Honoring the past. Enjoying today. Preparing for the future.

To paraphrase a few of our guiding principles, we believe in preserving our history, we believe in safe facilities and grounds, and we believe in sustainability to assure that Meijer Gardens can be enjoyed by future generations. Following three simple rules helps us to honor the past, enjoy today and prepare for the future at Meijer Gardens. You, our members and guests, can help us by following these simple rules each time you visit:


Three simple rules for enjoying Meijer Gardens

Why remind you of these rules at this particular moment? It has everything to do with our core mission and the legacy of Fred and Lena Meijer, which we have been celebrating and are honor bound to carry into the future. Whether it is a horticultural or sculpture installation or display, the highest caliber visual experience is our goal. The Meijers were, and continue to be, extraordinarily generous, but remember they never collected for themselves, only for the enjoyment and enlightenment of others.
Abiding by our rules is one critical way to show our gratitude and respect.
Our 20th anniversary year has been nothing short of extraordinary. The gardens and grounds, collections and exhibitions that give meaningful substance and form to the organization, also require that we think about honoring the gifts we have been entrusted with as we prepare for the future to the best of our abilities. Caring for our collections and being mindful of the rules of Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park are the critical bridges that unite our history and our future. By no means are our rules extensive or oppressive, but they are practical for safety and
longevity for our internationally renowned art collections, impressive display gardens and each of our temporary exhibitions.
Ultimately, our rules ensure that the legacy of Fred and Lena Meijer continues to be enjoyed for generations to come. In the future, you will notice several new measures, including signage, as a reminder to all visitors that we do not touch works of art, do not climb, and stay on paths or mowed lawn areas only. All of us here at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park thank you today, and the visitors of tomorrow do as well!

Developing ‘Tradition and Innovation: Japanese Ceramics Now’

Our fall exhibition Tradition and Innovation: Japanese Ceramics Now,  which also served as our 2015 ArtPrize exhibition, brings together twenty-five of the top ceramic artists from across Japan for the first time. Many of these artists are widely known and critically acclaimed in Japan, but few have displayed their work outside of their native country.

Why Japanese ceramics?

“This is an important exhibition for Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park in several ways, as it continues our thoughtful examination of Japanese culture that was initiated with Splendors of Shiga: Treasures from Japan and it furthers our celebration of the opening of The Richard & Helen DeVos Japanese Garden—each remarkable and meaningful events in the history of this organization” says Vice President and Chief Curator Joseph Becherer.

How did this exhibition come together?

Tradition and Innovation: Japanese Ceramics Now could not have happened without the ongoing partnership between the staff of the famed Shigaraki Museum and Culture Park (SCCP) and Meijer Gardens. Located in Michigan’s sister-state of Shiga, Japan, the SCCP was instrumental in the development of and loans for our Splendors of Shiga: Treasures from Japan exhibition as well as guiding the selection of all of the ceramics that are used in the teahouse of The Richard & Helen DeVos Japanese Garden.

The Shigaraki Museum and Culture Park

The Shigaraki Museum and Culture Park

Beginning in early January this year, a national call for submissions was sent out across Japan looking for artists to participate in this important exhibition. Nearly three hundred submissions representing every part of Japan were received! Both masters working along more traditional lines as well as those involved in more avant-garde practices submitted works, representing the tradition and innovation that is present in Japanese ceramics now.

A committee of eight distinguished art experts in Japan and two representatives from Meijer Gardens formed a ten member committee that narrowed the nearly three hundred submissions down to a final field of the top twenty five works that ultimately became the exhibition. These works were meticulously packaged and sent to Grand Rapids where they made their debut for our members before the start of ArtPrize.

Experts from the SCCP and Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park review submissions

Experts from the SCCP and Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park review submissions

“This exhibition would have been unimaginable without the wisdom and expertise of our colleagues at the Shigaraki Museum and Culture Park. The staff, collections and exhibitions are recognized throughout Asia as a leading voice for both the history and future of ceramics in Japan.” said Becherer.

What is next for this exhibition?

After debuting at Meijer Gardens this fall and being on display through January 3, 2016, the works will travel to museums in Japan in 2016.

