You Look Good At 40

by DBG Staff

This year marks the 40th anniversary of Denver Botanic Gardens’ legendary Japanese Garden. As a refresher, here are some basics about it.

  • Shofu-en, meaning garden of the pines and wind, was designed by Professor Koichi Kawna, President of Environmental Design Associates in Los Angeles, California. He was also the Principal Architectural Associate and lecturer in Japanese art, architecture and landscape design at the University of California, Los Angeles.
  • The garden construction started in August 1978 with the dedication on June 23, 1979.
  • The basic style of this garden is called Chisenkaiyushiki, which means wet garden with promenade. The selection of plantings and design in this style are arranged in such a way that the focal points of the garden move from one point to another during the various seasons. The garden design incorporates many auspicious symbolic objects in accordance with the traditional Japanese concept of the garden as an expression of paradise. All facets of the garden aim to instill a feeling of tranquility.
  • The most notable design features are the abundance of evergreen plants, the large black stones (monzonite) and the waterways. The evergreens symbolize longevity and happiness. These are complemented with plantings of deciduous trees and shrubs symbolizing the rhythms of nature as they bloom in spring and change color in the autumn.
  • The large black monzonite stones form the backbone of the garden and were placed throughout the landscape before planting the garden.
  • Water flows from east to west beginning with the large waterfall on the east side of the garden, which is in keeping with the Japanese garden tradition.
  • The lake has three islands. The largest island is named the Crane Island
    (T surushima) and the two smaller islands represent the Tortoise (Kameshima) and the Treasure Ship (Takaro-bune).
  • This central core of the Japanese Garden is joined by the Japanese Teahouse. Constructed in Nagano-hen, Japan, by the Kumo Construction Company, each
    piece of the tea house was carefully disassembled, numbered and shipped to
    Denver. Mr. T oshitame Hirabayashi, president of the company, and eight Japanese
    co-workers reassembled the teahouse along with the bridge and entry gate in 14
  • In 2003, Mr. Sadafumi Uchiyama of Portland, Oregon was hired to create a master plan for the restoration and revitalization of Shofu-en. It was incorporated into the overall Master Development Plan and completed in 2012 with a new sand garden, tea garden, bonsai pavilion, bonsai house, west gate and hillside pavilion.