A Visit to Myo-Wa-En, Garden of Peace and Tranquility

August 11, 2012

I recently had the opportunity to have a private tour of Myo-Wa-En, in Loomis, California, when the Association of Professional Landscape Designers (APLD), Sacramento District, were given a private tour.  This amazing traditional Japanese garden is not open to the public, although the owner, Boonie Lang, conducts tours twice a year by appointment only.  These tours take place in Spring and Fall, when the Japanese maples are at their best.

This garden is now fully mature, having been created in 1986 by the garden master, Saito Katsuo, then 92 years old, was visiting California at the time. He asked her to write down her reasons for wanting him to do the design as well as how the garden would subsequently be used. In her essay, Teasdel pledged to share the private garden with others and credits this promise with Saito’s agreement to do the work.  The Langs were ahead of their time, for their house is quite modern and is designed to bring the views and beauty of the outdoors into the home – a flowing transition between the interior and exterior .  The interior is a vision of simplicity, with large floor- to-ceiling windows in order to draw the eye outside; you feel you are part of the landscape.  The garden surrounds the house on 3 sides, and the swimming pool and spa , as well as a koi pond, are well-incorporated into the plan without looking like afterthoughts.  All the elements of the garden complement each other and reinforce the design.  In a traditional Japanese garden, every item is there for a purpose, and has symbolism or reason for its existence.  Even the surrounding fence is constructed purposefully to both obstruct   and guide the view through it.

The garden has “rooms” or areas, but the transitions are gradual and gentle.  Paths wander, sometimes obscuring views,        sometimes revealing them.  The traditional Japanese tearoom is both a focal point and a destination.

Mrs. Lang requested a peace garden, hence the name, Garden of Peace and Tranquility.  Constructed on a bare lot, it required 120 workers and craftspeople, 200 tons of rock, and 45 species of Japanese maples.  For the tea house, traditional roof tiles were imported from Japan.

I have to say that the Japanese garden tradition is probably the style of design I am least familiar with; many claim to be able to design a Japanese or Chinese garden, but I am not one of them.  The garden tradition goes so deep into nature, Buddhism and symbolism that any attempt of mine would be a poor attempt to say the least.    Many of these gardens can appear quite contrived, but this one does not, possibly because it is the genuine article, not a westernized theme park version of a traditional Japanese garden.  It is well worth a visit if you are lucky enough to get the opportunity, but if not, there is a great YouTube video that takes you on a tour of the garden.  Just go to www.youtube and type in Myo-Wa-En.

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