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Hammond Museum & Japanese Stroll Garden

Japan is a country of great beauty with mountains, lakes, forest, islands, rivers, waterfalls and seashores. From the earliest times the Japanese people have revered the beauties of their natural surroundings. Their gardens are recreations of natural scenes where defective features of nature were eliminated and fair features alone were selected and woven into a canvas according to the designer's idea of beauty.

Originating in Korea and China, Sixth Century Japanese gardens were landscape gardens which adorned palaces and mansions of the nobility, as well as temples and shrines. Thirteenth and Fourteenth Century Buddhist priests of the Zen sect created more reposeful and substantial gardens of stones, water and evergreens which changed little throughout the four seasons.

Miniature scenic gems were connected by garden paths leading to ceremonial teahouses. Variety was sought for pleasure and contemplation, but at the same time design focused on the entire garden as an artistic production, characterized by unity and harmony. In making of paths, the selection and arrangement of stepping-stones and stone pavement, artistic effect suited to the location was always kept in view, and ponds, hills, streams and waterfalls all had to be so disposed as to present an equally appealing effect from whatever point they might be viewed. The idea was to arrest strollers on their way, make them slow down so they could appreciate an especially fine array of trees or a particular flower. Sometimes a partially blocked view of something ahead was used to beckon the strollers along. At other times "borrowed scenery" (shakkei) was used, perceptually enlarging the garden size by the inclusion of a view outside the garden.

The Way of the Garden

Westerners are accustomed to the concept that the Garden as a whole is a metaphor - the garden as Eden, for example. Even Voltaire exhorted his 18th-century audience, "Cultivate your own garden!" he was obviously not referring to a vegetable patch or perennial border, he was referring to gardens metaphorically.

Japanese gardening techniques take this idea much further. Not only is the garden as a whole a microcosm of the world but each path, indeed each rock that makes up the path, is a metaphor for something else. The concept that individual components of the garden symbolize different ideas is strictly an Eastern notion. In Japan, the iconography is so well known that modern designers will often "quote" famous gardens of the past knowing that visitors will understand the reference.

The Japanese garden invites contemplation: every design element is carefully planned to give structure to an idea. The rocks, sand, water and plants create a microcosmic universe in which the whole is more than the sum of its parts.

In designing this garden, Natalie Hays Hammond borrowed the basic principles and ideas of the Stroll Garden incorporating indigenous plantings with popular and rare Japanese and Chinese specimens, as exposure to wind and severe winters would permit.

"As people often travel to escape routine problems and obligations, or to escape themselves, so should they find peace in an unhurried journey through a stroll garden."

"To please the eye. there are the textures of stone scrolled with the delicate designs of lichen, the patterns of tree trunks and clusters of foliage, the play of light and shadow," the varying shades of green as well as the seasonal colors of great beauty. "To please the ear, there are the songs of native birds, the hum of insects the chorale of frogs... the occasional splash of carp in the lake, "the crunch of pebbles underfoot, the whisper of wind through the pines. "To please the sense of scent, there are dry pine needles in the sun, the fragrance of flowering shrubs, a breeze through mimosa or the pungency of loam after a night rain."

Specifics on visiting the Hammond Museum and Japanese Stroll Garden were correct at time of publication. We would suggest that you confirm dates and times prior to your visit.
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