Symposium & Tour Will Feature Historic Japanese Gardens In New York

On October 1 and 2, the North American Japanese Garden Association (NAJGA) is coming to the New York area to celebrate the history and the sustainable future of its Japanese gardens in the symposium and tour entitled “Fostering Mature Cultural Landscapes: The Japanese Gardens In New York.” NAJGA is a non-profit organization that promotes the art, craft and heart of Japanese gardens in the United States and Canada.

2009 june 19 stream and pond r    BBG

The Japanese garden at Kykuit and the Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden at Brooklyn Botanic Garden are both a hundred years old. 

Two New York gardens are a hundred years old, and all of them are at the forefront of the movement to preserve the legacy of Japanese Gardens in North America by fostering their relevance for our society. The October 1 garden history symposium will be held at The Pocantico Center, Tarrytown, NY. It features four speakers who care for and manage these gardens.

  • Stephen Morrell, Director, John P. Humes Japanese Stroll Garden
  • Brian Funk, Curator, Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden
  • Cynthia Altman, Curator, art collections and gardens at Kykuit, the Rockefeller estate.
  • Kate Kerin, Landscape Curator, Innisfree Garden as well as garden historian
  • Kendall Brown, Professor of Asian Art History, California State University Long Beach and NAJGA’s Board President

The talks will be followed by an afternoon guided tour of the Japanese garden and the sculpture garden built by the Rockefeller family at Kykuit in Tarrytown, NY.

The coach garden tour on October 2 will take participants from the Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s Japanese-Hill-and-Pond Garden, to the United Nations Peace Bell Garden in NYC, to the Hammond Museum and Japanese Stroll Garden in North Salem, NY, and then to the Innisfree Garden in Millbrook, NY.

The Brooklyn Botanic Garden tour includes a visit of the special exhibition of work by the famed Japanese-American sculptor and garden-designer Isamu Noguchi. The exhibition celebrates the garden’s centenary.

The visit to the UN Peace Bell Garden, which is not normally open to the public, is an exclusive opportunity for tour participants. The historic UN Peace Bell, donated by the United Nations Association of Japan more than 60 years ago, was just recently reinstated to this newly renovated garden designed by Shin Abe of ZEN Associates. Japan’s Ambassador to the United Nations Motohide Yoshikawa will personally lead the tour. Mr. Yoshikawa was instrumental to the creation of the garden 15 years ago.

Hammond Garden            

photo-25      350px-Japanese_Peace_Bell_of_United_Nations

The Hammond Museum & Japanese Stroll Garden, John P. Humes Japanese Stroll Garden, Innisfree Garden and the UN Peace Bell Garden

“The rich history of Japanese gardens in New York may come as a surprise to many. New York City and surrounding areas have in fact produced more Japanese gardens than almost any part of North America,” says Dr. Brown, who is also the author of the popular book “Quiet Beauty: The Japanese Gardens of North America.”

He adds: “NAJGA seeks to examine the legacy of history gardens. It also provides practical wisdom for working garden professionals, scholars, and back-yard enthusiasts who create, maintain, study, and enjoy Japanese gardens as compelling spaces in our modern world.”

The two-day event is open to the public. Participation fee: 2-day attendance – $190 for NAJGA members, $250 for general public. 1-day attendance (October 1 OR October 2 only) – $95 for NAJGA members, $125 for general public. For more details and to register, go to:

Symposium & Tour Will Feature Historic Japanese Gardens In New York

Constructing A Nobedan In One Day – Scott Solomonson

Scott Solomson closeupNAJGA member Scott Solomonson was one of the workshop facilitators during the recently concluded NAJGA regional event in Minnesota last August 7 – 8. He is the owner and operator of Living Space Landscapes in Mendota Heights, MN.

To prepare for the full day workshop, the existing gravel path leading to the teahouse entrance was excavated out several inches. The pressure was on to complete this project by the end of the day. We started with a big hole, a pile of soil and several hundred pounds of hand selected river rocks. All the specialized tools were neatly laid out on a large tarp. The elevation string lines were in place and we set the first couple of stones early in the morning. We were ready for the day. I was delighted to be working side by side with Japanese garden experts Nick Esthus from Tennessee and Hiro Kamoshita from Vancouver BC.

NAJGA MN nobedan workshop, pruning (distance)

The workshop experience was very much different from the standard power point presentation in a warm, dark room. This was a very tactile, hands on experience with real life results constructing a nobedan path and a connecting tobi ishi stepping stone path. If constructed properly, the end result would be a permanent part of the public Japanese Garden. This was not a pretend project in a sandbox.

