Anderson Japanese Gardens

Anderson Japanese Gardens

Part of Ep. 2101 Japanese Gardening

Visit our neighbors to the south to see what is considered one of the premier Japanese gardens in North America, Anderson Japanese Gardens in Rockford, Ill.

Premiere date: Mar 02, 2013

TRANSCRIPT+
Wisc Gardener Transcript: 

Shelley Ryan:

We are at Anderson Japanese Gardens in Rockford, Illinois one of the most outstanding Japanese gardens in North America. I am with the curator, Tim Gruner. Tim, when I walk through this beautiful space I find it hard to believe this started out as a private garden.

 

Tim Gruner:

It did. As a matter of fact, it was inspired by the feeling that Mr. Anderson had in other Japanese gardens in particular, triggered by a trip to Japan and the Portland Japanese Garden.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Boy, this inspired him.

 

Tim Gruner:

Oh, definitely, you know. It was the kind of thing where it felt so good that sense of tranquility and peace he wanted to bring it home to his own property. That was kind of like where the idea was spawned to build this garden.

 

Shelley Ryan:

And it kind of grew.

 

Tim Gruner:

It grew wildly, yeah. In 1998, the garden became a public entity a not-for-profit. We've been moving forward ever since.

 

Shelley Ryan:

You're open until about the end of October.

 

Tim Gruner:

Yeah, we're open through October to catch the beautiful fall colors.

 

Shelley Ryan:

And the beautiful bark, too. It's open to the public, anybody can come? How many acres?

 

Tim Gruner:

Twelve acres.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Wow, so it really grew.

 

Tim Gruner:

It's big.

 

Shelley Ryan:

It's so incredible and it's such a unique style. I guess my first question has to be what constitutes a Japanese garden?

 

Tim Gruner:

That's a good question. Japanese gardens are not just Japanese plants. Really, a Japanese garden is a collection of patterns and rhythms of nature that inspire the garden's design. Then, with that, with nature, then integrated with humanity because humanity and nature were considered part of the whole, part of one thing. So we have the geometry of the architecture integrated with very natural spaces.

 

Shelley Ryan:

The hardness of something like this gorgeous gate and then the softness of the plants and how they contrast and flow together.

 

Tim Gruner:

That's right. It's like a two-way fusion, a two-way osmosis. They kind of flow past each other and into each other.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Looking at all of the examples of hard and soft is kind of what we're talking about.

 

Tim Gruner:

Exactly.

 

Shelley Ryan:

We can also look at the pruning styles, too, I assume. Because even though this looks like it's very natural and very wild I can tell that that's been pruned quite deliberately.

 

Tim Gruner:

Yeah, it's been pruned a lot over the last 25 years. The idea is to create, kind of the emotional response that you might have to a grand tree in nature in this small space, kind of like the bonsai. But very much controlled and very much manipulated with the idea that it feels natural.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Okay, and it's a very formal style.

 

Tim Gruner:

This is more formal in style.

 

Shelley Ryan:

So you've got many different places on the 12 acres that we can look at. But you've got another spot that's more rustic where the pruning is completely different, too.

 

Tim Gruner:

That's true.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Let's go look at that. Tim, before you say anything, I've been here before. This tea house is one of my favorite spots.

 

Tim Gruner:

Yeah, mine too. This kind of a space is different than a lot of other spaces in the garden in that it's very much less formal. This is a tea house. A tea house is an example of a rustic retreat far off in the mountains.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Even though it really isn't far off.

 

Tim Gruner:

It really isn't, but the idea is that the guest would take this journey along the stream, across the river climb up into the mountain past the mountain meadow, where there would be this rustic retreat where a tea host would create a very special environment to celebrate a moment of time together over a bowl of tea.

 

Shelley Ryan:

It's an illusion created by the plants by the water, by the rocks. I assume in Japanese culture you don't really have to be far away to have this illusion.

 

Tim Gruner:

No, in fact, really, most spaces like this were near or in the middle of a big city.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Wow, well you've captured it here. You've also captured one of my favorite new, little vignettes. Behind you the moss garden with the shooting stars and the trillium looks like it's a spot that's been untouched by humans for thousands of years.

 

Tim Gruner:

Yeah, I really love that space, too. The moss is just so vibrant this time of the year.

 

Shelley Ryan:

So green.

 

Tim Gruner:

It's wonderful, it has great energy. With those little scattering of ephemeral spring flowers over there, it really has a nice a real nice sense about it.

 

Shelley Ryan:

We're talking about, you know, the tea house and how beautiful this is. Tea houses and the whole tea ceremony are also a very important part not just in Japanese gardens, but in the culture itself.

 

Tim Gruner:

That's right. Tea became elemental to training people on how to be good people.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Oh, really?

 

Tim Gruner:

In fact in warriors, it was very much a part of the samurai class, the study of tea. So, through tea was found discipline and all sorts of lessons in life. But, at it's core, tea is about a host and his or her guests sharing a moment of time. This beautiful time that we have together. Sharing that moment of time and bringing the best of who they are, both host and guest bringing the best of who they are into the moment.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Wow, what a beautiful philosophy. I had no idea. You have another beautiful spot that's a must see for people who come to visit Anderson Gardens.

 

Tim Gruner:

There really are so many places to see.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Well, yeah.

 

Tim Gruner:

As far as just a great example of seeing a really nice integration of architecture and the garden the guest house, with it's raked gravel is a fantastic place to see that two-way osmosis between nature and architecture.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Again, that concept of soft and hard the whole philosophy of Japanese gardens.

 

Tim Gruner:

That's right, and that human beings and nature were part of the same thing.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Well, lots of places and reasons to visit. Thank you so much for sharing.

 

Tim Gruner:

I was very happy to.

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