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Gardens of Rejuvenation

Cover Story

Meditation gardens dot the Southland, helping visitors escape the stress of daily life for a few tranquil moments.

June 29, 2000|BRENDA REES | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Indeed, the Zen garden at the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens has a mesmerizing effect. Up the hill from the popular Japanese-style garden where children squeal and guests pose for pictures near a red bridge, the Zen garden demands quiet from the moment visitors enter the courtyard.

Open to the public in 1968, the Zen garden has swirls of sand groomed around carefully positioned stones that can represent streams, lakes and islands in keeping with Zen Buddhist tradition; Continued from Page 8

viewers are encouraged to meditate and interpret the images their own way.

* Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens, 1151 Oxford Road, San Marino, (626) 405-2141.

Amir's Garden and Dante's View, Griffith Park

"Griffith Park has been so good to me, it has kept me happy and healthy, and I wanted to do something special for the hikers," says 68-year-old outdoor enthusiast Amir Dialameh, who began planting his garden on a hilly slope in 1971.

About 300 feet up from the Mineral Wells picnic area, Amir's Garden is a labor of love for Dialameh and volunteers who help weed, prune, water and remove trash. Orchid, pepper trees and pines shade the area, a place Dialameh calls "a temple or a church. Come here, sit down and talk to God."

Similarly, Dante's View--1.5 miles from the Griffith Observatory--is another garden tended by volunteers where, on a clear day, hikers can see all the way to Catalina Island. "It's an unnatural oasis," says Tom LaBonge, unofficial keeper of the garden for more than seven years.

It is recommended that hikers new to Griffith Park stop or call the ranger station for specific directions to either location.

* Amir's Garden and Dante's View, Griffith Park, Los Angeles, (323) 913-7390.

The James Irvine Garden

There's only one way to get to this downtown Los Angeles garden--take an elevator down.

"We usually have people visiting the garden at lunchtime. The garden is a little secret," says Miles Hamada, facilities manager at the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center, where the James Irvine Garden lies hidden.

Hamada says that while the din of the city can be heard in the garden, once inside, you barely notice it. Visitors stroll between the mock orange and plum trees, steal a sigh in a quiet bamboo glen, and listen to the sound of bubbling water.

Built in 1978 with a grant from the James Irvine Foundation, the garden was a far-reaching community project with 200 volunteers donating 3,000 man-hours, including hauling 250 tons of rock from Mt. Baldy. Local nurseries donated more than $40,000 worth of trees and shrubbery. Even today, the garden is annually maintained by local gardening organizations.

* James Irvine Garden, 244 S. San Pedro St., Los Angeles, (213) 628-2725.

The UCLA Hannah Carter Japanese Garden

If you ever imagined wandering alone in your own lush, 2-acre hillside garden, a trip to the UCLA Hannah Carter Japanese Garden in Los Angeles can fulfill that fantasy.

While the garden is big, the parking arrangements are not--there are spots for two cars every hour, so reservations are required.

Once inside, visitors can follow hidden paths through plants, stones and water that symbolically trace life's transition from wild youth to sedate maturity. Many structures--the main gate, garden houses, bridges and shrines--were built in Japan and reassembled here when the garden was being created in 1959 as a private backyard retreat for oilman Gordon G. Guiberson.

Chairman of the University of California regents, Edward W. Carter and his wife, Hannah, purchased the estate in 1965 and later that year donated the garden to UCLA.

Docents such as Stuart Shaffer are on hand by the front gate to answer questions. Shaffer rattles off history, horticulture, and will even recite poetry that reflects the garden.

* UCLA Hannah Carter Japanese Garden, 10619 Bellagio Road, Los Angeles (310) 825-4574.

Earl Burns Miller Japanese Garden

While there are many contemplative spots in this 1.3-acre garden next to Cal State Long Beach--such as the dry Zen garden or benches near azaleas and Japanese irises--regular visitors seem to make a beeline to the zigzag bridge that overlooks the central pond.

On this platform, folks can see hundreds of multicolored koi. At certain points during the day, fish food is left out so guests can sprinkle pellets into the trembling mouths of hungry koi.

Watching fish--or birds--can be highly therapeutic, says Lyn Kelley, a nurse from the nearby VA hospital who regularly visits the garden. "I come here to clear my head," she says. "Today the smell of the gardenias and feeding the koi will help me get through the day."

Loraine Miller Collins donated the money to build the garden that was dedicated in 1981 in memory of her late husband, Earl Burns Miller; both were involved in philanthropic activities in Long Beach.

In November, the garden is host to an annual koi roundup, where these prized public fish are auctioned off and sent to live in private homes.

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