Finding the right stone for the right spot is difficult to do. So many things to keep in mind: size, shape, angles, gaps, elevations, color and patterns. Trial and error, a small victory with each stone that fit into place. Experience levels varied greatly but everyone seemed engaged. If a combination of rocks did not work, more rocks were rotated in until an acceptable solution was found. It was a true group effort and everyone seemed to be enjoying the challenge.

NAJGA MN Kamoshita sets nodebad stone    NAJGA Mn Estes Kamoshita set stone with attendee    NAJGA MN Estes places stone in nobedan

As the cycle of groups went on to other workshops, I could feel a strong sense of curiosity and ownership of the project. People would return throughout the day and see how the project was taking shape. By early afternoon the selection of rocks to choose from became very picked over and increasingly more difficult to finish the project. Going through the frustrations and victories together was a real learning experience. The nobedan and tobi ishi paths turned out beautifully and are now a permanent part of the garden.

NAJGA MN finished nobedan in use

Constructing A Nobedan In One Day – Scott Solomonson

Learning About Japanese Gardens In Minnesota – Marcia Meggs, MD

Marcia MeggsNAJGA member Dr. Marcia Meggs (left) of Olympia Fields, Illinois writes about her experience as a participant in the recently concluded NAJGA regional event in Minnesota.      

On August 7 and 8, I attended the NAJGA conference in Minnesota entitled “It’s All in the Details“.  Through this event I had the opportunity to meet prominent landscape designers and garden builders who specialize in Japanese-inspired gardens.  I also had the opportunity to learn basic garden building techniques in intensive workshops led by these individuals.  There were visits made to several gardens created by David Slawson including a private garden owned by the Hoeschler family.

The evening of my arrival, Thursday, I met Kendall and Kuniko Brown who graciously provided me with transportation to the scheduled events.  During our time together, I had the chance to learn more about the history of Japanese gardens from Kuniko and from Ken, one of the leading authorities in the field.

Day #1 of the conference was the “work day” filled with unique opportunities to “get our hands dirty”, and we did!  The workshops were informative, fun and challenging and ranged from learning to build a nobedan pathway, trying our hands at fence building and knot tying, and also learning the correct technique for pruning.  It was great to learn from instructors who are some of the most skilled artisans in their field:  John Powell, Tim Gruner and Mary Bigelow.  Another featured workshop allowed participation in an abbreviated Japanese tea ceremony officiated by David Slawson.

NAJGA MN Gruner heat treats fnce post NAJGA MN attendee prunes NAJGA MN nobedan tutorial NAJGA MN Schrempf teaches knot tieing

NAJGA MN tea garden purification  NAJGA MN entering teahouse NAJGA MN in teahouse Slawson lft

(Top row)  Scenes from the August 7  bamboo-fence making, pruning, nobedan and tobi ishi making workshops. (Bottom row) Scenes from the tea garden session.

The first day was capped off by a special visit to the elegant Hoeschler garden where our gracious hosts opened their home and garden to everyone.  The visit afforded me a glimpse into the sukiya lifestyle and skillfully showed how nature can be seamlessly incorporated into one’s living quarters by utilizing the elements of sukiya living.

Day # 2 was filled with garden tours and was a great experience.  The high point of the day for me was our visit to the Garden of Quiet Listening at Carleton College.  Having viewed the video “Full Circle” numerous times, it was thrilling to visit the actual garden and hear David Slawson’s commentary.  He also provided insight into the importance of garden maintenance and upkeep as we visited a nearby garden in decline.  The juxtaposition of these two gardens proved an invaluable learning experience!

NAJGA MN John P. David Slawson   NAJGA Bridge at Normandale  NAJGA MN Karen S in Hoeschler Garden

(From left) Dr. David Slawson and John Powell in the Garden of Quiet Listening at Carleton College, bridge at the Normandale Japanese Garden, NAJGA member Karen Szyjka at the Hoeschlers’ garden. 

I would like to thank NAJGA for putting together this great event.  I appreciate the hard work which must go into planning such an event, and my time in Minnesota has been inspiring and educational.  I am particularly impressed by the handouts included in our folders which help to emphasize the “take home” points learned during the workshops.  I look forward to attending many more NAJGA sponsored events in the future.

NAJGA MN Workshop 8.7.2015

Attendees to the August 7 workshops at the Como Park Zoo and Conservatory

MAJGA MN facilitators Workshop facilitators – (From left, standing) Mayumi Kamoshita, Mary Bigelow, Justin Blackwell, Thom Gerst, Ben Schref, John Powell, Nick Esthus, Scott Solomonson, Tim Gruner (Seated) Don Meiners, Hiro Kamoshita.  

Learning About Japanese Gardens In Minnesota – Marcia Meggs, MD