Tour the Garden

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Note to the reader: Specific information about construction can be found on the History page.

The Entry Gate stimulates the visitor's anticipation of what lies ahead. The busy world remains outside. The stones on the floor of the Entry Gate were selected and placed with a great deal of care.

Rocks symbolize quietness, timelessness, and stability. They constitute the skeleton of a garden and give it strength and character. Most of the rocks in our Garden are granite from Minnesota.

The Square Shelter is just inside the Entry Gate. It is made of rough-sawn cedar, stucco, and cedar shakes. The Shelter provides a retreat and an overview of the Garden and the natural pond beyond.

The Bentendo is the hexagon-shaped building on one of the three islands in the Garden's lagoon. The name is a combination of two words: Benten is a goddess of fortune; Do is a suffix used to indicate certain types of buildings. Buildings are used for accent in Japanese gardens and rarely have a function. This Bentendo is constructed of redwood. The arched roof rafters were hand-lathed onsite, as were the rounds. Forty-foot pilings support the structure. Funds to build the Bentendo were donated by Military Intelligence Service Language School veterans who were stationed at Savage and Fort Snelling during World War II. In gratitude for the warm welcome extended to them by Minnesotans, they wished to leave a memorial to their time spent in Minnesota.

The Taiko-bashi (drum-shaped bridge), with its graceful design, crosses over to the Bentendo. The bridge was also donated by the MIS veterans.

Water is an important element in a garden. The sight and sound of flowing water reminds us of the passage of time.

The Waterfall expresses the mountain valley. It can be heard, but not seen, when you enter the Garden. This is meant to create a sense of longing or anticipation. Its cascading waters empty into the lagoon to be re-circulated and fall again. It provides dramatic, yet soothing, music to the ear.

The Garden lagoon was created from a portion of Green Heron Pond that is on the college campus' property. The northern side of the lagoon was created by first placing live tree branches on the perimeter and covering the branches with sand and then with dirt. This was done on each side to create the lagoon. Steel sheet pilings around the inner edge of the lagoon maintain the shoreline.

Fish were first stocked in the pond in 1983 when 200 goldfish were transferred from Loring Park Lake in Minneapolis. (Yes, we had a permit.) Since then, winterkill and restocking have occurred regularly.

Cedar steps lead up a gentle slope to the Round Shelter, a resting place where one can view the reflections caught in the Garden lagoon. The umbrella shaped roof is supported by a donated utility pole.

The Flat Bridge, which is painted red, is one of the few colorful focal points of the Garden. Its decking is Pau Lope, a Brazilian hardwood also known as Ipe.

The Zig-Zag Bridge is designed so that evil spirits, who follow a straight line, cannot cross. The bridge is made of redwood, with Pau Lope as the decking.

The Stream flows into a weir that maintains the water level in the lagoon, along with a well that is 325 feet deep.

The islands are named because of their shapes. Crane Island, the smaller, and Turtle Island both signify longevity and good health. In Japan it is said that cranes live a thousand years and a turtle for ten thousand.

The Stone Lanterns in the Garden are hand carved granite and were shipped here from Japan. The Pagoda Lantern is ten feet tall and is located on the high hill near the Entrance Gate. The Kasuga Lantern, six feet tall, is on the left of the main path into the Garden. It is one of the most typical types of upright lanterns in Japan and is named for the shrine in Nara where its style originated. The low lantern next to the lagoon is called the Yukimi or Snow Viewing Lantern.

The five Memorial Benches in the Garden were given in memory of: Marshall A. Ness (2 benches), Ellen Newman (1), Edith Johnson (1), and Roger Arroyo, Marie May, Howard Noreen, Richard A. Nelson, and Barbara Leisgang.

Ornamental Wind Chimes and Hanging Lanterns are hung on the Bentendo during special occasions in the Garden. For security reasons, they are not on permanent display.

The plant materials used in the Garden demonstrate restraint and simplicity rather than gaiety and showiness. The Garden contains more than 300 trees and shrubs. They require artful pruning to create the feeling of an entire landscape. Pines are trained to look small, old, and windswept. Shrubs are sheared into rounded shapes to suggest hillocks. Some are pruned so that their foliage masses suggest clouds. The plant materials are different from those found in traditional gardens in Japan. Plants were chosen for their ability to survive extremely cold Minnesota winters.

Flowers and colors are generally used sparingly in Japanese gardens. In our Garden, the cherry and apple blossoms signal spring, followed by irises, Japanese lilacs, azaleas, pagoda dogwoods, hydrangeas, and others as the seasons change.

The Bentendo in the Japanese Garden at Normandale

Cedar Steps in the Japanese Garden

Misty Morning in the Japanese Garden at Normandale

A Stone Lantern in the Japanese Garden at Normandale