- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 7, 2007

A walk onto the terrace of the United States Botanic Garden gives visitors a sampling of 12 public gardens across America.

“A Sense of Place,” the exhibit that opened last month and continues through Oct. 8, highlights the trees and plants from different regions.

Horticulture staff from botanic gardens, parks and arboretums designed and constructed display gardens that represent their institutions. Visitors will see a Japanese garden with a teahouse, a bog garden of carnivorous plants, a desert display of cactuses and other succulents, and a Hawaiian island garden with a thatch-roofed beach hut, among others.

“In each place, those gardens have grown up and reflect those communities where they exist,” said Dan Stark, executive director of the American Public Gardens Association in Wilmington, Del. “As you walk into each garden room, you feel like you’ve gone from one part of the country to another. You’ll feel like they’re completely different, which is a great demonstration of what we’re talking about when we talk about diversity and beauty.”

Each display garden reflects the philosophy of the founder or the garden’s mission, Mr. Stark said.

The exhibit and another called “Green Today, Growing Tomorrow” are part of the “Celebrating America’s Public Gardens” presentation of the work, diversity and importance of the country’s 750 public gardens. More than 300,000 visitors are expected at the two exhibits, presented by the United States Botanic Garden and the American Public Gardens Association.

“A botanic garden is always located in a community, region or state, so it represents the context in which it is located,” said Christine Flanagan, public programs manager for the United States Botanic Garden. “A botanic garden always reflects a history of place.”

“Green Today, Growing Tomorrow,” which is on display in the National Garden, gives a behind-the-scenes look at the work and stewardship of public gardens.

“The opportunity for people to be around plants really gives them a chance to understand how much they impact our everyday lives,” Mr. Stark said. “When public gardens provide those opportunities through their education and outreach programs, people start to recognize how important those plants are.”

The 12 gardens represented in the “A Sense of Place” are:

{bullet}Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest of Clermont, Ky.: a demonstration of native species in their habitats.

{bullet}Brooklyn Botanic Garden of New York: an urban oasis in New York City.

{bullet}Denver Botanic Gardens: a display of Rocky Mountain flora.

{bullet}Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park of Grand Rapids, Mich.: an art and garden setting.

{bullet}Huntington Botanical Gardens of San Marino, Calif.: a botanical collection with various themed gardens.

{bullet}Key West Tropical Forest & Botanical Garden of Florida: a Florida Keys tropical garden.

{bullet}Missouri Botanical Garden of St. Louis: the oldest botanical garden in the U.S.

{bullet}National Tropical Botanical Garden of Hawaii and Florida: a botanical garden working to preserve Hawaii’s plants and cultural traditions.

{bullet}Norfolk Botanical Garden of Virginia: an azalea and camellia garden.

{bullet}North Carolina Botanical Garden of Chapel Hill, N.C.: a demonstration of a Southeastern native carnivorous plant ecosystem.

{bullet} Portland Japanese Garden of Oregon: a Japanese garden.

{bullet}The Sarah P. Duke Gardens of Durham, N.C.: a garden at Duke University.

The Portland Japanese Garden display features a terrace garden with a stone lantern, water basin, stepping stones, bamboo fencing and traditional plants.

“This garden has so many elements materialwise, spiritually you feel it,” said Toru Tanaka, Japanese master gardener and designer. “We never use a straight line, a cross sign, a sharp corner. We are looking for unseen parts.”

On its 5.5-acre site, the Portland Japanese Garden features a tea garden with a formal Japanese teahouse, a strolling pond garden, a natural garden, a sand and stone garden, and a flat garden.

The different gardens combine plants and trees indigenous to both the U.S. and Japan, said Diane Durston, curator of culture, art and education for the Portland Japanese Garden. Most of the plant materials associated with Japanese gardens, including evergreen trees and shrubs, moss and bamboo, thrive in the Pacific Northwest, which has a climate similar to parts of Japan with a great deal of rain and few days of snow, she said.

“The plant materials that tend to flourish in Japan flourish here,” Ms. Durston said.

The towering Douglas firs and other conifers original to the garden site were retained, adding a Northwest touch to the traditional Japanese garden, which tries to keep to a human scale, Ms. Durston said.

“In a Japanese garden, the idea was to look at nature as it exists and to try to find the essential elements and tendencies. Plants definitely are pruned, but they’re pruned to show the natural lines of growth,” she said.

Japanese gardens, which are asymmetrical, develop harmony with nature, Ms. Durston said.

“This garden will highlight the use of stone, water and plants in the way they might appear in a garden surrounding a traditional teahouse in Japan,” Ms. Durston said.

Through careful use of plants, stones and water, areas of serene and quiet beauty emerge where visitors can meditate and contemplate, a brochure says.

“It’s showing the harmonious relationship between stone, water and the plant features,” Ms. Durston said. “In a Japanese garden, the attempt is to stay true to the natural harmonies that exist in nature between plants, stones and water, rather than impose man’s inclination to structure and organize things in a geometric fashion.”

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