The Japanese Garden (Suiho En)
Los Angeles, California
The Japanese Garden (Suiho En) is a 6.5-acre ornamental public garden located on the grounds of the Tillman Water Reclamation Plant in Los Angeles, California.
Address: 6100 Woodley Ave, Van Nuys, CA 91406
Hours: 11am – 4pm (Mon. – Thurs.), 10am – 4pm (Sun.)
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On my very first solo adventure in LA, I was driving north on Sunset Boulevard when ended up the valley and decided to pick the closest destination on my gardens-to-visit list. I drove into an area with a guard at the entrance and the password seemed to be “I’m trying to find the Japanese Garden.” After purchasing a ticket in the funny little trailer, I rounded a corner only to be wowed by some supremely shaped hedges that announce the entrance. Just beyond the playful topiary entrance, the first glimpse of this expansive garden oasis really took my breath away.
The garden sits on the grounds of the Tillman Water Reclamation Plant and was conceived by city engineer Donald Tillman as a way to show that something beautiful and delicate could be created using treated wastewater. The garden was designed by Dr. Koichi Katana and named Suiho En, “garden of water and fragrance.” It’s clear it was designed with care – it’s filled with flowering trees, strolling paths, and water features meant to be enjoyed in all blooming seasons. This traditional garden set against the modern architecture of the treatment building makes for an odd juxtaposition, but somehow it works. Perhaps this is what made it an ideal location for Star Trek to use as their Starlet Academy.
It is not a huge garden, but it is an impressive use of space. I loved how following walkways that cut through and forked off in different directions let you admire the garden from different perspectives. The garden has several different areas that stand on their own but fit beautifully into the overall design. I especially loved how you could wander around and find unexpected surprises. At one point, I veered off the main walk to follow a path of oversized stones that led to a grassy island in a sea of pebbles. Just past this, I found a little covered arbor area hung with wisteria tucked back into a secluded corner. Another side path led me along an impressive lotus & water lily garden and over a little stream on a tiny bridge.
In another standout area, there was a magical nook where a small waterfall splashed down, framed by large ornamental rocks. The whole scene was accentuated by a lumpy green carpet of sensual, undulating grass. I had never seen anything quite like these grass formations, and I had to look it up: it’s called Korean Grass, or Zoysia Tenuifolia, and takes this odd appearance when newer grass grows over patches of dried grass below, creating the bumpy effect. The landscaping was beyond exquisite with bushes sculpted into flowing amorphous shapes and creating contrasts with long, hair-like grasses playing off of stark stones.
Final rating: The unlikely attachment to the water reclamation plant makes this garden all the more unexpected and rewarding. Japanese gardens are not always my style of choice, but this one worked so well in combining several traditional garden designs into one tranquil yet constantly engaging experience. I was so stimulated by all the contrasting textures and bold shapes created with ornate grasses and other greenery against the backdrops of stone or water. There was an underlying playfulness to the garden that kept it from feeling too static or picturesque. Since I wasn’t planning this visit, I didn’t come equipped with my proper camera and cannot wait to return and explore it all over again. 4 BLOOM RATING