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Anderson Japanese Gardens: Paradise on Earth
Article and photos by Kathleen Walls

What better place to be on a sunny spring day than in a fertile garden surrounded by luxuriant plants and bubbling brooks. One such magic location is Anderson Japanese Gardens in Rockford., Illinois. As you enter the garden. all your senses are rewarded. A fresh earthy fragrance mingles with the sounds of a small tumbling stream and multi-shades of green greet you.

One of the footbridges at Anderson Japanese Gardens in Rockford, Illinois

Anderson Gardens' beauty is of a more tranquil nature than the blatant in-your-face garden filled with roses and hothouse blooms. Instead it is an inspirational place of peace and tranquility. The kind of place that inspires you to relax and dream.

Appropriate since the gardens grew out of a dream. John Anderson first visited Japan in 1966 just after graduating from college to explore the country and to learn about its culture.

He and his fraternity brother spent time with a long time family business associate and friend, Mr. Akira Ohno and John was impressed with Mr. Ohno's beautiful Japanese garden and with the Japanese culture in general.

One of the waterfalls at Anderson Japanese Gardens

He returned again in 1978 on a business trip and his love of all thing Japanese was rekindled. At this time he was married and he and his wife, Linda, had moved into a new home. Some of their land behind the home contained a pond fed by Spring Creek, he realized it was a perfect site for a Japanese garden. John began the garden in 1978 and hired Hoichi Kurisu, who had designed the Japanese Garden Complex in Portland, Oregon and was recognized at the best Japanese garden designer in the country.

The grounds consist of two extremely different areas; the first is a Japanese formal garden done in the style popular in 1185 through 1333 A.D., while the Tea House, Guest House much of the garcens are done in the 16th century Sukiya style. The three elements of the gardens are; rocks, water and plants. The first waterfall was built in 1981. In 1983., the gardens began offering tours

Miles Nielsen band at Anderson Japanese Gardens

Over the next 30 plus years the garden evolved and additions were made to it. Guest House gardens were completed In 1986 and the West Waterfall was begun. Later, the Anderson Center was acquired and the Blue Iris Visitors Center added.

When Anderson Gardens added the Restaurant at Anderson Gardens, in April of 2008, they continued with the idea that a Japanese garden is supposed to relax and refresh guests. To this end the restaurant has two outdoor decks overlooking the gardens where patrons can view the garden and hear the tinkling waterfalls.

John's son, David Anderson now manages the gardens that begun when he was only seven years old. He grew up with them and, according to David, the gardens are still evolving. When he was growing up, he liked to retreat to the pagoda above a tall Waterfall Gardens. "It was my backyard growing up," he recalls.

Fireworks over Anderson Japanese Gardens

What a backyard! When I visited with a travel media group we were treated to a fantastic dinner in the gardens. The music of Miles Nielsen and his band, Rusted Heart. Miles is the son of Rick Nielsen, of Cheap Trick fame, a native of Rockford but he has a style that has won him acclaim in his own right.

As I explored the turning paths and wooden bridges and discovered treasures at every turn, I knew what the Garden of Eden must have looked like. Azaleas, rhododendrons, Japanese maples and many other species flow in harmony with the ponds, streams, waterfalls and rock formations. Wild life lives in the protected underbrush, the flash of shiny fish can be seen in the ponds and birds flutter around the tree tops. A Japanese tea house and guest house, bronze angels sculpted by Carl Milles all blend into a place of perfect harmony.

The evening finished off with a display of fireworks over the gardens that finished off a perfect evening perfectly.

For more info: http://andersongardens.org

Provided by American Roads Travel Magazine - Visit American Roads Travel Magazine website.