CREATING AND NURTURING JAPANESE GARDENS: A Practice-Based Perspective From the South

3-Day Garden Workshop & Demonstration 

February 10, 11 and 12, 2017

Fort Worth Botanic Gardens, Texas

Meiners Garden, Grand Prairie, Texas



The diverse topography of the state of Texas contains elements associated with both the southern and southwestern parts of the United States, from the rolling prairies, grasslands, forests and coastlines in the east to the deserts of the southwest. As big as the land itself is the canvas of myriad possibilities for expressing the landscape-inspired artistry of a Japanese garden in the Lone Star State.

The Japanese garden at the Fort Worth Botanic Garden and a private garden located in the city of Grand Prairie illustrate the range of traditional and contemporary landscape artistry worked into that sprawling canvas. The 7.5-acre garden in Fort Worth incorporates both a traditional stroll garden with a water feature and two interpretations of the dry landscape style. The Meiners Garden in Grand Prairie is an example of the adaptability of the Japanese garden aesthetic, with its emphasis on responding to the environment in which the garden exists.  The tea garden and the hill-and-pond garden are seamlessly integrated with the residence in traditional Japanese manner.  A larger pond garden in the premises is a parallel ongoing project.


These gardens illustrate how Japanese gardens are always a work in progress. This past February 10, 11 and 12, the North American Japanese Garden Association (NAJGA) offered a rare opportunity for participants to both shape the future of these gardens and appreciate them through hands-on sessions. The sessions included the repair and maintenance of man-made and horticultural elements, the creation of a new water feature, and a day of learning with a focus on the tea garden tradition.    

For garden owners and other enthusiasts, the event provided an instructive inside view of two gardens in evolution that related to their own creation / maintenance concerns and garden study.         

This event was eligible for CEUs (continuing education units) with the professional organizations cited below. 

National Association of Landscape Professionals



Association of Professional Landscape Designers

DAY 1 - February 10, Friday

8 AM to 4.30 PM 


Japanese Garden at the Fort Worth Botanic Garden, TX   


The Suzuki Garden was added to the Fort Worth Japanese Garden in 2000.  It is a dry landscape garden that offers a contemporary contrast to the more traditional dry landscape garden that adjoins it.  Several issues are in need of repair and maintenance including some of the fencing, a considerable amount of pruning and some adjustments to the planting scheme.   Participants were divided into three groups but encouraged to engage in the area(s) that most interested them throughout the day.


   1. Bamboo sleeve fence repair (Ryoan-ji gaki)

   2.  Pruning & Shaping 

                 -  Shaping of wave foliage(O-karikomi)
                 -  Pine and juniper garden tree pruning
   3. Transplant & Planting

                 - Digging and wrapping technique of garden plants (Nemaki)

                 - Explanation of garden tree transplant preparation) (Nemawashi)

DAY 2 - February 11, Saturday

8 AM to 4:30 PM


Meiners Garden, Grand Prairie, TX


The Meiners garden is composed of three gardens: 

       1. A traditional tea garden and tea room using a mix of materials from Japan and local sources. 

       2. A koi pond and hill garden featuring a closed biological filtration system

       3. A large pond garden which also serves as a visual backdrop for the other two gardens

The first two gardens are complete. The Saturday workshop focused on the construction of a headwater and stream for the large pond garden, which is a work in progress that will eventually be connected to the pond and hill garden by a path.  

After some initial instruction on stream construction, participants had the opportunity to design and build their own section of the stream using available materials.  Following discussion of this exercise, focus turned to the completion of the headwater for the large pond.  Proper use of equipment like the tripod and excavator was demonstrated as well as proper techniques for slinging and transporting stones.


DAY 3 - February 12, Sunday

9 AM to 4:00 PM


Forth Worth Japanese Garden & Meiners Garden


The day’s activities included expert-led tours of the Fort Worth Japanese Garden and of the Meiners Garden. 

During the Meiners garden tour, there was a presentation of the construction process for the tea garden and the hill-and-pond garden,  demonstrations of bamboo fence techniques and bamboo elements for tea garden and ceremony, and participation in a traditional Japanese tea ceremony presided by the Chado Urasenke Tankokai.




John Powell of Weatherford, Texas, provides Japanese style garden design, construction and maintenance.  After a first visit to Japan in 1993, he launched an intensive study of Japanese garden history, design, construction and maintenance.  In 1997, he attended the first intensive seminar at the Research Center for Japanese Garden Art and Historical Heritage in Kyoto, Japan, followed by internships with Suzuki Zoen in Niigata, Japan and at the Adachi Museum of Art in Yasugi, Japan.   John is a frequent contributor to Sukiya Living magazine (Journal of Japanese Gardening) and in 2011, completed the design and construction of the new Asian sculpture garden at the Crow Collection of Asian Art in Dallas, Texas as well as serving as lead garden consultant for several public Japanese gardens throughout the United States.  John is a frequent presenter for the North American Japanese Garden Association and a member of the board of directors.


Avram Dalton is a garden builder and tree pruner from Southern California.  He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Japanese Studies from the University of California San Diego.  After living in Tsukuba, Japan as an exchange student, Avram returned to Japan after completing university work for a landscape construction firm in Shizuoka, Japan.  Since returning to the United States, he served as the Head Gardener of the San Diego Japanese Friendship Garden until starting his own construction company in 2013.  His specialties are woven fences and stone wall construction.

Nick Esthus is the Senior Japanese Gardener at the Fort Worth Botanic Garden.  He previously worked at the Memphis Botanic Garden for five years tending to Senjaku-en, The Japanese Garden of Tranquility.  In 2013, Nick studied in Kyoto, Japan at The Japanese Garden Intensive Seminar at Kyoto University of Art & Design.  Nick has a Bachelor’s degree in Landscape Horticulture from the Ohio State University and an Associate’s degree in Landscape Design & Build from Columbus State Community College.   Previous experiences include internships at Longwood Gardens, Dawes Arboretum and Chadwick Arboretum and a private nursery and landscape company in New Albany, Ohio.