Take a stroll

Take a stroll


garden designs

Open to the public, this Japanese stroll garden is a source of design inspiration

By Diane Norris

The Edogawa Commemorative Garden, located in a quiet backstreet of East Gosford on the New South Wales Central Coast, was established as a gift to the residents of Gosford as a symbol of cultural exchange and friendship by the shire’s Sister City, Edogawa, in Japan.

Covering an acre of land, this garden has become a haven for tourists who appreciate and wonder at the carefully nurtured landscape. It is based on a traditional Shuyu design that embraces a strolling-style garden, perfect for enticing garden lovers.

The entrance to Edogawa greets visitors with a spectacular display. The versatile and mildly fragrant star jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides) has been used as a dense groundcover and is surrounded with a neat guard of Japanese box hedge (Buxus Microphylla Japonica). Wisps of pink from distant flowering azaleas act like a lure to draw you towards what lies beyond.

There are many superb features in this landscape and the enticing pebbled pathways lead you through each garden vista and room. There is a traditional Japanese teahouse, numerous stone lanterns and an enormous pond, which brings the calmness of water to the landscape. There is also a raked, dry stone garden that is traditionally called “Karesansui”. It is, in itself, an artform and the gardeners here tend it superbly with each raked pattern kept true to style. As with tradition, the eye-catching stone island is embedded in a sea of precisely patterned gravel.

The stone lanterns dotted in garden beds emulate perfectly those that have adorned temples, shrines and gardens in Japan since the sixth century. Each of these has its own unique symbolism and significance.

They have been placed, as orchestrated by tradition, next to pathways or near a gate or by an entrance. For instance, they have been placed “magically” near the ponds to bring to life their reflection in the still water, again an important Japanese garden dream. One of the most interesting lanterns here is the two-legged “Kotoji”, which is named because of its resemblance to the Japanese harp (Koto). It has been mindfully positioned half on land and half in the water to symbolise the interdependence of the two.

As with the time-honoured ethos, the garden can imitate and give the illusion of a larger, naturally occurring landscape in miniature. This is achieved with the construction of artificial hills giving the perceptions of tiny mountains and valleys. Several pine and maple species have been planted throughout and even though a few metres in height, they look somewhat bonsai in form to create the illusion of tall trees. Meandering pathways take on the feel of a well-beaten mountain tracks that lead you pass the streams and rivers.

An important element in Japanese gardens is the incorporation of viewing platforms from which one can take in the full beauty of the plantings and features. Here at Edogawa Commemorative Garden there are many such structures to allow your eye to soak in the full aesthetics of the garden.

“Shakkei” literally means “borrowed landscape” — incorporating background landscapes into the composition of a garden and thus attempts to capture nature alive. The idea is to visually extend the boundaries of the garden space. For instance, near the pond is a large roofed pavilion overlooking the water and it is connected to the opposite grassed area with a wooden arched bridge. This is a perfect breathing spot to drink in the view of the water, the brightly coloured fish that live there and the masses of pink-flowering water lilies that bring tranquillity to the scene year-round. Raise your eyes and the overall view of distant vistas brings the “Shakkei” ideal to life.

There is an insightful Japanese philosophy that tells us that one’s life can be lived more fully by being open to the universal rhythms of nature. That is why a Japanese garden, in essence, seeks to give us a tranquil setting for meditation and reflection. Edogawa has been created with that customary perspective in mind.

The Edogawa Commemorative Garden is part of Gosford’s Regional Gallery. There are guided tours of the garden, available by booking through the gallery office. These are free and conducted by trained volunteer guides at 11am every Wednesday.

The Edogawa Commemorative Garden, located at 36 Webb Street, East Gosford, is open daily from 9.30am to 4.30pm and admission is free. For more information, visit the website: www.gosfordregionalgallery.com