Seek serene symmetry of a Japanese garden

You don't need a lot of space - and desert plants can be adapted
2013-01-20T00:00:00Z Seek serene symmetry of a Japanese gardenElena Acoba Special To The Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

You can have a Japanese garden without a lot of fuss and space.

That's what Patricia Deridder hopes to demonstrate with Yume Japanese Gardens in Tucson. She says it's the city's first public botanical garden dedicated to Japanese design.

The 3-acre attraction, which was to open to the public Saturday, features a koi pond, courtyard gardens, a grassy area, a stone and gravel vignette and a raked gravel garden.

It also has a modern example of traditional Japanese style and exhibition space for bonsai, the cultivation of dwarf trees; floral arrangements called ikebana; and garden sculpture.

Deridder is a Belgian native who as a young adult lived in Japan for 15 years before moving to the United States in the 1980s. She designed the gardens even though she's not a landscape designer.

"It's a picture of my life," says the six-year Tucson resident. "It's a reflection of what I learned in Japan and what I feel."

She named it Yume, "dream" in Japanese, because she has long wanted to create the garden to introduce people to Japanese culture.

She uses several Asia-native plants that do fine in the Sonoran Desert - heavenly bamboo, strawberry bush, red-leafed photinia, xylosma and Japanese black pine.

Desert-adapted plants that serve as good Japanese substitutes include hopbush, Afghan pine and aleppo pine. Succulent sedum simulates ground-covering moss.

A courtyard garden needs little space and few elements, Deridder says. A water feature, a stone lantern, two or three plants and a few large rocks are enough.

Japanese gardens reflect nature with a highly groomed appearance. They're recognizable "by the simplicity of it, maybe the cleanliness of it and the purity of lines," Deridder says.

She offers some ideas for creating a Japanese feel in a home landscape:

• Focus on asymmetry. Use odd numbers of plants and rocks.

• Use gray or white gravel, sand and rock. Avoid colors such as orange or green.

• Create a contemplative garden by trimming a patch of grass in the shape of a circle, kidney bean or gourd. Surround it with smooth sand.

• Highly prune plants. Remove leaves and stems from the bottom. Trim bushes into rounded shapes and keep them at "human" scale, Deridder says.

• Mix poultry grit with gravel for a workable medium in Zen gardens. The lines created by raking it will keep their shape longer.

• Select ground cover rock, such as river rock, so that they are about the same size, color and shape. Lay them so they face the same way.

If you go

Yuma Japanese Gardens in Tucson

• Where: 2130 N. Alvernon Way.

• When: 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. October-May. Closed June-September and some holidays.

• Admission: $9 with discounts for seniors, students, children and the military.

• Information: 445-2957, tucsonjapanesegardens.org

Did you know?

Tucson Botanical Gardens, just north of Yume Japanese Gardens in Tucson, has a small Zen garden of raked gravel. It recently has been freshened with new material and newly pruned landscaping.

Contact Tucson freelance writer Elena Acoba at acoba@dakotacom.net

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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