owner of this beautiful Kahala home wanted a change of scenery. More
specifically, the narrow, disorganized plot that stretched across his backyard
needed a complete makeover. With that goal in mind, he called landscape
contractor Taro Takahashi of Taro’s Garden
“The homeowner wanted a really simple
Japanese garden,” says Takahashi, who started Taro’s Garden
in 2002. “It
involved a narrow area near the swimming pool, so there wasn’t a lot of space to
work with. Creating a simple garden might seem easy, but it’s not. If you don’t
know what to do, it can end up looking very bare.”
Takahashi, who usually
does all the labor on his own, rolled up his sleeves and got to work.
first order of business was clearing most of the existing area, creating a blank
canvas. Takahashi then began placing the sprinklers, rocks and soil into the
space. The detail-oriented artisan gets his rocks from Waianae, explaining that,
to him, they have more character and visual interest.
dwarf Tacoma trees were planted at each end of the garden, providing a suitable
frame for the outdoor setting. The middle area is adorned with a dwarf bottle
tree, striking rock pieces and a Jaboticaba bonsai, which is native to Brazil.
This particular bonsai blooms several times a year and thrives in partially
shaded areas. Because the tree is already shaped, the homeowner only needs to
prune areas that grow out of place in order to maintain it.
To the right
of the bonsai is an aging kokuban tree – the only piece that Takahashi kept from
the original garden. “That tree was in a good place, and that type is hard to
find in nurseries, so I kept it,” he says.
An unobtrusive stone lantern
provides a pleasing accent to the overall landscape.
The key to the
entire work, says Takahashi, is striking a perfect balance. “Everything has to
be in the right place,” he says. “You need the proper location of plants, the
right amount of open space, the [appropriate] placement of the rocks – when you
have the right balance, it makes the entire setting more comfortable.”
Takahashi Japanese garden provides more than aesthetic beauty. With its
asymmetric balance of nature and incorporation of plants, rocks and other
features, the garden also instills the viewer with a soothing sense of peace and
Takahashi learned his trade in his native Japan, where he
studied to be a landscape architect. (He is one of the few Hawaii landscapers
who served a strict landscaping apprenticeship in Japan, according to
Takahashi.) He later worked at a landscaping company and managed numerous
After four years, however, Takahashi switched gears.
“I decided that I wanted to do more residential jobs; I wanted to do gardens,”
he says. “With residential work, I could be more artistic and give a more
“When I visited Hawaii, I saw that people here really
like and appreciate Japanese gardens, so I moved here and started my own
Kahala homeowners were thrilled with the end result. Now, just shy of four years
after completion, the plants have grown and matured, and the garden is even more
alluring. It provides a delightful setting in which to relax, unwind and
“They really like it, and so I’m happy as well,” says
Takahashi, whose range of services also includes creating koi ponds, bamboo
fences, stepping stones and indoor gardens. “Creating something that looks
simple is what I enjoy. It’s actually hard work, but as long as I have a happy
customer, it makes everything worthwhile.”