Waterfront Botanical Gardens inaugurates a 2-acre garden

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The Waterfront Botanical Gardens today officially opened Louisville’s first authentic public Japanese garden designed by renowned landscape artist Shiro Nakane. The world-class, $22 million Japanese garden will be located on a 2-acre site just north of the current Graeser Family Education Center and will be built by Japanese craftsmen over the course of 24 months.

Mr. Nakane was on hand to celebrate the groundbreaking with Japanese Vice Consul General Masahiko Mitsumoto, elected officials and more than 100 botanical garden supporters, board members, staff and donors. Mr. Nakane spoke not only about the distinctive design of Japanese gardens, but also about the coming together of cultures that occurs when a Japanese garden is built outside of Japan. He shared, “The apparent admiration and esteem enjoyed by the Japanese garden around the world is likely attributable to the recognition of its universal artistic merits, which transcend all racial, religious and cultural differences.

The garden will include a traditional Japanese tea house, designed to introduce the Japanese tea ceremony, one of the most prestigious and symbolic rituals in Japanese culture. A summer house, a Zen garden and a zigzag bridge over a small lake are also planned for the Japanese garden. The cornelian cherry, a type of flowering dogwood, will be present in a few places in the garden.

The gardens will also include a bonsai garden, with 24 trees donated by the late Tommy McCurry and 6 additional trees donated by the Chicago Botanic Garden.

The bonsai garden was sponsored by the Graeser family in honor of their parents, Emil and Nancy Graeser. “We are deeply grateful to the Graeser family for their continued support in providing vision and resources to bring the gardens to life, and in honoring their parents, Emil and Nancy Graeser, who have been great supporters of our project from the start” , said Kasey Maier, president and CEO of the Waterfront Botanical Gardens.

The Graeser Family Bonsai Garden was designed to balance the traditional design of the adjacent Japanese garden and the surrounding contemporary design of the waterfront botanical gardens, integrating the design aspects of both spaces. The intention is to create a truly unique garden that celebrates the individuality of each bonsai while creating a distinct waterfront botanical garden experience. The space includes a winding path with small garden “rooms” for rest, reflection and contemplation on the artful bonsai, and a larger plaza that can be used for educational and social gatherings. The Bonsai House will be used for the maintenance and protection of the trees during the winter.

Japanese garden landscaper Shiro Nakane works closely with the Waterfront Botanical Gardens team and Perkins+Will, the Waterfront Botanical Gardens architectural firm. Mr. Nakane is the son of the famous Japanese traditional landscaper Kinsaku Nakane. Shiro Nakane has followed in his father’s footsteps since becoming President of Nakane Garden Research and Landscape Consultant Firm, headquartered in Tokyo, Japan, in 1995. This is Mr. Nakane’s fourth visit in Louisville to see the site of the Japanese garden and meet the WBG team. He will return several times to supervise the construction of the garden.

For more information on the Waterfront Botanical Gardens or to inquire about the Japanese Garden, please visit www.waterfrontgardens.org.

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