The trouble is that there is simply too much news to share. It seems every night I have a couple of fresh items that might be of interest to people watching activities at the Botanical Gardens. Certainly I wanted to tell you about the hazards of over-compaction, as we are experiencing some bona fide lessons in regard to soil around the Botanical Center. And I was thinking, just yesterday, how absolutely spectacular the Matilija poppies are in the parking lot—right now—remarkably overblown flowers of living white crepe paper. Or the fragrance of the Giant Burmese Honeysuckle at the main entry to the Mishler Center. . . worth an encounter.
But those tales are trumped by the arrival of Yoshiaki Nakamura and four craftsmen from Japan this past Sunday. Things move quickly here, especially when in the right hands. And we are on quite a learning curve as the experts from Kyoto demonstrate how to organize and assemble the teahouse, Seifu-an, a most extraordinary small building. Working on a foundation that was wet cement last Friday, beams and structural components have been fitted together with alacrity, promising to show the outline of the structure in short order. Of course, you might say we have a good head start since Nakamura’s staff completely assembled this teahouse at their Kyoto workshop last fall when it was under restoration.
But this is a complex assembly. It is impressive to watch the progress, and satisfying to realize that Seifu-an is here on the property, taking shape. As fast as the bones are falling in place, it almost seems that the entire project will happen in a matter of weeks. But Nakamura talks, convincingly, of the time he estimates each advance will require. Roofing will be in the heat of August, so that tells me the fine interior plaster and finishes will not begin until afterward. We are looking at a completed teahouse by late September, which seems impossibly far away given the abrupt progress in the last few days.
Of course, completion of the teahouse is nowhere near the end of the process. That is when the fun starts outside, as we install irrigation, stepping stones, and plants so Seifu-an will be ready for dedication in 2012. And this is just a third of the overall Japanese Garden project. Work on the ponds is well underway, and restoration of the house begins fairly soon.
Jim Folsom is the Telleen/Jorgensen Director of the Botanical Gardens at The Huntington.