Asian-inspired Garden of Tranquility in Timonium offers space to contemplate

The new Garden of Tranquility at Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens embraces a graceful, simple design that has its roots in the ancient Chinese practice of feng shui, the art of arranging spaces with balance and comfort in mind.

The simplicity of the 7-acre garden belies the elaborate planning that went into each detail.

The garden features a winding path through a flower garden in the shape of the lucky number eight. A labyrinth is in the shape of an octagon, another lucky shape. Flowers are planted in a swirling pattern, considered essential to life as evidenced by the swirl of a fingerprint or the crown of hair on a baby's head.

Four topiary animals watch over the garden — tiger, dragon, tortoise and phoenix.

The granite pagoda at the entrance to the garden symbolizes knowledge and wisdom, said Hope Gerecht, a feng shui expert who helped design the garden with Amy Shimp, general manager of Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens.

"For the first 2000 years, feng shui was only used in burials, not in the home as we think of it today," said Gerecht, a Stevenson resident, who normally applies the ancient art to interior design.

"How we care for our ancestors affects our lives," she said last week, walking through the garden as workers continued the job of installing elements.

"There is an invisible energy and movement and every space is unique. Here, the elements of the garden interact with personal elements," Gerecht said. "This whole garden wove itself together."

The design includes six granite benches, each bearing the image of the official flower of an Asian country. The meaning of the flower is written below the image in the language of the country.

Shimp said the yearlong project began when she noticed the local Asian population gravitated to the Peace Garden, an area on a hill overlooking water.

Some visitors simply found the setting ideal for contemplation. Others, like Wilbur Su, had relatives buried nearby.

When Wilbur Su's father, Chi-Tsung Su, died two years ago, his family chose a grave site on the hill for the Lutherville plastic surgeon who was born in Taiwan.

"When we were choosing the site, Amy told us about plans for the garden, and my family and I helped by telling her what was important in the Chinese-Taiwanese traditions," Wilbur Su said. "We couldn't be more pleased with the way it turned out. They paid so much attention to detail. There is nothing else like this in Baltimore County."

Shimp and Gerecht also had input in developing a conceptual design from Joseph Kim, who has a degree in landscape architecture and whose uncle is buried at Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens.

"The concept came from ideas and influences of traditional Asian style and Japanese style gardening," he said and the main idea was to create spaces where visitors may reflect, meditate and be soothed by memories.

"It is more than a garden with just plants and a designed landscape," he said.

The garden was also designed to appeal to people of all cultures, said John Mitchell, chairman of Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens.

The public is invited to a dedication ceremony for the new Garden of Tranquility at Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens, on Wednesday, Oct. 24, at noon, followed by light refreshments. The Oct. 24 dedication date was chosen after consulting a Chinese almanac for the best day to hold such a ceremony.

The ceremony will feature speakers, drummers, a traditional lion dance, fireworks, music and tours with an explanation of the main garden elements. Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens is located at 200 E. Padonia Road, Timonium. For more details, call 410-666-0490.

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