Design Element 6--Style Under Construction Interpreting Nature

The Anderson Garden, like any garden, is not a copy of nature, but an arrangement of nature to suggest certain things about the natural world from the perspective of the designer. The garden style is a product of the designer's individual differences, experiences, historical/cultural roots, and talent.

Gardens fall on a continuum from the rigidly formal, such as the geometric gardens of Europe, to the subtle reflections of natural landscapes in a Japanese garden. The Anderson Garden is closer to the Japanese, but with some European and American influences.

Historical and Cultural Influences on the Anderson Garden Design


After receiving his landscape architecture degree from Penn State in the early 1930s, Bob boarded a freighter to bicycle around Europe. The French and Italian gardens suggested to him a taming of nature, civilizing unruly wilds with order. Garden sculptures accented the precise plantings.

The English estate gardens he visited, featuring the collecting and hybridizing of 19th Century rhododendron pioneers, recreated native landscapes of a world empire on gentry estates.

Meanwhile, English country gardens of the common people splashed with color, with masses of flowers planted close in spontaneous confusion.


The First Anderson Garden--Summit, New Jersey

After World War II, Bob created the first Anderson Garden on a lakeside forest in Springfield, New Jersey. His education and trip influenced his development of eight wooded acres into a rhododendron park. He built the house out of local stone dug to make room for the plants, and included a small geometric garden with brick walkways and patio attached to the house.

Away from the house, broad meandering grass paths led the visitor around large rhododendron beds. Many of the specimens were indigenous plants that he shipped up by the boxcarload from the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia and his native North Carolina.

In 1961, Bob and Betty, then in their fifties, sold the New Jersey garden and started from scratch in the Pacific Northwest, 3000 miles away. They bought a hayfield in Enumclaw, Washington, between Puget Sound and the Cascade Mountains.


Because of their location on the Pacific Rim, Washington gardens were more strongly influenced by Asia, and by Japan in particular, than those in the Atlantic states. The northwest had many public Japanese gardens, and the climate supported many Japanese plants.

In Japanese gardens, various elements suggest in small scale features of the natural world, such as mountains, rivers, and forests. Water flows in ponds, creeks, and waterfalls rather than fountains. Color variation is subdued and minimal, with few flowers. These gardens are designed for contemplation rather than for entertaining.

The influences of Japanese gardening permeate the Anderson Garden.

 The Second Anderson Garden--Enumclaw, Washington
Bob began creating the second Anderson Garden and house in 1961. Instead of a stone house in the European and early American tradition, he designed one of northwest cedar, with a hip roof found both in Japanese temples and Dutch houses. Like the New Jersey garden, it featured brick pattern walks and patio around the house. A large circle of grass forms the transition between the geometry of the house and the natural shapes of the garden. The Anderson Garden, as described in other sections of Design Elements, is a collection of curving paths and beds, with constantly changing variety in color, light, texture, and form, with surprising views around every bend. Like figure skating, what seems to the viewer to be spontaneous flow is actually carefully planned. Reflecting the contradictory tendencies toward order and randomness in nature is far from haphazard.

Personal Extensions in the Anderson Garden Design

A garden is an extension of a personality as well as a reflection of a cultural influences. In fact, individual differences within a society are often greater than differences between cultures.

Some personal attributes can be placed on a continuum, with their polar opposites hinting at an individual's garden style. Some of these opposites are







Bob tended toward the left side of the chart. highlighted in blue. This same list seems to differentiate between the dominant characteristics of Japanese and European gardens. When a person has the traits of one culture and roots in the other, some interesting paradoxes emerge, like the expression of latent opposites within the same personality.
The Anderson Garden is in some ways like a Japanese Japanese stroll garden: the changing scenes from closeup to distant; the elements suggesting water, forests, and mountains; and the lack of straight lines. But it explodes in color each spring, like the English country gardens or the nearby alpine meadows. Plants are close together, unlike the sparse Asian gardens, but very much like the wild stands of rhododendron in the mountains of China or Appalachia.

Coming soon:

Within the Anderson Garden are several pocket gardens reminding one of the natural landscapes near native rhododendron populations.

bamboo forest, alpine garden, shade moss/fern garden, deciduous woodland, native garden

Integration of the herb garden, orchards, vegetables with other landscaping


© 2001 by John and Doreen Anderson