Japanese-inspired ISLAND GARDEN

Island Garden Bridge

After careful planning and thoughtful design, years of the highest-quality construction, and painstaking hours of care toward creating authentic features, the Island Garden is a reality. Under the watchful eye of the Island Garden’s mastermind and renowned Japanese Garden designer, Sadafumi ‘Sada’ Uchiyama, the public opening of the Island Garden occurred on Friday, May 22, 2020. The Japanese-inspired Island Garden is a gift from Don (1944-2014) and Jurate Krabill. 

While a mere one acre in size, the Island Garden is loaded with stunning views and intentional landscape design called miegakure, a garden design concept that can be observed in many gardens in Japan and China, usually translated as ‘hide and reveal’. Miegakure design is meant to obscure or ‘hide’ some portion of the garden from the viewer from any single viewpoint. Sada designed the Island Garden in such a way that the entire garden composition is not seen from any one point, as is often the case with Western garden design. A stroll-style garden, the Island Garden is intended to be walked around and experienced rather than viewed from one place. Carefully composed views are created so that visitors move from one scene to the next as they travel along the pathways.

The Island Garden includes:

  • Three separate islands compose the “Island Garden”:
    • The Main Island is the highest walkable point in Wellfield, rising 11 feet above the surface of the ponds.
    • The West Island is a small island with excellent views of both Lotus Pond to the west and the Main Island to the east. It is accessed by two beautiful wooden bridges; the ‘Willow Bridge’ on the south end and the ‘Zig-Zag Bridge’ on the north, both handcrafted of durable ipê wood (Handroanthus sp.) decking.
    • The Event Island, created by the division of the western and northern branches of the Mountain Stream and accessed by two ipê wood bridges is intended not only as a beautiful grassy area with great views of Lotus Pond and the Main Island, but as a functional event space. The Event Island may be rented for weddings, receptions, or other private gatherings. We’ll also conduct programming such as yoga and special events on the Event Island. On the western shoreline of the Event Island is the ‘boat landing’ a symbolic feature typical in many Japanese Gardens with adjacent bodies of water.
  • A magnificent wooden pavilion sits atop the Main Island. Called 遊水亭 [pronounced “Yu Sui Tei”] and meaning ‘pavilion befriended by waters’, this handcrafted work of functional art was constructed by local craftsmen Gowdy Woodworks and Eggink Construction. The pavilion utilizes some locally-sourced wood, including the 12 main corner posts, lathed from Ash trees salvaged from American Park that were killed by the emerald ash borer, an invasive insect. Can you find evidence of the emerald ash borer on the posts? The floor of the pavilion is made of both light and dark fine granite, representing a tatami (畳) mat floor pattern, traditional in Japanese-style rooms. Tatami are made in standard sizes, twice as long as wide, about 0.9 m by 1.8 m depending on the region of Japan. How many tatami mats make up our pavilion floor?
  • Four, handcrafted Japanese Stone Lanterns:
    • The Nishinoya-style lantern is the largest lantern, greeting guests at the Island’s stone bridge main entry. The Nishinoya is 78″ tall and weighs 1300 pounds!
    • The Misaki-style lantern is the smallest lantern, approximately 28″ tall and weighing 300 pounds. It acts as a lighthouse and does not have a pedestal, its base resting on a stone just off the shore of the West Island.
    • The Zendo-ji-style lantern also serves as a lighthouse, marking the entry to the ‘boat landing’ an arrangement of slate stone slabs along the shoreline of the Event Island.
    • The Takenosho-style lantern sits near the top of the ADA accessible pathway on the southeast shoreline of the Main Island. This rustic lantern has a moon-shaped window in its light chamber, can you find it?
  • A rushing Mountain Stream with beautiful waterfalls that drop 11 feet from the top of the Main Island to its outlets at Lotus Pond. A central element to our senses on the Island Garden, the stream and waterfalls were carefully constructed with direction from Sada. The construction began with a concrete shell lining the main, lower ‘canyon’ and a synthetic liner in the upper stream above the foot bridge. In total, more than 100 tons of boulders were placed in and alongside the Mountain Stream! Simulating a natural stream system, there is lesser volume of water beginning at the ‘mountain top’ – – only 200 gallons per minute – – then additional water volume is added at three points downstream, resulting in 500 gallons per minute at the bottom. The Mountain Stream ‘splits’ in two directions – – the western branch and northern branch – – creating the Event Island turf area in the lowlands.
  • Over 100 tons of boulders are found on our Island Garden. In Japanese gardens, rocks are considered the bones of the earth. They are an essential part of a garden and are carefully chosen and placed before the plants and structures. Many of the rocks in this garden are partially buried to appear as if they have always been here. Designers of Japanese gardens use rocks for different purposes. In some Japanese gardens rocks symbolize religiously significant mountains or philosophical ideas. Sometimes they mimic bridges, boats, or landforms seen in ink wash paintings. In this garden, rocks were chosen and are used for their sculptural and aesthetic qualities.
  • How many wooden bridges are on the Island Garden? There are 5 wooden bridges on the Island Garden, not including the large, Japanese Arched Bridge, a gift from the Eggink Family, located at the northeast entry to the Garden across Lotus Creek. After entering the Island Garden from the south at the Elk Garden by crossing the large, stone slab bridge (and walking in a clockwise direction), you’ll first encounter the ‘Willow Bridge’, a straight and flat bridge with a short railing, handcrafted of durable ipê wood (Handroanthus sp.) decking. Next, you’ll cross the Zigzag Bridge, which recalls the beauty of simple bridges Japanese farmers would build to cross shallow ponds and streams. In traditional Japanese gardens, a bridge such as this is often placed amidst drifts of irises as an allusion to an ancient Japanese tale that is set in a region known for irises. In this garden the zigzag bridge is also used to encourage visitors to slow down and consider the view around them. Two gently-arched ipê wood bridges access the Event Island. And continuing up the hill, you’ll cross a straight, flat wooden bridge that spans the top of the waterfall. Stop to enjoy both the craftsmanship AND the terrific views provided at these beautiful bridges!
  • Enjoy one of the beautifully handcrafted ipê wood benches, located in several locations around the Island Garden. Find and feel some of the rough-cut lumber edges left intentionally by our craftsmen to illustrate the large diameter saw blades used in the forest where these trees were harvested. Gowdy Woodworks and Eggink Construction, who created these benches, felt the cross-hatch patterns helped tell the story and history of this wood, which had been in storage in Elkhart for nearly 40 years before being utilized on our Island Garden! 
  • Do you notice the burnt wood posts used for pathway step ‘risers’ and small retention walls? Yakisugi (焼杉) is a traditional Japanese method of wood preservation used in Japan since the 18th century. Yaki means ‘to heat with fire’ and sugi is cypress. While the burnt wood on the Island Garden is not cypress, the process of charring the surface of the wood without combusting the whole piece makes the wood waterproof through carbonisation and also more durable. Yakisugi also makes the wood resistant against insects, deterioration, and even fire-proof!
  • Borrowed Scenery – Inspired by ink wash landscape paintings, many Japanese garden designers of the Edo period (1600-1868) created gardens that included distant views as a part of the composition of their gardens. The whole design – both garden and vista – was intended to be appreciated as one scene. Do you notice any intentional ‘borrowed scenery’ in Sadafumi’s design of our Island Garden? 

Guests are encouraged to stroll this garden and enjoy its beauty, peace and tranquility while observing a few simple rules:

  • Stay on trails.
  • Do not climb on rocks.
  • Do not enter the water.
  • Children – – please ensure your adults are following these important rules!

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