“Centennial Gardens”: Excerpts from the 2014-2015 NAJGA Journal

Japanese gardens outside of Japan number more than 450, of which approximately 300 are in North America. Of that substantial number, fewer than 20 have reached the centennial mark. In this issue, six gardens across the continental United States and out into the Pacific were asked to share their centennial stories.

Book Review – “One Hundred Years in the Huntington’s Japanese Garden: Harmony With Nature” Book reviewer – Dr. Jill Raggett, NTF; Edited by: June T. Li; Contributors – Kendall H. Brown, James Folsom, Naomi Hirahara, Robert Hori, Kelly Sutherlin McLeod

Huntington Japanese Garden Book“Every historic garden should have a book like this, a publication that brings together the physical and archival evidence about a designed landscape in a readable and engaging form. This book uncovers the stories of the origins, creators and on-going appreciation and use of the Huntington’s Japanese Garden following a year-long closure during which a $6.8 million renovation was undertaken… The garden reopened in April 2012 to mark its centennial as a beloved and iconic landscape in Pasadena, California.”


Maymont: A Victorian Estate’s Japanese Garden, 1912                                                   Carla Murray


Maymont, a 100-acre estate in Richmond Virginia, celebrated the centennial anniversary of its Japanese garden in 2012 with a year-long series of programs and events…Japanese gardens were among the favorite showplaces for Gilded Age showplaces such as Maymont, so it is no surprise that James and Sallie Dooley employed Japanese garden makers to plant such a landscape in the wedge-shaped section of land, adjacent to the Kanawha Canal, which they purchased in 1911.”

Brooklyn Botanic Garden: Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden, 1915                               
Brian Funk

BBGJapaneseHillPondGarden“In 2015, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden commemorates the centennial anniversary of the Japanese Hill and Pond Garden. The garden, initiated with a gift from philanthropist Alfred T. White (1846-1921), opened to the public on June 6, 1915. Serving as a landmark for the borough of Brooklyn and containing a rather dramatic history, this garden is among the earliest public Japanese gardens in the United States. It is a beloved garden for urbanites trying to escape the clamor of the city. It also is popular as a home to many koi, turtles, ducks, and occasionally, herons.”


San Diego, California: The Japanese Friendship GardenJapanese_Friendship_Garden_Path_koi_pond_1
Marisa Takeuchi

“The Japanese Friendship Garden in San Diego, California got its start in a different location at Balboa Park as a tea house for the 1915 Panama California Exposition. Starting several years ago, the garden embarked on a major expansion to increase its size to more than eleven acres by clearing the ravine behind the present garden. Since then, a waterfall and stream have been installed. ‘Pink Cloud’ and other cherry trees planted in a new grove bloom annually for a festival begun nine years ago….”

Hakone Estate and Gardens in Saratoga, CA Celebrate Centennial in 2015                  
Lon Saavedra

Hakone_Gardens,_Saratoga,_CA_-_IMG_9196“In 1915, San Francisco philanthropists Oliver (1877-1918) and Isabel Stine (1880-1959) purchased land to establish a mountainside retreat for their family, international dignitaries, and friends of the art…The following year, Mrs. Stine sailed to Japan, where she visited various historic gardens…Upon her return to America, Mrs. Stine began work on a Japanese-style country estate and gardens in Saratoga on an eighteen-acre hillside…Hakone is one of the historic crown jewels of the Silicon Valley with a rich history of cultural events and celebrations throughout the past century.”


Lili’uokalani Garden in Hilo: A Century-Old Tapestry Woven of Many Threads liliuokalanigarden             By K.T. Cannon-Eger

Lili’uokalani Gardens in Hilo, Hawai’i resulted from the collaboration of several women: the Queen after her rule was overthrown, an immigrant Japanese women’s society, and a Caucasian whose travels to Japan left her deeply smitten with Japanese gardens… Preparations are being made for the dual centennials in 2017 of the passing of Queen Lili’uokalani and her namesake garden…Hilo is so fortunate to have a living work of art adjacent to the ocean and with a view of the majestic Mauna Kea.”

The 2014-2015 NAJGA Journal is free to members of the North American Japanese Garden Association. To order additional copies or to order as a non-member, click HERE.

“Centennial Gardens”: Excerpts from the 2014-2015 NAJGA Journal

David Slawson: Finding Universal Truth in the Landscape

A rare peek at the life of Dr. David A. Slawson, one of America’s premier landscape artists working in the Japanese garden tradition. Narrated by David De Lyser.

David Slawson was the first to truly open up the secret world of the Japanese garden to the Western mind.

But before the man who wrote the “Secret Teaching in the Art of Japanese Gardens” walked among the immortals, he was a little boy of robust spirits / born in suburban Cleveland, Ohio on September 30, 1941 to a loving American midwest family. With his younger brother and friends, the suburban forests near home was their one big playground.

The woods were also a place for the young David to dream. He became attuned early on to magical places in the landscape.

On a voyage of self-discovery as a young man serving with the US Marines, David found Japan and its gardens and never looked back.
He remembers sitting for two hours on the veranda at Ryoan-ji, contemplating the rock garden from different vantage points until their sensory qualities and special character sunk in.

Inspired by those gardens in Japan, David would create his first moss garden and stepping stone path in his parents’ backyard. Even to his then untutored mind, it was dawning on him that here was a way to capture the magical places of his childhood.

Years later, as apprentice to renowned garden master Dr. Kinsaku Nakane in Kyoto, he felt an even more powerful attraction to certain gardens in Japan, gardens that have centuries of applied aesthetic techniques behind them for evoking the essence of landscape.

He was particularly attracted to gardens with “craggy rocks and gnarled trees,” that created a sense of being ancient and remote… infinite worlds compressed into a small space.

It was while observing Nakane orchestrate the placement of rocks and plants to recreate impressions of natural landscape, much as a landscape painter would create such impressions with brush and paper, that David realized the power of the Japanese garden art form to evoke the kind of beauty he was drawn to.

A scholar of East Asian philosophies, David’s deep appreciation of aesthetic values nurtured by Ch’an Buddhism and Taoism also provided a pillar for his apprenticeship.

David’s quest for an even deeper understanding of the art eventually led him to write “Secret Teachings in the Art of Japanese Gardens.” This seminal work is also a culmination of his personal journey of learning.

After discovering the garden aesthetics of Japan, David went full circle, rediscovering the beauty of his native country in a special way.

His idea of taking inspiration from regional landscape, rather than the gardens he had seen in Japan evolved in the decades after his apprenticeship with Nakane.

He has also shared his knowledge and artistry to Japanese gardening enthusiasts across North America through lectures and workshops.

The Garvan Woodlands Gardens in Hot Springs, Arkansas, one of his most recent major creations, fully crystallized his vision of using naturally occurring scenery as design inspiration.

His garden creations have truly come to exemplify the true American garden.


The Spirit of the Kyoto Garden Craftsman – Dr. Tomoki Kato

As the 8th-generation head of a garden design company in Kyoto, Dr. Tomoki Kato talks about long-term Japanese garden maintenance and how his team of craftsmen not only build but foster the garden over a long period of time, a process much like raising a child through generations and centuries of daily work. A 2014 NAJGA Conference keynote presentation.


Japanese Garden Space Responding to the Needs of Our Times – Hoichi Kurisu

Japanese garden designer Hoichi Kurisu talks about how the Japanese garden aesthetics and culture relate to the needs of modern society, particularly in the area of health and wellness, in this keynote address during the 2014 North American Japanese Garden Association (NAJGA) Conference held at the Chicago Botanic Garden.