The Morgan Garden was built at the Johnson Museum in 2011 through the generous support of Rebecca Morgan, Class of 1960, and James Morgan, Class of 1960, as part of the Museum extension. The exterior garden is always open to visitors (seasonal maintenance closures may be necessary).
The designer of the garden, Marc Peter Keane, Class of 1979, lived for years in Kyoto, Japan, where he learned and practiced the art of gardens. His design is based on the karesansui, or dry-landscape, style of garden in which the image of the landscape and water is created without the use of actual water. In Japan, this often takes the form of stones set in raked sand, whereas in this garden it is the dry stream (kare-nagare) that is the waterless element.
The garden abstracts the story of the Three Laughers of the Tiger Glen, with the protagonists represented by three upright boulders. A cleft through a field of moss represents the ravine, the bottom of which is lined with small stones to evoke the torrent. The sound of running water in the nearby stone basin and the visual illusion of running water in the ravine are intended to mix within the mind of the viewer.
The stones used in the garden come from the property of Sticks and Stones Farm in Connecticut. They are a metamorphic rock called gneiss and are deeply weathered and covered with lichen and moss. The choice of stones and their placement in a garden is the salient element of many Japanese gardens, so much so that the original expression for “garden-making” was ishi wo taten koto, the art of setting stones.
The moss that is used in the garden also comes primarily from the same area of Connecticut as the stones. It looks like a simple, velvet cover but is in fact a quilt of twelve different species. The tree in the garden is a form of Japanese red pine called Tanyosho (Pinus densiflora ‘Umbraculifera’). The word tanyosho is a mispronunciation of the Japanese tagyôshô that literally means “many-way pine,” referring to the multiple stem form of the tree. The tree is pruned and its bark polished each year to maintain its form and luster.
The patina of the garden is created not only from the choice of natural materials used to make it, but also by the constant care that is provided by a group of volunteers—The Tiger Glen Friends—who come twice a day to water and clean the garden. New members to the group are welcome. Please ask the Museum receptionist for more information.
More about the Morgan Garden, including process photos of its construction and details of the mosses, can be found on Marc Keane’s website.