A one-acre Japanese-style garden at Cranbrook House & Gardens in Bloomfield Hills that is one of the oldest in North America is being brought to life with the help of a team of experts from across the globe.

Earlier this month, six gardeners from the Japan Federation of Landscape Contractors descended on Cranbrook to work on one portion of the garden, the Lily Pond Cascade, that was clogged and overgrown.

The gardeners, whose work and travel was funded by a grant from the Japanese Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, moved boulders, rocks and plant material to bring the corner back to life. Water was turned back on to the site during a ceremony Tuesday.

“To see this one corner come alive and return to this beauty – this place of beauty and tranquility and then to experience the reaction -- it’s just been overwhelming,” said Greg Wittkopp, the director of Cranbrook’s Center for Collections and Research.

The Japanese garden was created by George Booth and his father Henry Wood Booth after George and his wife were inspired by Japanese-style gardens they saw in California. It is located between Kingswood Lake and Cranbrook Road.

"A garden is ultimately a collaboration between nature, human beings and time," said Wittkopp. And after more than a century in place, the most recent chapter (of the Cranbrook Japanese Garden) "is of graceful decline."

To bring it back, Cranbrook also is working with Sadafumi Uchiyama, Garden Curator of the Portland Japanese Garden in Oregon, to create a six-part master plan. The Lily Pond Cascade update is one part of that.

Wittkopp said the next step is to keep working with Uchiyama on the master plan -- he's made five trips already -- and fundraise.

"There will be five more phases," said Wittkopp. "We probably won’t do them all at once. This will be a multi-year plan."

But even now, the garden's potential is obvious, he said.

"Even when it (the area) was completely overgrown, many people, myself included, would walk back there and realize the bones, structure of this garden are just really beautiful," said Wittkopp. "Even in its overgrown state you could see the underlying poetry." 

Cranbrook House and Gardens is at 380 Lone Pine Road in Bloomfield Hills. The gardens, which are free to tour, are open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily through Oct. 31.



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