The entire area behind the house and on top
of the hill, surrounded by mature hardwoods, is referred to
as Serenity Garden as it is the most serene area of the
Gardens. The Japanese Garden House is set upon a raised
plateau surrounded by ponds, streams, waterfalls and rare
conifers. A good definition of conifer trees is that they
are cone bearing. Rare conifers area actually mutations of
ordinary conifers that may result in unusual shapes, colors
and sizes. There are several hundred in the Serenity Garden
that have originated from the far corners of the world.
Further to the north is a young conifer forest comprised of
eleven varieties of spruce, hemlock, pine and fir trees.
Surrounding this entire nine-acre area is a border of mature
hardwood trees. You will notice how the immediate area
blends into the conifer forest and then into the
pre-existing mature hardwoods. The use of this ‘borrowed
scenery’ is known as
in Japanese and is an
important design element in Japanese gardens so the elements
blur the distinctions of what was planted and what is
The Japanese arch bridge contributes to the
overall feeling of an Asian garden. The caps (or finials)
are top on top of the posts are called giboshi and
are of ancient design and mad of cast bronze. They were
acquired on a trip to Japan in 2001. In Japan they would
only be used on a large and important public
bridge--not as ornament in a private garden.
The water source for all of the lakes and
streams is quite varied. The principal source is ground
water (run off) form approximately one hundred surrounding
acres. Secondly, there is a substantial spring at the base
of the red Chinese bridge near the large waterfalls.
Additionally, there is another spring directly south of the
main house where the six foot tall bronze frog is standing.
Finally, there is a deep well at the head of the highest
point on the property in the southwest corner of the
Serenity Garden that provides yet another water source. This
water flows through all of the various streams and ponds and
exits through the stream along the path in the Woodland
The Japanese Garden House was designed as a
place for taking of tea, viewing the surrounding gardens and
meditating. Garden houses pre-dated and are considerably
larger than teahouses. The inspiration for this garden house
came from one in Takamatsu, Japan and was built during the
Edo era, which was 1615 to 1868.
The structure itself is a twelve mat garden
house. The number of mats refers to the Tatami (rice straw)
mats that are always three feet by six feet and determine
the size of the structure. The mats are never walked on with
shoes...only with stocking feet. This is a sign of respect
and also a practical matter as the mats are easy to soil,
hard to clean and wear out quite rapidly.
In the northwest corner is a Tokonoma.
This is a small alcove where artwork, ikebana, scrolls an
votives can be displayed. Jane Dunnewold, an internationally
known fabric artist, author and lecturer, created the
feature piece of fabric art. The altar table in the
northeast corner is an Asian antique piece of rare beauty
but has no particular significance in this setting. The
screen above the table featuring cranes is typical in garden
houses and an actual visit by a crane is a symbol of good
luck. We have to be satisfied here with painted cranes or
the live great blue heron (that are a sign of bad luck) as
they the Japanese Koi in the ponds.
The garden house was completed in 2002 and
is made of completely natural materials. It is in the choice
of materials and craftsmanship with which it is assembled
that the garden house attains its greatest elegance. The
framework is all of locally grown white oak and the decks
are constructed of ipe'...a very dense tropical
hardwood. As you entered you may have noticed the antique
entrance doors that are obviously of Asian origin and are
through to be more than two hundred years old.
Please enjoy your visit to the Gardens and
the grand vistas and intimate niches. We hope you will find