Leimert Park - How does your Japanese Garden grow?

You see the remnants of a past in Leimert Park everywhere - homes with Japanese gardens of bansai trees and exotic plants that are now being maintained by black and Latino gardeners. Where did that come from?

I've read about the area's important Japanese culture and seen the plaque at the new Holiday Bowl (founded in 1958 by five Japanese Americans, the Holiday Bowl was part of the process of rebuilding the Nikkei community after Internment) reminds us of that. But that doesn't quite explain the ornamental gardens.

Perhaps the answer is "West Coast Japanese Americans drew upon their agricultural and ethnic backgrounds to carve out a viable vocational niche in gardening," taken from the site for "Landscaping America: Beyond the Japanese Garden," an exhibit which runs from June 17 to Jan. 6 at the Japanese American National Museum, 369 E. First St. in Little Tokyo.

At least people are noticing our lawns: Cultivating LA: 100 years of Japanese Style Garden Making in Southe... made a stop in Leimert Park earlier this month.

Ellen Bloom of LA is My Beat tagged along provided some great pictures of the tour, including a half-dozen of Leimert Park.

She writes to me in an email: "According to the docent on our tour, there are still many original Japanese residents on these few blocks of Norton Avenue that maintain their own front yards as well as those of their neighbors. Many of the black, white and Latin residents also have respect for the beauty of the gardens and the history of the block, so they also strive to maintain the individuality of the area.

The ranch-style homes were built in the LATE 1950's to give the Japanese returned from internment camps 10 years earlier a place to live in LA that was welcoming and uniquely their own. You will notice that there are no trees or plants on the parkway strips. This is to give a wide open and spacious view to the individual front gardens.

The fact that this neighborhood (39th and Norton) was the spot where the Black Dahlia (Elizabeth Short) was dumped in 1947 by her murderer may have had something to do with the reason these few blocks were not developed until the late 1950's. If you take a look at the blocks east and west of Norton Ave., you will notice that the homes are much older. There must have been superstition and stigma against building on th...."

Ellen, thanks for the insight.

Garden tour imageThe L.A. Conservancy, the California Garden and Landscape History Society, The Garden Conservancy, and the Japanese American National Museum sponsored the day-long tour of the area’s significant Japanese-style gardens.

In addition to the residential gardens of Norton Avenue in Leimert Park, the tour also stopped at the Garden of Peace at Roosevelt High School in Boyle Heights, the James Irvine Japanese Garden in Little TokyoThe Storrier-Stearns Garden in Pasadena and the San Gabriel Nursery.

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