Joseph Becherer for The Grand Rapids Press

Our Chief Curator and Vice President for Collections and Exhibitions and the Lena Meijer Professor in the History of Art at Aquinas College Joseph Becherer is lending his knowledge to MLive / The Grand Rapids Press during ArtPrize. Below are links to his columns, all of which (including previous years columns) are available on MLive’s website.

Behind the scenes of Meijer Gardens’ 2015 ArtPrize exhibit (September 19, 2015)

“Age of Good Fortune Island: KoiNoboru” by Japanese ceramic artist Kyoko Tokumaru sits on display for ArtPrize at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids on Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2015. (Neil Blake | MLive.com)

ArtPrize invites us to focus our conversations (September 21, 2015)

Tracie Alt walks near Craig Colorussso ‘s ArtPrize entry “Sun Boxes” at Calder Plaza in Grand Rapids Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2015. The entry features solar powered speakers playing music. Alt, who is from Grand Rapids, said she is alway excited about ArtPrize. (Cory Morse | MLive.com)

ArtPrize 2015 venue review: Kendall College at Federal Building (September 25, 2015)

ArtPrize entry

ArtPrize entry “You Imagine What You Desire” by Nathan Coley hangs outside at The Fed Galleries at the Kendall College of Art and Design on Monday, Sept. 21, 2015. The words are one aspect of Coley’s entry. (Neil Blake | MLive.com)

ArtPrize 2015 venue review: UICA (September 25, 2015)

Heather Brammeier's

Heather Brammeier’s “This Mortal Coil” sits on display at the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts in Grand Rapids on Thursday, Sept. 10, 2015. The projects all relate to one or more of the senses including sight, smell, hearing, taste, touch and beyond. (Neil Blake | MLive.com)

ArtPrize 2015 venue review: Grand Rapids Art Museum (September 25, 2015)

Artist Judith Braun discusses her ArtPrize entry

Artist Judith Braun discusses her ArtPrize entry “As Above” that is featured at the Grand Rapids Art Museum during a preview tour on Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2015. Braun used her finger tips, dipped in charcoal, to create the symmetrical piece of abstract foliage and flowers. (Emily Rose Bennett | MLive.com)

ArtPrize 2015 venue review: SiTE:LAB’s Rumsey Street Project (September 28, 2015)

Mark Dean Veca's

Mark Dean Veca’s “Pony Show,” pictured Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2015, will be part of ArtPrize’s SiTE:LAB Rumsey Street Project. (Cory Morse | MLive.com)

How Jurors’ Shortlist focuses vast field of entries (September 29, 2015)

ArtPrize-goers look at Kunihiro Akinaga's entry

ArtPrize-goers look at Kunihiro Akinaga’s entry “Mimesis” at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids Friday, Sept. 25, 2015. This entry is on the 2015 Jurors’ Shortlist in the 3D category. (Cory Morse | MLive.com)

Joseph Becherer’s must-see works at ArtPrize 2015 (October 2, 2015)

ArtPrize-goers look at Kunihiro Akinaga's entry

ArtPrize-goers look at Kunihiro Akinaga’s entry “Mimesis” at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids Friday, Sept. 25, 2015. This entry is on the 2015 Jurors’ Shortlist in the 3D category. (Cory Morse | MLive.com)

Joseph Becherer shares stand-out works among ArtPrize 2015 Final 20 (October 5, 2015)

Randall Libby's ArtPrize entry

Randall Libby’s ArtPrize entry “michigan petoskey stone” at DeVos Place Convention Center in Grand Rapids on Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2015. The entry is a Final 20 public vote finalist in the 2D category. (Cory Morse | MLive.com)

When there’s no front-runner, how do we experience ArtPrize? (October 11, 2015)

ArtPrize 2015

ArtPrize 2015


The diversity and complexity of objects that are on display during Tradition and Innovation: Japanese Ceramics Now is extraordinary. While some works speak clearly to the history of Japanese ceramics, most offer more thoughtful and expressive sculptural interpretations of just how broadly ceramics are thought of today. As a result, the great diversity represented in these 25 works also mirrors the authentic diversity available in the art world today.

