Written by: Leverne Brown
I had the pleasure of taking a personal guided tour through the Japanese Shinzen Garden at Woodward park. As soon as the Kochi doors opened, I became captivated by the beautiful topography of the garden. My first experience at Shinzen Garden was truly unforgettable, and my visit confirmed once again, that Central California has hidden treasures that are just waiting to be discovered.
History of Shinzen Garden
The original development was envisioned in 1967, and the donation of land by Ralph Woodward helped launch the establishment of Shinzen Garden. The original plan was to set aside 2 acres for the garden. However, since the garden’s opening in 1981, it has grown to 5 acres of splendor that encompasses every element of a true Japanese garden; water, rock, and plant material.
Shinzen Garden is patterned after a group of ancient scrolls with a designed layout of all 4 seasons; Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter. That being said, there is an ever changing experience that one feels when the garden is visited during different times of the year. To see the cherry blossoms in full bloom, you must visit in January because by February, the blossoms are gone. For those who prefer to visit the Autumn section of the garden, the best time to visit would be in November when the Fall colors are prominent around the bird sanctuary.
Japanese Tea House
Our first stop was the Japanese Tea House where ceremonies are held throughout the year. The tea house was originally built in Japan and then donated by Jackie Duncan to Shinzen Garden. Since it’s placement at Shinzen Garden, it has been refurbished to include 3 rooms, and a new roof which retains the original feel of an authentic Japanese tea house.
Our journey continued with a peaceful walk through different trees, rocks, and waterfalls. I even spotted a gentleman practicing the art of Tai Chi! I also caught a glimpse of the donor board which includes the names of contributors like Paul Sito, one of the original landscape designers and a current board member of Shinzen Garden.
The Bonsai Garden
After our brief walk, we entered what I thought to be the most magnificent collection of bonsai. During my time in The Bonsai Garden, I learned that the Clark Asian Museum in Hanford,CA named Shinzen Garden as the home of about 125 of their bonsai collection! I’ve never seen such a beautiful mixture of horticulture and art. I was just amazed at the collection of so many different bonsai.
The Bonsai Garden is also the home of a Chinese Elm bonsai originally rescued from highway 41 in Fresno, CA.
Double Moon Bridge
Toward the end of my visit, we walked over the Double Moon Bridge. It’s called the Double Moon Bridge because when the moon is out, the reflection in the water resembles that of 2 full moons.
As I took a look down toward the quarry, my eyes were met with an assortment of koi. I chuckled as they swam beneath the bridge. I didn’t see any turtles out, but I’ve been informed that many reside there as well.
It’s impossible to experience the entire Shinzen Garden in one visit, but my personal tour guide Dwayne Berrett did an outstanding job of guiding me through the prime spots within the garden.
At the end of my visit, I asked Dwayne what Shinzen Garden personally meant to her and she explained, “Shinzen Garden is a beautiful gift to the city of Fresno. It’s a place of serenity that offers you a journey to a different world outside of the norm.” -Dwayne Berrett, President of the Board of Directors at Shinzen Gardens.
Shinzen Garden is Open to Everyone!
Shinzen Garden serves as an attraction to the public year round, and many people from diverse parts of the world come to the garden to experience its beauty and splendor. The garden also serves as a prime location for photography, weddings, quinceaneras, and memorial services. Group tours are available by appointment and school aged children are encouraged to visit as well.