Hannah Carter Japanese Garden | Los Angeles Conservancy
Hannah Carter Japanese Garden
Photo by Christine Caldwell

Hannah Carter Japanese Garden

The Hannah Carter Japanese Garden is a traditional Japanese-style garden that has graced its hillside in Bel Air since 1961.

Its origins are actually even earlier, as the site first contained a Hawaiian-inspired retreat designed by landscape architect A. E. Hanson for Harry Calendar.

Gordon Guiberson later purchased the property and commissioned landscape designer Nagao Sakurai to create a Japanese-style garden below his residence. Sakurai was well known for designing the Imperial Japanese Gardens for the Japanese government at the Golden Gate International Exposition in San Francisco and World's Fair in New York in 1939, and immigrated to the U.S. in the 1950s. He collaborated with Kyoto garden designer Kazuo Nakamura on the design for the new garden, keeping some of Hanson's elements and adding many others to create a landscape which has been called one of the largest and finest Japanese gardens in America.

Completed in 1961, the garden (then called Shikyeon) emphasizes water, stones, and evergreen plants in a naturalistic setting. It is sculpted into the hillside and employs natural cobbles and quarried stone to help shape features like waterfalls, ponds, and winding pathways. Bridges, a teahouse, an entry gate, a hokura (family shrine) and a pagoda dot the skillfully shaped landscape; some of the structures were actually built in Japan, dismantled, and then reassembled on site.

The landscaping is incredibly dense and features many Japanese species as well as appropriate native species, from mature trees to low shrubs, flowers, and lichens. A mudslide in 1968 damaged the garden, but UCLA employee and garden designer Koichi Kawana rehabilitated it back to its original condition and appearance.

The garden is also associated with the 1938 Shepherd Residence, which is located on the adjoining property. 

Photo by John O'Neill on Wikimedia Commons

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