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Home About David Slawson Garden Gallery Design Philosophy Publications Project Gallery Evoking Natural Patterns 

Secret Teachings in the Art of Japanese Gardens: Design Principles, Aesthetic Values (Kodansha International, 1987). David Slawson’s classic work includes a translation of the fifteenth-century garden manual, Illustrations for Designing Mountain, Water, and Hillside Field Landscapes.

“This is truly a remarkable book; nominally a garden book, it is also a design manual, a study of Japanese aesthetics, and a piece of impeccable scholarship.”          --Choice

 from Amazon reviews:

 “The best book on Japanese garden design theory.”

 “An invaluable and in-depth resource. What sets this work apart is its depth and focus on unraveling the underlying design principles…. Slawson begins with his experiences as a master gardener's apprentice in Japan and ends with a full translation of an ancient gardening manual used by Buddhist monks. Each page overflows with background, details and inspiration. He urges and inspires you not to transplant an existing garden design, but…to evolve a plan reflective of your own individual location and taste. By clearly dissecting the aesthetic principles behind Japanese garden design, the book succeeds in creating a truly inspirational guide.”

Click here to purchase Secret Teachings... on


DVD, In Full Circle: The Japanese-Style Garden as a Work of Art in Progress. Filmed by Paul Krause,, written by David Slawson, produced by Bardwell Smith. Order at

In Full Circle demystifies the process of creating and maintaining Japanese-style gardens through examples gleaned from nationally-respected designer David Slawson’s garden at Carleton College. The context-sensitive design and maintenance process has several components—response to site, client, and local materials—timeless sources of inspiration that David calls the Accord Triangle. The video demonstrates how the same methods used by the garden’s designer can guide the committed gardeners—artists in their own right—who tend this living work of art in succeeding decades.

Journal of Japanese Gardening:

“In a world where poorly-written Japanese garden books appear almost every month, this work stands out as a quality effort that focuses on the real Japanese garden tradition rather than the myth-ridden tourist version that so often dominates. This project definitely earns the Journal of Japanese Gardening “seal of approval,” and the video’s production and editorial team deserve great praise for their efforts to edit misinformation and provide in its place content that is helpful and inspiring.”


DVD, Evoking Native Landscape Using Japanese Garden Principles

Landscape artist David Slawson will present his new film, Evoking Native Landscape Using Japanese Garden Principles, to your group or organization. Film length, 32 minutes, followed by Q&A and discussion. See YouTube preview at  or google “evoking native.” To arrange a program or purchase the DVD for $15.00 + $3.00 S&H, contact David: 216-524-3257 or email:

FILM DESCRIPTION:   Dr. Slawson takes viewers on a visually rich, meditative journey through three key aspects of this universal landscape art form: Sources of Inspiration, Evoking Natural Habitat, and Compositional Techniques. The film demystifies the art by showing how aesthetic techniques based on observation of nature and human perception can be used to create eloquent contemplative gardens inspired by native landscape, with the power to move us and soothe our spirit.

REVIEWS:   “Full of extraordinary images and compelling ideas, sensitively interwoven. Your film beautifully recreates the feeling of being in the gardens--and illuminates the ideas that underlie them, while leaving me with a sense of peace and serenity.”    -Henry Whiting II, author of AT NATURE’S EDGE: Frank Lloyd Wright’s Artist Studio

“David’s video is a truly meditative as well as thought-provoking experience. He has achieved something pretty unique, in my experience: -an educational presentation that also soothes the soul.”       -Ellen Hansen-Ellis, composer and music director, SWUU

Read a short article on the film and David's design approach, and play the YouTube preview:

Seven Hills Japanese garden designer David Slawson brings his knowledge to DVD (video), by Roxanne Washington, The Plain Dealer, (2-11-13)


The meditative background music on Evoking Native Landscapes is from "High Lake" and "Riverflow," from my nephew Greg Slawson's Waterflow II CD. You can check it out at: Waterflow II

The sounds of water are from the Canadian Rockies, the Gulf Coast of Florida, and Northeast Ohio. Greg enjoys conveying the spirit of these inspiring natural places through his music and photography. He hopes this recording will bring you the peace and healing of those places.


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Last modified: 03/03/13