East meets West
Japanese garden blooms in Priceville
Special to the Enquirer
Thanks to a local business, the Priceville community is enjoying an American pastime and a beautiful Japanese cultural experience at what used to be an empty lot.
In 1999, Daikin America, Inc. gave Morgan County an initial gift of $50,000 to create a park at the intersection of Upper River Road and Bethel Road. The athletic fields at North Park just opened, but work continues on the Japanese garden at the northeast corner of the lot.
The garden is a cooperative project of Daikin and the Morgan County Master Gardeners Association.
The Daikin gift included the design by landscape architect Sam Barnett of the Schoel Design Group. Daikin continues its involvement with the project through Human Resources Manager Forrest Keith.
The CEO of Daikin, Inoue Noriyuki, visited the garden during the annual Daikin Festival on May 28. Inoue toured another Daikin gift-the completed Japanese garden, also designed by Barnett, at Frazier Park in Decatur.
District 1 Commissioner Jeff Clark provides labor for the North Park project through trusties from the Morgan County Jail under the supervision of Gary Blankenship of the District 1 shop. North Park groundskeeper and horticulturist James McCleskey said the plants should survive the windswept air and heavy clay soil at the park.
The most unusual feature of the garden is its structure-a series of berms, natural looking mounds created by Blankenship and his heavy equipment crew. The berms follow the Japanese design principle that manmade shapes recall natural features. They represent an abstract picture of the Japanese islands and repeat the lines of the hills east of the park.
In the center of the garden is a teahouse-a gazebo made of unfinished wood. Eventually, there will be a small water feature, a pool and fountain, on the edge of the berm just north of the teahouse.
On the other side of the same berm, Blankenship is building a stone bench in a vine-covered arbor. The stones come from the county's road widening projects. When Blankenship and his crew remove limestone and sandstone, they bring them to the garden.
Since the county plans to make a playground near the south corner of the garden, all the stone and water features will be safe for children. The gravel paths are also wheelchair accessible so everyone can enjoy the garden.
The Master Gardeners develop three and five year plans for the park, supervise the labor crews and add new plants. With the help of members and Master Gardener greenhouse project heads Brenda and Tom Close, perennials are grown to set out in the garden.
The Closes have donated large shrubs and members have donated grasses as decorative elements and groundcovers to hold the soil around the mulched beds.
The basic plan is what the Japanese call a stroll garden-a style of design that dates back to the 17th century. As people follow the winding path among the berms, they will be surprised by unexpected views of specimen plants, flowering shrubs, grasses, trees and handsome rocks, all placed to appear natural. Something beautiful and interesting will await visitors at every turn of the path.