stage waterfall that ran from the shady hillside into the main pond. All around the waterfall were Japanese maples:

I took way too many pictures!
 The pond also hosted a variety of wildlife, including Koi, turtles, birds, and a giant frog:

The garden art was very fitting!
The gravel paths took you from the formal water garden up the hill side, into a more shaded part of the garden.
Here things were much less landscaped

 Moving from one side of the hill to the other, behind the house, brought us to the bamboo garden:
Bamboo Garden Pictures
 Here there were several different groves of bamboo - green, yellow, black, and variegated. Many of them looked like they had been in place for years, with many of the culms being several inches in diameter. In most cases, nothing had been planted under the bamboo, and in some areas we could see new shoots coming up (or maybe old ones that had failed?)

A stone lantern backed by a grove of black bamboo formed a mediation garden:

 Throughout the garden, small statues, gates and a well added to the different views:

Most of the structures have been onsite since the gardens opened in the early 1910's and are made in a traditional fashion.
One part of the garden (the herb garden?) on the top of the hill looked like it had fallen into disrepair, but maybe it's supposed to look this way?
It was almost spooky!
Back by the pond, this giant stand of Gunnera reminded me of Loree of Danger Garden. It was even blooming! (at least I think those are it's blooms)
These were actually growing in the water! I didn't realize they liked that...
 For me though, this was really about all the beautiful Japanese Maples that were everywhere...

especially when they got caught in the sun, looking from the shady hill side

So many colors, yet no flowers!
According to the website, in the spring the pergola leading to the main house is covered in wisteria blooms. I might try to go back to see that! I could spend a lot more time here, and I would definitely recommend anyone in the area (or passing through!) to go and visit. If you like Japanese gardens, and/or just beautiful places in general, this one is a gem!


  1. Thanks for taking us with you on this trip to a beautiful Japanese garden! It's really lovely. Yes, Gunneras like it wet.

    1. Thanks for your comment! I'd never seen a Gunnera in a pond before, but I guess that means I won't be having one in my garden any time soon...

  2. Wow I wish my Gunnera looked that good! It kind of put on the breaks once we got really hot.

    This looks like a beautiful place, I'd never even heard of it, thank you!

    1. I'm glad you liked it! Even though I lived less than 30 minutes from it, I'd never been either. I'm glad I went this time!

  3. What a gorgeous garden! Bamboo is a favorite of mine & I'd love to find something that could grow under it. Most things find it difficult to compete with the shade and roots of the bamboo. Thanks for the tour!

    1. Thanks for the comment! In most of the established bamboo groves I've seen, there's usually nothing growing under the bamboo. I like bamboo in other people's gardens - having had a horrible time trying to get rid of burmuda grass, I can't even imagine what bamboo (giant grass!) would be like. But it is so pretty, sometimes I almost forget... :)


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