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A Tranquil Japanese Stroll Garden

The yellow lilies were blooming, the bull frogs were croaking and the tree leaves were floating gently in the breeze. Thursday afternoon at North Salem’s Japanese Stroll Garden found a little girl peering curiously into the lily pond and an elderly couple sitting silently on a distant bench.

The garden was living up to its promise: it was tranquil and beautiful, indeed a spot to touch base with the universe and your own soul.

The Hammond Museum ’s Garden was designed by Nathalie Hays Hammond, a philanthropic heiress and artist, with the assistance of a Japanese landscape architect.

It is based on the 17th-18th century Edo Period prototype, said Martin Hara, the museum’s executive design director. “The garden is very much a Zen concept,” he explained. “The moment you step through the gates, the pace of life slows down. The paths are windy so that the views are constantly changing.” Often you experience the same arrangement of trees or shrubs and garden ornaments, but from an entirely different angle. Just as in daily life, a different angle often changes your entire perspective.

A Japanese visitor remarked that a stroll garden “with this much space” is very rare in Japan these days. “Perhaps only in the Imperial Garden.”

What distinguishes the Hammond’s Garden is Nathalie Hammond’s wise use of plantings that would be able to endure North Salem’s snowy, icy winters and hot, humid summers.

The Japanese Stroll Garden is open Wednesdays through Saturdays from noon to 4 p.m. The Silk Tree Restaurant serves lunch Wednesday through Saturday from noon to 3 p.m.

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