December 8, 2023

Famed designer hunts for perfect rocks for Louisville Japanese garden

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — International Japanese garden designer Shiro Nakane was 35 minutes into a search…

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — International Japanese garden designer Shiro Nakane was 35 minutes into a search that would take him back about 300 million years.

He was walking the broad moonscape of a huge Southern Indiana quarry near Sellersburg seeking just the right stones for careful placement in the new Japanese garden to be constructed within Louisville’s Waterfront Botanical Gardens.

Nakane has been on this journey before. It was in many ways a family trip.

He is the son of Kinsaku Nakane, the 1966 founder of Nakane & Associates, an international firm known for creating traditional Japanese gardens and restoring historic temples in Kyoto as well as creating new gardens around the world, including Australia, China, Singapore, Lithuania and the United States.

He has lectured on Japanese gardens in Israel, Germany, Japan and, in the United States, at forums in Portland, Philadelphia and New York. He helped create Japanese gardens at the Jimmy Carter Presidential Center Garden in Atlanta, the National Gallery of Art in Washington and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, where he was first flown over New England in a plane to get a larger sense of the landscape.

Now, here he was, accompanied by a group from the Waterfront Botanical Gardens and his son, third-generation landscape designer, Yukihiro Nakane, slogging through 2 inches of fresh mud and climbing 20-foot piles of blasted, jagged limestone rock in Southern Indiana to bring a world-class Japanese garden to Louisville.

That valued limestone is the product of what is now Southern Indiana being buried under a warm sea for hundreds of millions of years, the brittle shells of its countless marine invertebrates hardening to limestone up to 90 feet thick over the eons.