I was led to horticulture by a life changing experience while backpacking in Smoky Mountain National Park almost forty years ago. For the first time in my early adult life, I was 24, I felt a sense of calm and receptivity that I had never experienced. As a horticulture student I visited Anderson Japanese Gardens on a class trip. I was unaware that Japanese gardens even existed. On that visit to the Garden, I became aware of the same kind of calm and receptive feeling I had experienced in the mountains; I was hooked.
It would be my wish that people visiting Japanese gardens anywhere could share in the experience I have had. That said, I am also aware of how much energy, skill, and resources it requires to build and then foster a quality Japanese garden. All gardens will evolve whether we want them to or not; they are constantly changing and need fostering throughout their perpetual life. The future of Japanese gardens and their value to society will largely be shaped by the quality of care they receive through time, from generation to generation. It becomes fundamental that gardeners, and the administrations that support them, need opportunities to gain the skill and insight required to shepherd the garden or gardens they care for. Gardens grow and evolve; people need to as well.
In a world where shoddy work has become common, Japanese gardens celebrate craftsmanship of all kinds, from the design and birth of gardens, long-term fostering by gardeners, to the creations of skilled wood workers. There is a plethora of supporting art and craft work including that of bamboo specialists, potters, calligraphers, painters, poets, Ikebana practitioners, musicians, plasterers and so on. It would be my dream that people of all kinds and interests work together to build an experience for people that fosters lives of insight, clarity, health and integrity.
Tim Gruner is Garden Curator & Head of Horticulture at Anderson Japanese Gardens in Rockford, Illinois