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In a country as densely populated as Japan, a garden provides a source of relief and serenity in crowded, urban areas. That peace can be found just north of the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory at Como Park, in the Charlotte Partridge Ordway Japanese Garden. Like any garden, it is alive with beautiful things, making it a feast for the senses. On another level, it can be viewed as a metaphor for life’s journey, a place conducive to entering a meditative state, which calms and renews the spirit.
Rocks – The Japanese Garden has more than 400 tons of igneous and metaphoric rock from the Canadian Shield geologic formation, much of which was hauled from a quarry in Apple Valley, Minnesota.
Plants – The plants and trees in the Charlotte Partridge Ordway Japanese Garden are hardy in Minnesota and planted according to Japanese garden design principles. Gardeners use special techniques to prune and shape the pines and shrubs to compliment and soften rock compositions or evoke images of hilltops and billowing clouds. This deliberate blending of adaptive plants and Japanese design aesthetics serves as a reminder of the enduring friendship between the Sister Cities of Saint Paul and Nagasaki.
Water – Water in the garden is valued for its transient effects; the music of a waterfall is the heart of this garden. A “viewing stone” at the edge of the pond provides guests with a central vantage point. Dry riverbeds, defined by water-smooth stones, evoke water when none is present and suggest the power of a rushing stream. The dry riverbed in this garden also serves to channel runoff‑ following a heavy rain.
Lanterns – Three of the lanterns in the Charlotte Partridge Ordway Japanese Garden were originally part of the 1904 World’s Fair in Saint Louis. They were brought to Minnesota for a Japanese Garden located on what is now Como Park Golf Course. The City of Nagasaki provided the wide-roofed “snow-viewing” lantern, located near the bridge, as a gift to the citizens of Saint Paul. The reddish lantern at the entrance to the garden was created from stone salvaged from a 100-year-old park drinking fountain.
The garden’s design was a gift from the people of Nagasaki, St. Paul’s sister city, to the people of St. Paul. It was designed by Masami Matsuda, landscape architect from Nagasaki, as a peaceful retreat. Mr. Matsuda, however, gives credit to nature for the garden’s creation. Funds were donated by the family of Mrs. John G. Ordway. It was opened to the public in 1979, and completely renovated in 1990-1991 under Mr. Matsuda’s direct supervision. In the 2001 Como Friends launches an $8.5 million capital campaign to improve the garden. In November 2008, a City of St. Paul Landscape Architect presents the Ordway Gardens plan to Masami Matsuda in Nagasaki. In the spring of 2012, the garden is renovated under the direction of renowned Japanese Garden specialist, John Powell. In 2013 the Charlotte Partridge Ordway Japanese Gardens reopens.
1 Data & photos submitted by Matt Reinartz, Marketing & Public Relations Manager, Como Park Zoo & Conservatory