Koto music played in the background and bonsai trees decorated the lobby of Sangamon Auditorium during a festive celebration and dedication of the Japanese Garden at UIS.
The Japanese Garden was given by Eileen Ensel as a living tribute to her late husband, Lee Ensel, who was very interested in the culture of the university. She decided on a Japanese garden after a tour of campus in May 2007, with Carolyn Ringeisen, wife of UIS Chancellor Richard Ringeisen, Joan Buckles, horticulturist and grounds worker supervisor, and Vicki Megginson, associate chancellor for development and vice president of the U of I Foundation.
The garden is located on the east and southeast sides of the Public Affairs Center. Ensel chose the spot of the garden due to its proximity to Sangamon Auditorium and to student housing."So when students come in to class from the places they live, they walk right by the Japanese Garden," Chancellor Ringeisen said during the garden's dedication. "And equally important is that this is the way many, many people come to Sangamon Auditorium to our events."
Ensel is no stranger to giving to UIS. Already established are two scholarships for students: the Lee Ensel scholarship for students interested in pre-law and the Eileen Ensel scholarship which is based on financial need. Ensel also donates to the Chancellor's Excellence Fund."And now on top of all those things, we have this very beautiful Japanese Garden," Ringeisen said. "Thank you, Eileen; we get the special privilege of enjoying the garden and thinking of you when we do."
Japanese gardens can represent many things, such as nature, religious ideas, philosophic ideas, frugality, self-restraint and simplicity, said Buckles, who helped to complete the project. The Japanese-style garden at UIS is in a public area, so although it doesn't provide the atmosphere for reflection or meditation common to many Japanese gardens, it still serves to provide public awareness of the bond between UIS and Springfield’s sister city, Ashikaga, Japan.
Contrary to the American idea of a garden, plant material plays a secondary role in Japanese gardens, Buckles said. Pines, junipers, boxwood and gingko have been used in dwarf, weeping and bonsai forms to represent windswept landscapes. Grasses and iris have also been added.
"Rocks are the backbone of Japanese gardens," Buckles said. "In this garden, rocks have been used to represent mountains, the beginnings of a river bed, as well as the dry river bed itself which runs the length of the garden."Other features included are a lantern, a rock bench and a granite bridge, which is a reclaimed piece of curbing from a downtown St. Louis parking lot.
UIS’ grounds worker Cliff Edwards, with the help of Brian Beckerman and Frank Moscardelli, designed UIS' Japanese Garden. Scott Day and Gary Trammell allowed Edwards and his crew to tour their own personal gardens, offering suggestions and sparking creative ideas.Ensel said she was thrilled with the outcome of the project and thanked everyone involved.
"I just hope that you all enjoy it, that the staff, faculty and students here enjoy it," she said. "I'm just so pleased with it, and I think Joan Buckles, and everyone else, did a wonderful job."