Below we introduce you to the final five artists that are participating in Tradition and Innovation: Japanese Ceramics Now, our 2015 ArtPrize exhibition:

Akio Tanino – Tricolored Earthenware with Sedimentary Lines and Geometric Pattern – Vote Code 61609
“The slab building method of bonding a ceramic box. After subjected to drying the three types of geometric patterns are applied over the entire surface in three colors of slip, and finished by putting a thin line with its own inlay technique. This work was produced in the thought of harmony with the relationship between modeling and design.”

Tricolored Earthenware with Sedimentary Lines and Geometric Pattern by Akio Tanino

Tricolored Earthenware with Sedimentary Lines and Geometric Pattern by Akio Tanino

Hiroshi Taruta – Beams of Light – Vote Code 61447
“As depicted in the title “Beams of Light,” rays of light spread, expressing the manner in which light emits.”

Beams of Light by Hiroshi Taruta

Beams of Light by Hiroshi Taruta

Kyoko Tokumaru – Age of Good Fortune Island: KoiNoboru Island – Vote Code 61993
“I think that one origin of art is ritual and tribute. In the form of a tribute to God in the world, such as a sacred island and mountain model is a device for inviting the gods who are in the sky, that was a spirit-dwelling object there are many such things. The “good luck (“Ugafushima” in Okinawan), has the image of a holy island’s Gathering Miroku-sama of appearing as such ideal world, and God and Shenzhen.”

Age of Good Fortune Island: KoiNoboru Island by  Kyoko Tokumaru

Age of Good Fortune Island: KoiNoboru Island by Kyoko Tokumaru

Aico TsumoriA Mermaid Buys Shoes – Vote Code 61464
“In Anderson’s “The Little Mermaid”, a mermaid receives legs in exchange for her voice. The ending is a sad one, in which the mermaid becomes one with the bubbles in the sea, but this mermaid is looking at a catalog and buying high heels.”

A Mermaid Buys Shoes by Aico Tsumori

A Mermaid Buys Shoes by Aico Tsumori

Akira Yamada – Shoujou red colored jar with lid – Vote Code 62257
“By putting a lid on this work I am expressing a closed space. I was inspired by the atmosphere of Chinese painted earthenware and started to make this ceramic. I use a lathe to try to make soft lines that express by body rhythm. To aim for a strong and more delicate texture, I used both under-glaze painting and over-glaze painting, and baked the ceramic numerous times for a deeper red.”

Shoujou red colored jar with lid by Akira Yamada

Shoujou red colored jar with lid by Akira Yamada

Tradition and Innovation: Japanese Ceramics Now is ArtPrize at Meijer Gardens and runs through January 3, 2016.


Tradition and Innovation: Japanese Ceramics Now is an important exhibition for Meijer Gardens in several ways. “It continues our thoughtful examination of Japanese culture initiated with Splendors of Shiga: Treasures from Japan and it furthers our celebration of the opening of The Richard & Helen DeVos Japanese Garden – each remarkable and meaningful events in the history of this organization” said Joseph Becherer, Vice President and Chief Curator.

Below, we introduce you to five more of the artists participating in our 2015 ArtPrize exhibition and their works.

Chika Shiraki – Life – Vote Code 61492
“Life. Being born. Growing. Living. Life. The many things that are born inside of me from hints from these things. A world in which you live in. A world which keeps you alive. A world being born.”

Life by Chika Shiraki

Life by Chika Shiraki

Seika Takahashi – Tea of Spring – Vote Code 62305
“This is the tea pottery I have been making since I was a student. By overlapping and remaking many times they have changed little by little. The feeling I had the first time I saw this tea pottery, bringing its form to reality has become the driving force of the current of my work in pottery. Twisting the lid and body together while the body and the bottom portion of the lid of the pot in the form of a race is this improved version, it is a mechanism so that the lid does not come off. The sugar pot has a mechanism that the pattern of the lid and the body fits and complimented by the spoon. The tea cup and the saucer have become uneven patterns that fit. From the shape is the image the bud of a plant, I put “spring” in the title.”

Tea of Spring by Seika Takahashi

Tea of Spring by Seika Takahashi

Kazuki Takemura – Growing1401 – Vote Code 61063
“In a hemisphere shaped plaster hold I put together parts which I made with the hand forming technique, and created the shape. It is strong against dry air and heat because of the cluster of hexagon shapes and the arch pattern on the cross sections. It is a geometric pattern, but is flexible in making the most of the clay’s organic nature because it was made with the hand forming technique.”

Growing1401 by Kazuki Takemura

Growing1401 by Kazuki Takemura

Yoko Tanaka – Storm -Night- – Vote Code 61675
“I create on the foundational theme of “turning a moment into eternity.” A moment that moved my heart is consumed within me, is replaced with porcelain using soil, believing that perhaps I might thereby be able express sheathed transience and the powerful beauty that is included in the moment. The concept of this work, based on that has to express the powerful beauty of life that wriggle at night. I created a piece with the feeling of the transience of the moment and the power of life of wriggling insects that gather to light on a summer’s evening. It is my hope that those who view this work will feel that moment becomes an eternal moment.”

Swarm -Night- by Yoko Tanaka

Swarm -Night- by Yoko Tanaka

Yutaka Tanaka – Mud Ring Platter – Vote Code 61622
“British old pottery slip ware charmed me as a modern Japanese to produce such a piece in my own sense.”

Mud Ring Platter by Yutaka Tanaka

Mud Ring Platter by Yutaka Tanaka

Plants in The Richard & Helen DeVos Japanese Garden

A Japanese Garden is not a collection of Japanese plants, but rather a garden style steeped in centuries of tradition.  The three essential elements in a Japanese Garden are rocks, water and plants.  It is the plants that provide seasonal changes and color in the garden.

Plants in a Japanese garden do not need to be native to Japan.

While The Richard & Helen DeVos Japanese Garden includes plants that are native to Japan, it also features plants native to Michigan and other temperate climates throughout the world. All of the plants were sourced from nurseries in the United States. The important things to notice are how the plants are planted, how they are pruned and the way they are nurtured.

Ten prominent plants in The Richard & Helen DeVos Japanese Garden:

Pines are one of the most important trees in a Japanese Garden.  They can act as a backdrop or be meticulously pruned. Trees or woody shrubs in a Japanese garden are called “niwaki”.  Niwaki are carefully pruned to represent the “idealized form of a tree.”

  • Niwaki Austrian pines, Pinus nigra, are located outside the entry gate and throughout the Japanese Garden. Austrian pines are also planted around the perimeter of the Japanese Garden to provide screening.
  • A specimen Scotch pine, Pinus sylvestris, is located at the entrance to the Cherry Tree Promenade. This is known as the “gate pine.” Scotch pines can also be found among boulders at the waterfalls. Notice the lovely orange bark on older specimens!
  • Additional pines include the mugo pines, Pinus mugo, Eastern white pines, Pinus strobus, and Japanese white pines, Pinus parviflora.

Niwaki Pine

Japanese maples, Acer palmatum, are used throughout the garden.  Notice the different forms, leaf shapes and colors. In Japan, their brilliant autumn colors are a big attraction. Japanese maples also make great bonsai specimens. There are more than 700 different cultivars and the leaf shape varies considerably. Our Japanese Garden has more than eight different cultivars and these include ‘Butterfly’, ‘Nuresagi’, ‘Sangokaku’, ‘Bloodgood’, and ‘Crimson Queen.’

Japanese Maple

Japanese flowering cherries are featured in the Cherry Tree Promenade and along the shore near the Zig-Zag Bridge.  Our garden features upright, weeping and contorted forms. They typically bloom in mid to late-April (depending on weather conditions and the variety) and peak bloom lasts for about one week. The flowering cherry (sakura) is the national flower of Japan. They are celebrated every spring with cherry blossom “viewing parties.”  Even the falling petals are admired.

Serviceberry, Amelanchier spp., is an example of a tree that is native to our region and planted throughout the Japanese Garden, including at the Main Gate.  It has small white flowers in the spring, followed by small red to dark purple fruits that attract birds.  In the fall the leaves turn a lovely orange-red color.

Wisterias have been grown in traditional Japanese gardens for more than 1,000 years. Wisterias are featured on an arbor between the North and South Waterfalls.  They produce pendulous clusters of lavender flowers in the spring. Wisteria plants can live for hundreds of years!


Spireas are native to Japan and a new cultivar called ‘Double Play Gold’ is featured on the Mike and Sue Jandernoa Viewing Hill.  It produces golden yellow foliage and pink flowers throughout the summer. As they grow they will provide a low, undulating effect. 

Azaleas can be found throughout the Japanese Garden.  Lovely flowers cover the plants in the spring. We planted many different types in a variety of colors. Most of the azaleas we planted are evergreen.  Notice several lovely, large specimens tucked in amongst the large boulders at the waterfalls.


Many people are surprised to learn that some kinds of bamboo are winter hardy in Michigan. We planted ‘Yellow Groove’ bamboo (Phyllostachys aureosulcata forma aureocaulis) and Incense bamboo (Phyllostachys atrovaginata) near the Zig-Zag Bridge, Tea House, and restrooms. Incense bamboo is named for its fragrance—it produces a wax on its stems (culms) that has a fragrance similar to sandalwood. Bamboo can be found growing in the wild throughout Japan. It is also a part of daily life and is used in many different ways—to make fences, brushes, rakes, chopsticks, bowls, flooring, scaffolding etc. Bamboo symbolizes strength and flexibility.


Hundreds of Japanese irises, Iris cristata and Iris versicolor ‘Gerald Darby’, are growing in the water and along the shore near the Zig-Zag Bridge. They bloom in early summer and will produce a stunning display of blooms.

Japanese Iris

While many people try to eliminate moss from their gardens, in Japan it is regarded as an essential element. It grows over boulders and across the ground. There are more than 100 different types of moss. This lovely plant does not have true roots and absorbs moisture and nutrients through its leaves. It thrives in climates with high humidity and surprisingly, it can be difficult to grow. It can take many years for moss to form a dense mat. In our Japanese Garden we have a section called the “Natural Style Moss Garden” where you will see just how beautiful moss can be overtime.

MossPlants are used in unique ways in the Japanese Garden.

In a Japanese Garden, trees are often planted on an angle—on purpose!  In our Japanese Garden you’ll notice this is most common along the edges of the ponds, but you can see it in other places too. This echoes what happens in nature—branches extend over the water to reach the sunlight, their shallow roots don’t provide as much support in the steep, moist soil and the trees lean.

Plants are tucked in small pockets of earth between the boulders. You’ll see this in many areas of our Japanese Garden, including the approach to the Tea House. Along this path, the uneven stones require you to look down and watch your footing. Here you will see plants growing “naturally” between the stones and boulders, much as you would experience in nature.

Bamboo is used in a variety of structures, including the fence near the Tea House and the wisteria arbor. The largest canes come from a class of bamboo known as timber bamboos.

Some pines are meticulously pruned.  This is done in the spring and autumn and requires great skill and patience to do this correctly.

In Japanese gardens, groupings of shrubs, often azaleas, are clipped into organic shapes that suggest mountains, waves, boulders, clouds or clumps of trees. This is different than European topiary, which is more formal or geometric. This is not obvious now, but you will see this develop over time.

The Cherry Tree Promenade features several different varieties and forms of Japanese flowering cherry trees, including weeping, upright and contorted forms. The promenade also includes large boulders and views of a tranquil waterfall. The intention is to help visitors leave cares and concerns behind before you enter the garden.

Lawn, which is so prevalent in American gardens, is used in only one area in our Japanese Garden—it is included in the gathering area at the north end of the Cherry Tree Promenade.

About 15-20 bonsai are prominently featured in the Bonsai Garden, displayed from April through November (weather permitting).

The Richard & Helen DeVos Japanese Garden – Frequently Asked Questions (and answers!)

Who are the donors?

The Richard & Helen DeVos Japanese Garden has been made possible through the generosity of Fred and Lena Meijer, Richard and Helen DeVos and roughly 300 individuals and organizations that supported the Japanese Garden campaign.

Who designed it?

The Japanese Garden was designed by Hoichi Kurisu, recognized among the world’s leading designers of Japanese gardens. Born in Hiroshima a few years before World War II, his family experienced serious hardships after the war including having to forage for food in nearby woods. An understanding of the power of nature to sustain life, both physically and psychologically, stayed with him and later developed into a passion for gardening and landscape design.

Having trained in Tokyo and learned the intrinsic value of Japanese garden principles, he moved to the United States in 1968 and worked as the landscape garden director at the renowned Japanese Garden Society in Portland, Oregon. He then opened his own firm, Kurisu International, in 1972 and since then has created numerous Japanese gardens throughout the United States as well as in other countries. Among other awards, he received the National Landscape Award presented at the White House in 1992 and 1998 and was named one of the ten most influential Japanese garden designers worldwide by the Roth Journal in 2005.

Which Grand Rapids businesses assisted Hoichi in the creation of the garden?

Progressive AE provided engineering and architectural services, primarily for necessary support and structures below ground level. Owen-Ames-Kimball provided construction support and supervisory services. Many local contractors provided a variety of services.

Who designed and built the architectural structures?

The architectural structures were all designed in Japan by Japanese architecture firms, and all were at least partially built in Japan and then shipped to Meijer Gardens to be reassembled on site.

Will it be open year-round?

Yes. It is intended to be enjoyed in all seasons. During the winter months some areas and pathways may occasionally be closed due to weather.

Is it accessible?

Yes. All areas with a challenging terrain have an alternate path nearby, and paths and bridges are wide enough to accommodate wheelchairs.  All guests are asked to be cautious on stone paths and hilly areas.

How big is it?

The “footprint” of the Japanese Garden is eight acres, with 2½ of them taken up by the Lena Meijer Pond. The main path through the garden is ¾ of a mile long.

Is there an extra charge to enter it?

No. The Japanese Garden is free with admission.

What opportunities will guests have to learn about our Japanese Garden?

We have an illustrated brochure, a map of the garden, a family looking guide and docents positioned in the garden to answer guests’ questions. Information about the garden will be shared during our regular tram tours, incorporated into our summer camp line-up and added into our website. Tea ceremonies and tea ceremony demonstrations will be offered in the summer and fall through our classes program, and a film on the creation of the garden will be shown in the Hoffman Auditorium beginning in late fall. Classes for adults will be offered in the fall.

What is the Tranquility Zone: A Japanese Garden Environment for Families exhibition?

Tranquility Zone, sponsored by PNC Bank, is an interactive exhibition in the Snell Sculpture Education Center that translates Japanese Garden concepts into kid-friendly activities. There are three main activity areas—a teahouse, a Zen-style garden and a bridge over simulated water—and self-directed activities springing from each. Docents will be on hand to supervise many additional activities. All signage is hidden so that it must first be discovered and only then acted upon—with search-and-find challenges, did-you-know tidbits and activity prompts.

How will guests know how what is expected of them in the Japanese Garden?

Etiquette rules will be stated on the brochure, map and signage. As with all other areas of Meijer Gardens, guests are expected to stay on paths and bridges, not to touch or climb on rocks, sculpture or trees and to respect the quiet and serenity of this unique garden space.

Why are there so many boulders?

Boulders are important to Japanese gardens. They are one of the first elements introduced and they symbolize permanence. More than 4,000 boulders have been moved to the site from various areas in West Michigan: they are used for structural, aesthetic and artistic reasons.

What is the significance of the lanterns?

Lanterns were traditionally placed along paths, bridges and ponds to light the way to an evening tea ceremony; our lanterns are used for decoration.

What is the significance of the pagodas?

Pagodas are multistory structures that originally enshrined sacred relics. Found in Buddhist temple complexes, they increased as Buddhism spread through East Asia. Japanese pagodas were made of wood whose flexibility enabled them to survive earthquakes. Later, small stone pagodas were used in gardens.

How much money was raised to build the garden?

There was a successful $22 million capital campaign; a portion of the funds raised were used to establish an endowment to care for the garden in the future. We continue to accept gifts to build the fund. New sponsorship opportunities within the Garden have also been identified. Anyone interested in supporting the endowment fund or learning more about sponsorship opportunities may contact the Development Office.

What is a tea ceremony?

