The Journey Begins
The Richard & Helen DeVos Japanese Garden
Tranquility, simplicity and beauty are the essence of a Japanese garden. Fred & Lena Meijer had long appreciated Japanese gardens traditions and experiences and in 2009 asked about adding one to Meijer Gardens. On June 13, 2015, The Richard & Helen DeVos Japanese Garden opened its magnificent Main Gate to visitors, welcoming a world of timeless serenity and harmony.
Serenity & Tranquility
Authentic Japanese Teahouse
An authentic Japanese teahouse, a featured highlight of the garden, offers traditional Japanese tea ceremonies through our Education department. Please check our calendar page for the schedule. First constructed in Japan by skilled Japanese craftsman, the teahouse was dismantled for shipping, then reassembled at Meijer Gardens using traditional tools and techniques. One of the most fascinating features, the teahouse may be seen from every view in the Japanese garden.
Iconic of Japanese gardens, the Zen-Style Garden is designed to invite contemplation and seclusion. This dry rock garden surrounds massive boulders placed by renowned landscape designer Hoichi Kurisu. Nearby, Meijer Gardens’ acclaimed bonsai collection is thoughtfully displayed during the warmer months.
Four waterfalls grace The Richard & Helen DeVos Japanese Garden. Main waterfalls toward the north and south edges of the garden are designed to complement each other with contrasting feminine and masculine qualities. In addition to their visual beauty, waterfalls create a delightful auditory experience.
New works of sculpture, by Contemporary masters such as Anish Kapoor, Zhang Huan, David Nash, Masayuki Koorida, Jenny Holzer and Giuseppe Penone, have been permanently installed within the Japanese garden. This unique marriage of beautiful art and beautiful green spaces has long been a key element of the Meijer Gardens mission.
Japanese maples, Acer palmatum, are used throughout The Richard & Helen DeVos Japanese Garden. Notice the different forms, leaf shapes and colors. In Japan, the trees’ brilliant autumn colors are a big attraction. Japanese maples also make great bonsai specimens.
Japanese Flowering Cherries
Japanese flowering cherries are featured in the Cherry Tree Promenade and along the shore near the Zig-Zag Bridge. Our garden features upright, weeping and contorted forms. The flowering cherry, or Sakura, is the national flower of Japan. Sakura are celebrated every spring with cherry blossom “viewing parties.” Even the falling petals are admired.
Serviceberry, Amelanchier spp., is an example of a tree native to our region and planted throughout the Japanese garden, including at the Main Gate. It has small white flowers in the spring, followed by small red to dark purple fruits that attract birds. In autumn, the leaves turn a lovely orange-red color.
Bamboo symbolizes strength and flexibility. People are often surprised to learn some bamboo varieties are winter hardy in Michigan. We planted ‘Yellow Groove’ bamboo (Phyllostachys aureosulcata forma aureocaulis) and Incense bamboo (Phyllostachys atrovaginata) near the Zig-Zag Bridge, teahouse, and restrooms. Incense bamboo, named for its fragrance, produces a wax on its stems (culms) that has a fragrance similar to sandalwood. Bamboo is found growing in the wild throughout Japan. It is also a part of daily life and used in many ways—to make fences, brushes, rakes, chopsticks, bowls, flooring, scaffolding and other items.
While many people try to eliminate moss from their gardens, in Japan moss is regarded as an essential element. It grows over boulders and across the ground. There are more than 100 different types of moss—a lovely plant does not have true roots and absorbs moisture and nutrients through its leaves. Moss thrives in climates with high humidity and, surprisingly, can be difficult to grow. It may take many years for moss to form a dense mat. Enjoy our Natural Style Moss Garden section, where you will see how beautiful moss can become over time.
centuries-old yet timeless
As a centuries-old yet timeless horticultural presentation style, this Japanese garden complements the Meijer Gardens mission and values and allows exploration in unique ways to bring together the art of the garden and the art of sculpture. Adding such an international garden has been part of the master planning process for more than a decade. The ideal location selected includes water, elevation changes and quiet surroundings.
Highly unique to the Japanese garden, landmark Contemporary sculpture works by international masters are included, offering thoughtful and thought-provoking aesthetics in keeping with the essence of the Japanese garden tradition and philosophy.
The Japanese garden begins with an artful design by Hoichi Kurisu and the firm Kurisu International. Hoichi Kurisu’s work ranks among the finest Japanese gardens outside of Japan, including Portland Japanese Garden in Oregon; Anderson Gardens in Rockford, Illinois; and Morikami Museum and Japanese Garden in Delray Beach, Florida.
Kurisu International, founded in 1972, is a landscape design/build firm whose unique gardens create “inner space” for inspiration and healing. Their approach is a whole-system design—a methodology deeply rooted in the specificity of place, people, and purpose, and uniquely suited to draw out nature’s ability to meet humanity’s need for inspiration, restoration, and healing.
rocks, water, & plants
A Japanese garden is a style steeped in centuries of tradition. While the three essential elements in a Japanese garden are rocks, water, and plants, it is the plants that provide seasonal changes and color in the garden.
Plants in a Japanese garden do not need to be native to Japan. While The Richard & Helen DeVos Japanese Garden includes plants native to Japan, it also features plants native to Michigan and other temperate climates throughout the world. All the plants have been sourced from nurseries in the United States. What matters most is how the plants are planted, how they are pruned and the way they are nurtured.