by Tom Dufala

NAJGA members Tom and Laura Dufala combined an educational experience in Japanese gardening with a road trip to remember from the Pacific Northwest to the Canadian Rockies and back.  

It was a gorgeous, autumnal journey crossing the Canadian Rockies to find Lethbridge on the southern edge of Alberta.  My wife and I gave ourselves two days to cover the distance from our home in Boring (Portland), OR, arriving in a prairie landscape very different then imagined. A wind gust immediately gripping  us as we stepped from our vehicle. We wondered if we’d come to the right place?



NAJGA member and Nikka Yuko garden consultant Masa Mizuno teaching the art of stone setting.

After a restful sleep, I stepped out of my hotel room and bumped directly into Masa Mizuno, the garden designer/consultant for the Nikka Yuko Garden.  At that moment I sensed good energy and knew we were in for some fun!  My wife and I followed him to a gathering of 20-25 garden enthusiasts anxious to understand how a remarkable Japanese garden was conceived, designed, constructed and then resurrected on the grassy plains north of the Montana border!  We were warmly greeted by garden staff and welcomed with friendly Canadian hospitality for the next couple of days.  Michelle Day gave a brief overview of the garden’s fifty year history.   She was followed by an detailed garden restoration presentation by Al White and Masa on the gardens’s renaissance, which began in 1991. 


Hints of autumn amidst the evergreens in Nikka Yuko.

After a hardy lunch, we walked to Henderson Park, home to Nikka Yuko Garden, Henderson Lake, a rose garden and numerous trails and park amenities .  A long formal angular walk leads your eye to the Nikka Yukko garden gate with a two story pavilion rising directly beyond.  Once through the gate, the garden slowly revealed  its bones.  How could you not be overwhelmed with the hardy Amur Maple’s oranges and reds reflecting on to the streams and pools.   All of the vegetation, including the grass berms, were in wonderful harmony with the various structures and garden elements. The masterfully cloud-pruned Mugo and Scotch pines were testament to the skill of the gardening staff. 


Harvest moon over Nikka Yuko

Later that evening, as the super-harvest moon rose over Henderson Lake, garden guests were again drawn to Nikka Yuko by the rhythm of taiko drumming.  At the close of the evening we “viewed” the garden again, but with eyes closed in a unique journey in the “Art of Stillness”.

Following a second full day of horticulture, garden demonstrations and a lovely banquet at the Galt Museum, my wife and I continued exploring the magic of the region.  In forty-five minutes, we found ourselves hiking and enjoying the Rockies at Waterton-Lakes National Park then south to Glacier and Yellowstone Parks. 

Thank you, Nikka Yuko for exposing us to a week of the cultural and natural discoveries!


Tea ceremony at the Nikka Yuko pavilion.