Reflections on a Little Treasure in South Florida
Copyright Vladimir Kagan, April 26, 2015
I Have just returned to frigid New York after spending the last month in balmy Florida. The next few Blogs are my recollections of what I have left behind.
Barreling down a six-lane highway on route to Ft. Lauderdale or Miami, you hardly think of exiting in Delray Beach for a visit to a Japanese garden. It has always been on my back-burner until I needed some entertainment for visiting friends and family.
A Japanese garden in Florida? With lakes – pagodas - topiary trees - Bonsai trees - Koi fish? A respectable Japanese restaurant topped off with an irresistible gift shop? … All this is available just six miles off bustling I-95 in the hinterland of Delray Beach!
The Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens, is one of Palm Beach County’s most treasured cultural attractions. Located in a tranquil natural setting, its 200-acre park features nature trails, pine forests and picnic areas. The gardens reflect major periods of Japanese garden design, from the eighth to the 20th century. According to the garden’s designer, Hoichi Kurisu, each sequence of gardens is intended to express the character and ideas of a counterpart in Japan. As you follow its swirling pebbled trails, each garden flows seamlessly one into the another to becomes a paradisiacal landscape.
I was surprised to discover a century-old connection between Japan and South Florida. In 1904, Jo Sakai, a recent graduate of New York University, returned to his homeland of Miyazu, Japan, to organize a group of pioneering farmers and led them to what is now northern Boca Raton. With the help of the Model Land Company, a subsidiary of Henry Flagler’s East Coast Railroad, they formed a farming colony they named Yamato, an ancient name for Japan. Ultimately, the results of their crop experimentation were disappointing and the Yamato Colony fell far short of its goals. By the 1920s the community, which had never grown beyond 30 to 35 individuals, finally fell apart. One by one, the families left for other parts of the United States or returned to Japan. All that remains on the map is Yamato Avenue – exit 00 on I-95. (Now I finally understand why the Japanese Name!)
Every tree and shrub has been carefully "topiaried" - they look like grown-up Bonsais
And this is the real "mcCoy" - a beautiful Bonsai forest
The garden is full of beautiful flowers
A heron in search of lunch - the Koi fish were too large for his appetite
A dipping fountain - water drips into one bamboo stem which slowly tilts to empty it into the pond below
A walled garden is enclosed with elegant glazed tiles
...and then you come out into a wilderness waterfall
You can rest assured that there will be one of these Japanese lanterns in my garden this summer!
Addendum from my daughter Jessica's I-phone photos
I love this guy because he reminds me a bit of me!
My design motto "When in doubt, dress it up with a bit of red"
Jessica and I doing a selfie - me tootling on my scooter
The Gardens are named for George Morikami, who over the years gifted all the land to the town of Delray Beach. The Museum offers a plethora of cultural events, but it was my leisurely stroll through this tranquil garden that has inspired this Blog.