A Year of Volunteer Pruning by Ralph Padilla
by Lara Netting, Trustee

Zen garden pruned for distinction and light July 2021

Zen garden pruned for distinction and light July 2021

Zen garden with juniper and light snow

Zen garden with juniper and light snow

Throughout 2021, the Hammond Japanese Stroll Garden has been fortunate to receive expert attention from Ralph Padilla, Director of forestry/horticulture, City of Yonkers. Ralph’s weekend work at the Hammond has been entirely volunteer. He has climbed high into evergreens and stooped low to Japanese maples, driven by the joy of shaping trees and garden. From all of us at the Hammond: “Thank you, Ralph!”

Just as visitors circle the stroll garden, Ralph began with the kare-sansui garden (aka Zen garden) and worked his way around the pond. On his first visit, Ralph observed that he would define trees that had grown together and reduce the overhead canopy. Around the Zen garden, this meant cutting select magnolia, gingko, and London planetree branches and allowing sun to shine on the gnarled juniper in the garden’s corner. Two seasonal photos highlight the new spaciousness that Ralph’s pruning has granted to the Zen garden. 

Continuing south, Ralph focused on a cryptomeria and hinoki cypress that had grown together. Removing some lower branches from the tall cryptomeria allowed that tree to recede and the fuller hinoki to come to the fore in an attractive composition. Cryptomeria and hinoki pruned for distinction Beyond that pair of evergreens, Ralph worked on framing the view west from the stroll garden toward the Hammond’s sculpture installations. Removing a few lower branches from our splendid katsura trees opened a vista onto the broad lawn of Ms. Natalie Hammond’s former manor. View through katsura trees to sculpture

Swiveling east toward the Hammond pond, Ralph pruned the tangled old crabapples that dipped into the water. A photograph from our archives shows how dramatically these once waist-high trees have matured in the past half century. Small crabapple on the east side of the pond historic Ralph worked to distinguish one crabapple from its neighbor, clear views beneath the trees and across the pond, and remove branches that interfered with the path. Pruned crab on west side of pond

At the garden entry, Ralph dedicated most of his time and wrapped up his work this December. Hammond entry after light pruning in July 2021 Using professional tree climbing techniques, Ralph started to shape our Japanese black pine into a specimen tree. He cut height and defective wood, aiming to stimulate healthy growth to be trimmed in future seasons. Sadly, he found that the larch that has framed views across the pond for decades is declining and will need to be removed. (Stay tuned for a memorial essay for this lovely larch.) On a smaller scale, Ralph pruned our Japanese maple, bringing light into the beautifully contorted tree. Shaping these trees helped reveal the stepping-stone path that meanders from the entry past a stone lantern to the maple. Maple and stepping stone path with light snow

Small crabapple on the east side of the pond historic
crabapples nw side pruned to clear pond
Hammond entry after light pruning in July 2021

As Ralph Padilla expressed, his work so far is just a first round of thoughtful interventions in our trees’ growth. We look forward to 2022, as we work together to cultivate the Hammond into a thriving and beautiful Japan stroll garden.

By Lara Netting, Trustee. I would also like to acknowledge that Charles King Sadler also performed impactful pruning in spring 2021 as part of the Hammond Japanese Stroll Garden Revitalization Project.

These statues are named Jizo, after the religious figure of the same name in Buddhist mythology, or Kṣitigarbha in his original Indian name.

These stone statues make an appearance in Hayao Miyazaki’s beloved animated film My Neighbor Totoro. They stand guard beside the young Mei who got lost in looking for the hospital her mother is staying at. Audience members that understand the meaning of these stone figures know that Mei will be okay, because Jizo are the dedicated protectors of children. The next time you sit down with the family to watch the movie, keep an eye out for these statues and think about how they direct the plot of the film!

My Neighbor Totoro

These stone statues make an appearance in Hayao Miyazaki’s beloved animated film My Neighbor Totoro. They stand guard beside the young Mei who got lost in looking for the hospital her mother is staying at. Audience members that understand the meaning of these stone figures know that Mei will be okay, because Jizo

are the dedicated protectors of children. The next time you sit down with the family to watch the movie, keep an eye out for these statues and think about how they direct the plot of the film!

He is such a common sight along Japanese roads because in addition to children, he is the patron saint of travelers. Whether he’s poking his head out from a bush, standing guard at an intersection, or hanging out at a temple, you know that Jizo himself is watching out for you. It is perhaps no surprise that Natalie Hammond, who designed parts of her garden to feel as if you were wandering through the Japanese wilderness, would place Jizo along the path.

In East Asian myth, stone is considered to have a spiritual power for longevity and strength, hence why the Jizo is sculpted from simple stone. This is also why pebbles are scattered around the statue as seen in the image to the right, which is of one of the Hammond garden's two statues of Jizo. In an old legend, it is said that the souls of lost children sit at the banks of the river to the afterlife in their own special limbo, or Sainokawara in Japanese.

In East Asian myth, stone is considered to have a spiritual power for longevity and strength, hence why the Jizo is sculpted from simple stone. This is also why pebbles are scattered around the statue as seen in the image above, which is of one of the Hammond garden's two statues of Jizo. In an old legend, it is said that the souls of lost children sit at the banks of the river to the afterlife in their own special limbo, or Sainokawara in Japanese.

Jizo

The Jizo also like being dressed in little red caps and bibs once the colder seasons roll in. Red is a lucky color that wards off illness and disease, perfect for a guardian spirit like Jizo. They also make him more closely resemble the children he protects. Due to the Jizo’s nature as the protector of lost children, thanking him with offerings of stone and red ornaments, it may mean that a childbirth went off without a hitch or a child survived an illness. If you walk by a Jizo statue, consider giving him a pebble or knitting him a red cap so he may protect you and your family.

Jizo in Red Cap and Bib

These lost souls stack up towers of stones for eternity, waiting for them to be taken by their parents. But every so often, mean old demons come by to knock over their towers. As Jizo is the de facto parent of these lost souls, giving stones to the Jizo thus helps him protect those who walk by, as well reducing the workload of the children who live in limbo.

The Jizo also like being dressed in little red caps and bibs once the colder seasons roll in. Red is a lucky color that wards off illness and disease, perfect for a guardian spirit like Jizo. They also make him more closely resemble the children he protects. Due to the Jizo’s nature as the protector of lost children, thanking him with offerings of stone and red ornaments, it may mean that a childbirth went off without a hitch or a child 

survived an illness. If you walk by a Jizo statue, consider giving him a pebble or knitting him a red cap so he may protect you and your family.

This educational section has been made possible through

the generosity of the Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership