The Water Garden at the Memphis Botanic Garden
has taken on many different looks through its almost 50 years of
existence. From tropical water lilies to
plantings of Nandinas, Mondo grass and Loropetalum, the garden never seemed to
have much permanence; until now.
I would describe the theme of the garden as a modern combination
of traditional Japanese garden styles.
One of the styles you will find is kare-sansui,
a style dating back to the Muromachi era Japan (1336-1573), developed
by Zen Buddhist as a form of meditation on their path to enlightenment. In the traditional form of these gardens, you
find no plants, but only gravel or sand, and rock, which are strategically
placed for the viewer to ponder their meaning.
Are they stony islands amidst an ocean of gravel? Or are they mountain
peaks, protruding through pebbly clouds?
While there is no “rock hard”
interpretation of these gardens, it is important to remember that each person
who views it will see and feel something different.
Although the new Water Garden has these rigid and rocky
elements, it is also soften by a deliberately limited plant palette consisting
of Raphiolepsis indica 'Olivia' (Indian Hawthorn), Acer palmatum 'Ryusen'
(Ryusen Japanese Maple), Ilex vomitoria (Yaupon Holly), Acer palmatum (Japanese
Maple), Cedrus deodara ‘Feeling Blue’, masses of Ophiopogon japonicus (Monkey
Grass) and Carex conica ‘Snow Line’. The
masses of Indian Hawthorn planted close to the rocky outcroppings represent a
similar Japanese garden style of the aforementioned kare-sansui called o-karikomi, developed during the Edo era, early 1600’s.
With this style, the gravel and stone of the kare-sansui are combined
with tightly clipped hedges of varying shapes and sizes, sometimes
representative of historical events. The
hedges within the water garden will eventually be an undulating mass,
conversing with the stoic boulders.
Although the overall style of the garden is minimal, the
concepts behind the garden’s elements are complex and subjective. So come prepared to contemplate the garden’s meaning;
however you choose to interpret it.
Cosby, Nick Esthus, Jeff Reynolds
Cosby, Nick Esthus, Jeff Reynolds, Monico Ortiz
Cosby, Peggy Peters