Interesting features to look out for in the gardens
THE TRANSITION GARDEN contains a number of notable structures: the central koi fish path; a mound reminiscent of Tramore’s sand dunes; a symbolic tribute to the legend of the turtle and the crane; and a depiction of the four main islands of Japan. Keep an eye out for rock and stone features throughout the garden. In traditional Japanese gardens, rock and stone are of the utmost importance.
THE AMERICAN GARDEN is populated with plant varieties from Ohio. Depending on the time of year, you are greeted with either a lush wave of quivering greenery, or a wonderful explosion of white and purple flowers. There are also prairie grasses which wind down the hill in a pattern reminiscent of the Mississippi River. In this area, there is also a rock that represents Lafcadio Hearn at his lowest point, in the shadow of a larger stone which represents Hearn’s mentor Henry Watkin. In very windy conditions, one can hear chimes in this area.
THE GREEK GARDEN takes the form of an amphitheatre. The centrepiece is a salt-water well next to an olive tree that is nearly a century old. This is our tribute to the legendary tale of Poseidon and Athena, and the founding of Athens. The area is populated with Mediterranean herbs and makes a wonderful performance area for theatrical or musical events.
THE ARRIVAL GARDEN provides a natural resting point on a stroll around the gardens. Future plans for this area include the addition of a traditional Japanese Tea House. A traditional Japanese tea-garden with hand carved stone lantern and chozubachi bowls provides an insight into this ancient ceremony. Our Bonzai trees are also on display in this area of the gardens.
THE STREAM GARDEN has a natural spring which can be heard as you approach it. The sharp stones in the stream-bed were placed there by our Japanese gardener Kazuki san and this allows the sound of the stream to travel much further than normal. The stream originates in a natural spring in the ground and was turned into a flowing river by our dedicated team of workers. The rocks in this area represent Lafcadio Hearn and his family in Japan. At the head of the stream, the largest rock represents Hearn (Koizumi Yakumo).
THE GROTTO AND TURTLE Look out for a grotto-like area across the stream. This area contains many elements of Hearn’s folklore and fairytales, as well as a deer sculpture which has been created by a local artist John Hayes. There is a large turtle-shaped rock covered in black mondo grass (Ophiopogon japonicus), and further along, one of our fairy doors. When you cross the bridge you can take a left uphill and follow the path through the woodlands onto the unique boardwalk. Alternatively go straight on after the bridge for a shorter less strenuous walk. Another option at the bridge is to turn back and meander down the central curving path to the lower pond.
THE WOODLANDS are home to many tree varieties, some bamboo, and many local birds. The sycamores provide a natural wind barrier as well as providing some wonderful winding roots that seem to creep across the ground. The walkway through the woods has been constructed from repurposed railway sleepers, with safety rails that reflect the natural-look of the gardens. At the end of the walkway, the left path leads visitors up a small incline to an area with many possible paths to follow. Two of these paths lead to the Garden of Peace and Harmony. The left path is a direct route, while choosing the stepping stone path unveils a secondary hidden route.
THE GARDEN OF PEACE AND HARMONY is a natural stopping point as it lies at the lowest point in the grounds. One can see the end-point of the stream as it flows down into the pond. The rock formations provide a free-flowing waterfall that promotes calmness and tranquillity. This theme of peace and relaxation continues as one walks up the hill towards the rectangular pond. This peaceful spot will be the future site of an Azumaya, a traditional Japanese structure that will enhance the visual appeal of the area. It will also provide shelter in this area and will make a wonderful location for wedding photographs and ceremonies.
THE LIVING GOD The winding incline on the left is where we tell the story of a “Living God”. The storyboard provides the details of this extraordinary tale. As the path continues up the hill, take note of the hidden lower section of the garden on the opposite side of the driveway. It receives many dedicated hours of hard work with only a fraction of the visitors getting a chance to view it.
JOURNEY’S END when you reach the Zen Garden you will see a wonderful relief of Hearn, gifted by the City of Matsue, Japan, to these gardens. The storyboard on the right displays a poem by Waterford poet ‘Sean Dunne’ entitled A Shrine to Lafcadio Hearn. Written almost a century after Hearn’s death, this poem predicts “afterwards he was a story still told, set firmly as rocks in a Zen garden”. It thus brings us back to the present time and place, having completed the worldwide journey of Hearn’s amazing life.