Beauty. Animation. Variety. Mystery. The Garden is an inspirational place designed to demonstrate horticultural technique, artistic expression and cultural diversity. It contains three main gardens, interesting vistas and a communal space for celebrations and festive gatherings. As you travel from garden to garden you experience transitions in style, texture, colour and form.
Redesigning your own garden? For a complete list of the plants used in each of our gardens, please go to our flowers page
The upkeep of these gardens is dependent upon continued fund-raising and support from FRIENDS of The Arboretum. For information about making a donation or dedication to The Garden, please contact Arboretum Director, Dr. Shelley Hunt at 519-824-4120 ext. 52356.
History of The Garden Project:
The project was initiated in 1995 with the development of the David G. Porter Memorial Japanese Garden sponsored by Mrs. Bobbi Porter. Arboretum staff and Landscape Architect, Christopher Campbell, designed the gardens to explore the historical roots of, and act as a living tribute to the evolution of North American garden design. The gardens have become a local treasure and a tribute to the cultural diversity of the University and Guelph communities.
The Italian Garden
The Italian Garden is formally structured with a strong principle axis oriented north-south, and draws its inspiration from famous Italian Renaissance gardens such as those at the Villa Medici in Rome, Villa d'Este in Tivoli, Villa Lante in Bagnaia, Villa Aldobrandini in Frascati and Villa Farnese in Caprarola. A view of a Rivers Purple Beech planted within the OAC '56 Park in The Garden is framed in the south opening of the sheared yew hedge which encloses and defines the garden. Nestled within this hedge are statues and garden benches. At the centre of the garden is a formal pool with fountain jets, edged by pebble inlaid pavers. Between the central pool and the tall yew hedge you will find a ring of boxwood-edged flowerbeds, accented by four tightly clipped yews. The east-west cross axis is framed with four pleached linden trees.The famous Renaissance architect-scholar Leone Battiste Alberti (1404-1472) wrote: "There (the garden) you may sit and enjoy clear brilliant days and beautiful prospects over wooded hills and sunlit plains, and listen to the murmuring fountains among the tufted grass." This too will be your experience in the Italian Garden at The Arboretum.
The Japanese Garden
In 607 A.D., the first official Japanese embassy visited China. This coincided with the construction of a huge Chinese landscape park, inspiring the Japanese to construct the first landscaped lake garden in front of the Imperial Palace in Japan. Zen artists later made small temple gardens that encouraged enlightenment through the art of contemplation. Zen ideas of simplicity and natural aesthetics dominate Japanese gardens.
Described by its designer, Landscape Architect, Christopher Campbell, as "the Great within the Small", The David G. Porter Memorial Japanese Garden was dedicated in June 1995 to the memory of Dr. David Porter by his wife, Mrs. Bobbi Porter. Dr. Porter was a professor at the Ontario Veterinary College here at the University of Guelph. Dr. and Mrs. Porter were enthralled with different Zen gardens during a trip to Japan in 1993. Because many plants that grow in Japan would not grow in our southern Ontario climate, this garden displays similar alternatives.
As you approach the garden, you come to the salutation gateway. This entrance greets visitors and provides a sense of passage into the garden. Notice the Kenninji-Gaki bamboo fence. The fence, like all features in the garden, is simple in design. It provides a rhythmic balance of horizontal and vertical lines and helps to block out the world and its confusions. After you enter the garden, you will walk onto a stone bridge that crosses a reflecting pool. Zen gardeners often try to recreate miniature landscapes in an artistic way and here the water represents a simple lake with a rocky island. Confucius (551-479 B.C.) once noted that "the wise find pleasure in water" which may suggest why water is a part of many Japanese gardens. Just beyond the stone bridge is the small teahouse.
Small buildings in tea gardens were designed to hold a tea ceremony called "cha-no-yu". Imagine that you are one of the guests invited to a tea ceremony by a host (the tea master). As a guest, you should wait on the bench until the host summons you. As you sit, concentrate on the surrounding garden. In front of you is a dry garden of gravel. The gravel represents a body of water with three islands. The pattern of raked gravel mirrors the rippling water in the pool surrounding the fountain rock island. The large spirit rocks throughout the garden may represent mountains or rocky outcroppings. They are placed in such a way to be visually appealing from different angles in the garden. The flat stepping stones through the garden allow a path to be artistic and practical, an idea that was not used until the sixteenth century. The host would enter the teahouse and make the tea in front of the guests. The host's movements would be slow and graceful, but simple and direct. The atmosphere should allow the guests to attain serenity and harmony of spirit. In this mood, the guests can try to better understand a certain topic that is connected to a focal point that the host has chosen. This could be a painting, flower arrangement or art object which may relate to an anniversary or a change in season. Cha-no-yu is still used in Japan today to practice self-control and to help escape the stress of a busy life. Please use this garden to relax your mind and help you focus on basic ideas and principles. Let it help you find an inner peace.
The English Garden .
Gardening styles and horticultural practice date back as far as the ancient civilizations of Egypt, Greece and Rome. In the later Middle Ages and the early Renaissance, Italian design emphasized defined spaces, outward views, and gardens for pleasure and philosophical debate. The French were influenced by the Italians, but were developing a style of their own by focusing on radial patterns, elaborate manipulations of water and plant material on an increased scale. England was influenced by both the Italian and French renaissance gardening eras, but would revolutionize gardening style by the re-introduction of the flower garden at the end of the 18th century. As well, Britain set a precedent for the great nineteenth century surge of interest in the private garden as we still understand it today.
Dedicated in September 1998 to the memory of Edna and Frank C. Miller by their son, Frank Miller, this formal English Garden demonstrates a distinctively British style of gardening that has contributed significantly to North American garden designs. Historically throughout England, paired architectural details or sculptured plant forms framed intimate focal points. As you stroll through the English Garden make note of the sheared beech and cedar hedge forming a symmetrical pattern of living green walls. Smaller boxwood hedges encircle two gardens: the Nancy and Dr. Anthony Caspers Perennial Gardens. These are spectacular collections of perennials whose seasonal contrast and continuous colour flourish in this formal garden setting.
The OAC '56 Park in the Garden
The OAC '56 Park in The Garden is a large lawn shaded by 20 specimen trees framed with a path, benches and verge plantings. These trees were chosen for their form and leaf colour/texture. Their stately appearance helps provide The Park with with an atmosphere suited to relaxing picnics and leisurely strolls. The design of The OAC '56 Park in The Garden is based on the late 19th century idea of large, open public space as defined by the designer Frederick Law Olmsted.
Gosling Wildlife Garden
The Gosling Wildlife Gardens consist of five gardens on the scale of urban and suburban backyards, which demonstrate the effects of garden layout on backyard wildlife interactions. Each garden is planted with trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants that provide food and/or cover for wildlife. The plants selected for the gardens are available from nurseries, garden centers or the Annual Arboretum Auxiliary Plant Sale. After entering each garden, look for the drawing of the house. These represent the location of the house for each backyard. Also note that the plantings have been arranged in relation to the backyard gardens, not the path. The path is purely to assist you in exploring each garden. For more information about each garden and what you can do to make your backyard more wildlife-friendly please go to the Gosling Gardens page