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Patricia Deridder

Patricia Deridder lived in Japan for 15 years and fell in love with its culture and in particular ikebana, the Japanese art of floral arrangement. Last year, she purchased the former Native Seeds/SEARCH property south of the Tucson Botanical Gardens and has slowly transformed it into Yume Japanese Gardens, a nonprofit public garden that showcases a dozen different garden styles. From Friday, Nov. 29, to Sunday, Dec. 1, the gardens will display examples of ikebana made by members of local ikebana clubs. For more information, visit tucsonjapanesegardens.org.

Mari Herreras, mherreras@tucsonweekly.comWhen did the gardens open and what was here before?

Mid-January of this year. It was nothing. Totally a flat empty lot. I bought it from Native Seeds in order to do the garden. The ultimate idea is to have a cultural center at the same time and express as many different parts of the culture as we can. Also, there has been research that Japanese gardens are really good for mildly depressed people. And so eventually I'd like to have programs for people, elderly or others, who need that kind of help or care.

Why a Japanese garden in the middle of the desert?

Well, maybe we need a Japanese garden because we live in the middle of the desert. Also because I lived for 15 years in Japan and I always wanted to show the culture and to express it. A garden is one way to appreciate the Japanese culture.

Is it considered a private garden?

It's a nonprofit. I don't intend to keep it for myself. We only have three people on the board, but we could always welcome more.

Who did the planning and plant selection?

I did basically everything myself. Chose every plant and every stone. Some were difficult to find. This garden is very different from most Japanese gardens because what I tried to do was create individual gardens. What you will see in many places is a wide koi pond and then a tea house and there might be some expression of Zen gardens, but usually on a bigger scale. What I wanted to do was imagine the individual gardens of cities like Kyoto ... what I've done is put together around 13 different styles rather than just a temple garden or a palace garden.

How did you find the plants?

I tried to keep as many that you would have in Japan without taking too much water. There's a lot of plants, strangely enough. There are a lot of pines. The boxwood of course. Here you would choose Texas ranger instead of boxwood, but the color is not right. And then hawthorne.

Are they low-water use?

I'm trying to keep it to a minimum and have recycled water everywhere and drainage for each house and, eventually, rainwater recycle.

Do you plan to have a teahouse?

Well, no, I want to make sure people don't misunderstand. People imagine teahouse and then they think tea ceremony. Even in Japan people cannot sit on their knees anymore, so I figured if I build a teahouse we would never be able to use it, and teahouses have very, very strict rules so it is hard to build them. So what I chose to do was build a small house, like a small farmhouse or cottage and that gave me more to work with. This one has a deck around it, mainly to sit out and enjoy the garden around it. Most houses in Japan have a deck from which to look at the garden. That's the whole idea. The real homey Japanese gardens are meant to be viewed from your house.

How did your love of Japanese culture start?

I went to Japan when I was 19 to study Japanese, and I really loved the culture and the arts. I was never able to shed it.

What do you hope to do more of here?

I want to share as many aspects of the Japanese culture as possible. We have the ikebana exhibit coming up and I look forward to that. Usually people imagine it as a small floral arrangement, but it's a really big world and a really big art form. You can have big ikebana and little ikebana. There area so many schools in Japan. It started 550 years ago. It's pretty established, like European paintings. But I wanted to show ... that you can do it, too.

What does the name of the garden mean?

Yume? It means dream in Japanese. It has different meanings, like from a spiritual point of view, like we live in a dream world. But also just a plain dream, like the dream of people who want to create something.

More by Mari Herreras

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