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The Oku Stone

Articles: The Oku Stone

Eric Krag’s sculptural plinth in the light of midday, with a slender, juvenile Pseudopanax ferox on the left, allium spheres, and a deep bronze Eucomis above a carpet of purple-leafed Acaena inermis ‘Purpurea’.  Author’s photographs.

A willingness to linger is key to understanding the concept of the Oku stone, a Japanese gardening term alluding to a “third stone” that is buried in the garden and not visible. It embodies a less obvious dimension to a garden design, a way of seeing—call it depth perception—and a metaphor for the ability of a garden to disclose the presence and underlying ideas of its creator.

It would be altogether apt to say that the gardens of Julie King and Paul Smith are both enriched by a metaphorical Oku stone. Though perhaps not actually present in the ground of their simple Seattle garden plots, the Oku stone reflects their shared sense of the history of garden design and their respective skills at layering deep meaning into their always evolving creations. They use many of the same plants, but toward different ends. A borrowing from many artistic traditions links their thinking. Bo...

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