Summer internship introduces landscape architecture student to Japanese gardens

Lily Mank at Anderson Japanese Gardens.

When first-timers visit a Japanese-style garden during the summer, one thing tends to stick out: it’s primarily green.

“One of the comments we get the most is there aren’t a lot of flowers, that everything is monochromatic green,” says CALS landscape architecture senior Lily Mank, a summer intern at the Anderson Japanese Gardens in Rockford, Illinois.

Yet people love what they see.

The predominance of green summer foliage, notes Mank, is just one aspect that makes Japanese gardens unique. More broadly, it’s the special way that basic elements – stone, water and plants – are brought together and the emotions these landscapes evoke.

The internship, offered for the first time this year, has given Mank the opportunity to rotate through many aspects of running the garden, including design, management, marketing and event planning, planting and construction.

It also included time with Hoichi Kurisu, who has been the chief designer of the Anderson Japanese Gardens since in 1978. Although Kurisu doesn’t have a formal degree in landscape architecture, he is considered a leader in the field of Japanese garden design. In June, Mank spent a full day with Kurisu on an active garden construction site in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

“It was really interesting to see how Hoichi develops his designs and also to hear the story of how he was inspired to become a landscape architect,” says Mank. “It was an incredible opportunity to spent time with him. He shared his whole life story with me.”

When school starts up this fall, Mank will wrap up her internship by writing a report on therapeutic gardens, a particular interest of hers. It will be informed, in part, by yet another experience afforded by the internship: working with garden staff on the campus of the Rosecrance Griffin Williamson drug rehabilitation center in Rockford. The Rosecrance garden, also designed by Kurisu, is an integral part of the facility’s treatment program.

“Seeing the benefits of the therapeutic garden first-hand was incredible,” she says. “It was probably my favorite experience.”

AJG irises
Photo courtesy of Anderson Japanese Gardens.