The Anderson Japanese Gardens are 12-acres of calm, just off a busy road in Rockford, IL. The gardens grew from local businessman John Anderson’s interest in Japan, its culture and aesthetics. Located in Anderson’s former backyard, the garden is operated by the Rockford Rotary Charitable Association as a non-profit.
Designed by Hoichi Kurisu, former director of the Portland Japanese Garden, the garden celebrates all of the elements of traditional Japanese gardens—water, stone, sound, texture and others—to create a soothing experience of nature. Walking the paths around ponds and through wooded areas, I could feel myself slow down.
The paths wind loosely around two ponds, filled with koi, turtles and fed by waterfalls. Spring Creek, which runs through Rockford, separates the two ponds, with several bridges for garden visitors to use to cross the ponds. Paths of stone, gravel and artfully placed rocks lead visitors around the gardens.
Japanese garden design embraces nature, but in a controlled way. There are no showy annual beds in this garden, but rather shades and textures of green, brown and rust. Rockford is one USDA hardiness zone south of the Twin Cities, so Japanese maples abound in the garden, adding lacy texture and deep color to many of the scenes. Water and rock are two other important elements in Japanese garden design, and the Anderson gardens feature an abundance of both. Niches and benches throughout the garden give visitors places to rest and observe the turtles, the breeze through the trees or the shape of the plants and stones around the water.
The garden has so many beautiful details, but pictures show them better than I can describe them.
The garden is also home to a wonderful breakfast and lunch restaurant called Fresco at the Gardens, where I had a delicious lunch. Admission is under $10 and the garden honors cards from members of many public gardens. It’s located not far off of Interstate-90, the main road into Chicago from Minneapolis, and only about an hour south of Madison, Wis.. It’s well worth a stop on your next visit to the Windy City or Madison.