Originally created 06/08/06

Japanese garden is rewarding for couple



It started with roses. Today, the backyard is a Japanese garden. That is how Sally Blank describes her husband's progression.

The garden includes four varieties of Japanese maple trees, including a Japanese maple blood good with dark-red bonsai-shape leaves. There also is a pond with a small waterfall, a gong, a 7-foot-long dragon and statues including two Buddhas, a tower, a water carrier and a Fuji dog.

"Everything here is Japanese - the rocks, everything," Charlie Blank, 84, said of their west Augusta garden. "Japanese people are the only people close to nature. Everything you see here is close to nature."

One of the first things Mr. Blank said he does each morning is walk through the garden, despite having been declared legally blind two years ago because of macular degeneration. Even though he can no longer see people's faces clearly, Mr. Blank said, he still can see everything in his garden.

Mrs. Blank said that she thinks her husband's sight of the garden is mental.

"It's probably in his mind because he put (all of the items) there," she said. "He visualizes."

Mr. Blank began gardening after retiring from Dixie Land Iron and Metal Co. in 1980.

"Ever since Charlie's retirement, he went into gardening gung-ho," Mrs. Blank said.

"I had nothing to do," Mr. Blank said. "I picked up a lawn mower and began cutting grass; then it went on to other things."

The garden was inspired by a 1970 trip to Japan.

"I'm 84 and I know as I age, my health will allow me to do less and less," he said. "Everything here is low maintenance."

Cleaning the pond's filter and using a leaf blower to blow leaves out the back gate in autumn are the only maintenance duties involved, Mr. Blank said.

Mrs. Blank likes the four different color leaves the trees have, and she also likes when the leaves fall off because "they reveal the shape of the tree," she said.

Mrs. Blank appreciates the beauty and serenity the garden offers; Mr. Blank likes listening to the birds chirping and the "musical tones" he hears from the falling pond water.

"To sit out there and listen to the waterfall, that's the most pleasant part," Mrs. Blank said. "We love it. We don't have to punch a clock. It's just a nice, relaxed time."

Reach C. Samantha McKevie at (706) 823-3552 or samantha.mckevie@augustachronicle.com.