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From Cynthia Druckenbrod of Cleveland Botanical Garden:
The Japanese Garden is a distilled, polished evocation of a natural scene, combined with the influence of the Shinto religion which recognizes the presence of a divine spirit in natural phenomena. Gan Ryuu Tei combines two distinct styles of Japanese Gardening:
The karesansui 枯山水 (dry landscape gardens) developed in the Muromachi period (1338 – 1573) by Zen Buddhist Monks. Zen Monks seeks enlightenment through meditation, the garden became an integral part of the temple. The gardens were laid out to be viewed from the veranda of the temple. The posts and eaves frame the picture, and serve to focus the powers of meditation. The designers rejected the use of water, using instead rocks, raked gravel, and clipped shrubbery. The trees are pruned to appear of great age and heavily shaped by the forces of nature.
The Tea Garden style reached its peak around 1500. It centered on a crooked path where the visitor may leave his or her cares behind before entering the Tea House. The Tea Garden brought new elements, stepping stone, ritual stone water basin, and since the tea ceremony was most often an evening event, the stone lantern was introduced to guide the visitor.
The plantings of the Iris Path evoke the imagery of a stream. The plants include Japanese roof iris (Iris tectorum); sedge (Carex flacca), Carolina hemlock (Tsuga caroliniana). The trellis acts as a viewing pavilion hung with Wisteria floribunda. Looking under the branches of the Dawn redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides), the visitor can view the dry cascade on the opposite bank. The placements of stone and clipped plants give the illusion of a waterfall coming down from the mountain through the gorge to the valley below. The water basin planted with Chamaecyparis lawsoniana ‘Pendula’, Chamaecyparis obtusa, and the American holly (Ilex opaca) create a cool peaceful area. Under-plantings are a miniature hosta (Hosta venusta), and hardy Cyclamen (Cyclamen hederifolium) which blooms in October.
Turtle Rock evokes a sense of enduring stability, symbolizing age and longevity. Tall evergreens next to it are Cryptomeria japonica and Nootka falsecypress (Chamaecyparis nootkatensis).