A tea ceremony is the ceremonial preparation and presentation of matcha (finely powdered green tea) for the enjoyment of one or more guests. The utensils are first cleaned in a precise order using exactly prescribed movements; every movement has meaning. While the ceremony is being performed silence is observed. Tea ceremonies are intended to appeal to all the senses: taste (tea and sweets), hearing (boiling water, sounds of nature in the distance), sight  (ceramics  and scroll), touch (ceramic tea bowls), smell (ikebana flowers and flowers growing outside the teahouse). Traditional tea ceremonies are based around the seasons, with the ikebana, scroll and ceramics all reflecting the current season. After the ceremony, it is the responsibility of the guests to offer comments and compliments.

What is a Zen-style garden?

A Zen-style garden is a dry landscape garden, carefully composed of arrangements of rocks and gravel that is raked into patterns. The rocks often symbolize mountains or islands and the gravel can represent rivers, waves, rippling water or oceans. Zen-style gardens are usually surrounded by a wall and are meant to be viewed from a single viewpoint—a bench or, traditionally, the porch of a temple adjacent to the garden. They are not meant to be entered or walked through at all. Zen-style gardens at Buddhist temples in Kyoto were intended to imitate the essence of nature and to aid in meditation about the meaning of life. The repetitive motion of raking helped monks focus and concentrate.

What is a Bonsai garden?

A bonsai garden is a grouping of bonsai plants for display. Our Bonsai Garden features roughly twenty rotating bonsai from our collection which will be displayed from April through November, weather permitting. Bonsai are plants that are trained to look as if they are timeworn by the forces of nature.  Almost any kind of plant can become a bonsai.

What is a Zig-zag bridge?

A Zig-zag bridge is a wooden bridge used in Japanese gardens; the name comes from its angular, zig-zag path. Originally zig-zag bridges were simply wooden planks used by farmers to traverse wet areas of their land. Later, they began to be constructed over marshy areas where irises were planted; the zig-zag pattern allows the plants to be seen more clearly. It is sometimes said that zig-zag bridges were designed to evade evil spirits which could only travel in straight lines. This is a myth; it is completely false!

Are all the plants native to Japan?

Roughly 5%-10% of the plants are native to Japan. The others are native to Michigan and other temperate climates throughout the world. What matters most is which ones are selected, how they fit into the overall design of the garden, how they are planted, how they are pruned and the way they are maintained.

How many sculptures are there?

There are seven sculptures, all created in the recent past and selected because they complement ideas and concepts in the Japanese Garden itself.

They are:

The title refers to a term the artist created to describe mature trees with curved lower trunks that resemble the curved blade of a sabre. They are staked at an angle to produce this growth and will continue to be pruned for many years to come. This piece is part of the Japanese Garden.

This work consists of a single piece of granite, carved and polished using power tools. Viewers can see themselves reflected in the three circles, which promotes viewer engagement and affects viewers’ perceptions of space.

Long Island Buddha is positioned at an angle as if it were a recently discovered historical monument, suggesting longevity and survival. It reflects a major source of inspiration for Japanese gardens in general—Buddhism.

Existence is a five-part sculpture made of granite. Selected portions of the stone are revealed through carving and polishing; the rest is left in its original, rough form. The title refers to what the artist felt existed within the stone.

Rickey is known for developing kinetic sculptures that move with the air. This horizontal piece is unlike his other works which are vertical. Positioned in the pond, it moves with the wind above the water. Gyratory is a word Rickey used to describe the circular movement of this piece, like hands on a clock.

This sculpture focuses on the theme of “human interaction with nature.” It is based on an actual installation work where the artist held onto a tree for a period of time and imagined how it would affect the growth of the tree if he continued holding on much longer. He made a mold of his hand as well as the tree and cast the whole piece in bronze.

  • For the Garden by Jenny Holzer

Jenny Holzer is a conceptual artist who focuses on particular subjects using original or borrowed text. The subject she presents for our sculpture is the experience of nature. The piece consists of 23 poems borrowed from four centuries of Japanese poetry; they are hand-carved into boulders and placed throughout the Japanese Garden. The spacing is original to the poets but the use of all capitals is typical of Holzer’s work.

Here is one of the poems: