I rarely do a second report on any of the locations presented here at the Retreat. This is a special occasion. While Hermann Park in Houston Texas was highlighted months ago because a Retreat member was moving to Houston, I had the opportunity to see it in person and experience the Japanese Garden.
The Japanese Garden in Hermann Park was built in the Daimyo Style, a traditional design that dates back to the 17th, 18th, and 19th century stroll gardens. Like most stroll gardens, this five-acre oasis is designed around a sequence of landscape elements, which combine to create a work of living art. It exemplifies the philosophical and artistic attitude of the designer and combines elegant simplicity with traditional design to fit in harmony with the park’s topography and Texas roots.
Winding stone paths meander past crepe myrtles, azaleas, Japanese maples, dogwoods, peach and cherry trees as well as other flowering foliage. A small arbor is visible in the distance beyond the bridge and through a grove of pine trees. The Japanese iris outlining the arbor beckons you on as you wind your way towards the center of the garden and the Azumaya or teahouse.
The garden was built in 1991 and completed in 1992 by world-renowned Japanese landscape architect Ken Nakajima. From 2006-2011, the park underwent renovation by Terunobu Nakai. This renovation included not only trying to capture the essence of Japanese gardens but instructing the staff in the correct trimming and gardening techniques to sustain the garden. Nakai San passed in 2012.
Unlike many other gardens in the United States that are sustained through entrance fees, this is sustained by the city through normal funds. This allows the serenity and experience of the garden to be free and open to the public. As you enter the garden through the arches, you pass a Ishi Doro Yukimi lantern donated by Houston’s sister city Chiba. Entering, you find much of the stone of the surrounding area to be the pale pink granite form the local area (mirrored in many of the buildings in the neighborhood as well as the nearby Rice University.
Several paths wind through the garden showcasing trees and shrubs that are being trained in the Japanese style. Included are tall lodge pole pines that have been shaped into the Literati Bonsai style, growing tall with few branches near the top. Walkways flanked by Peeling Bark Crape Myrtle and bright Azaleas add a flair of color to the serene walk. Situated in the center of the garden is the tea house and lake, reminiscent of the buildings used by the Shogunate and high ranking preists/monks.
There is a sense of serenity in the park as well as connection with nature. Several of the inhabitants of the park including several Mandarin Ducks and a plethora of local squirrels seem nonplussed by human interaction and come so far as looking into food bags and snack containers (as told by the far reaching Retreat member.) The sound of the falls echoes quietly against the trees and offers a moment of peace in an everyday hectic world.