Most of the plants and flowers in this garden in Saint Francisville, Louisiana, are common in the South. But the style of trimming, the stone ornaments and traditional Japanese gates can make visitors feel like they are a half-world away from the Bayou State.
Walter Imahara, who is now in his 80s, has worked as a landscaper all of his life. He calls his latest project the Imahara Legacy Garden, located on the grounds of Hemingbough, an outdoor wedding venue in Saint Francisville. When I visited in mid-June, the beautifully sculpted garden was full of bright red, pink and purple flowers and lots of greenery. Also, several peacocks wandered through the grounds, occasionally honking at visitors.
Japanese style in saint francisville
Imahara’s Legacy Garden has several prominent Japanese features including a red torri (gate) and others constructed of logs. Numerous statues, many of them of Asian design, provide accents throughout the well-manicured gardens. You see and hear nature. A breeze causes flowers and branches to gently sway. And birds call and answer each other in the lush trees.
take a video tour of the garden
Imahara has spent years collecting many of the statues and ornamental features on display here. They seem to blend perfectly with the landscape, with stone eyes that appear to stare at nearby flowers. The gardens are on a hill that overlooks a small pond in the woods.
honoring a family legacy
A stone family monument, covered with Japanese writing, stands alone in a half circle of shrubs. Imahara’s great-great grandfather built the monument that honors his Samurai warrior son who was killed in a 19th century battle in China. The momument stood for a century near a Buddhist Temple located on the other side of a hill from downtown Hiroshima. The first atomic bomb destroyed the Japanese city, but the Buddhist Temple and the Imahara family monument survived.
A Buddhist priest gave Imahara permission to move the family monument from Hiroshima to Saint Francisville. The priest also gave Imahara instructions on how to display the stone structure. “I was told that it has to face west.” Imahara says he asked why, and was told, “It’s got to face Japan.”
Imahara tells me that he has reached a point in his life where he wants to leave a legacy. For him, that means honoring his father and mother, “who pushed me into horticulture that I have known all my life”. His father taught him how to trim plants in a style he used in this garden. And the garden is also a gift to the rest of us. There is no admission charge. You can sit on one of the garden benches and “feel the breeze, listen to the birds, watch the butterflies, the bees and just enjoy everythings that’s here,” Imahara says. He adds, “or you can just forget the rest of the world temporarily.” Imahara has created a special place where those things are possible.
iMAHARA LEGACY GARDEN FEATURED ON TV
Imahara’s Legacy Garden is in the town of Saint Francisville, Louisiana on the grounds of Hemingbough. The address is 10101 LA Hwy 965, St. Francisville, LA, a short distance off U.S. Hwy 61. Follow the signs for Hemingbough. Phone: (225) 635-6617
What a beautiful and peaceful place! The history behind this magical wonder is so important! The Imahara family monument is an incredible piece of history! What a special place the Imahara garden, sculptures and monument are to our world! Thank you to Walter for his love and dedication to creating such a glorious place on earth!. With love from St. Louis, MO.
Kelly Mishalow (Bob McCarron’s sister)
Walter, what an AWSOME gift to St Francisville. Very peaceful and calming. It’s appreciated how much love you have put into your garden. Your love for your family and culture will live on.
Bob McMarron’s sister in law
marvin e owen
You have always loved gardening and I believe the Japanese Garden at Hemingbough is a shining example of what you have been able to produce and what many others will be able to enjoy. I am thoroughly impressed with what this story and the videos portray. Job well done my friend. And I have thoroughly enjoyed being your close friend for the last 33 years. May your future be as fulfilling as it has been in the past. Marvin Owen
Prof. Buck Abbey
Walt is a remarkable man. He has added so much to the gardening and horticulture industry of Baton Rouge as well as the state of Louisiana over his long history. His many commercial and private gardens in the Baton Rouge stands as a legacy to all of us.