Skip to main content

Natural Awakenings Tucson

Eastern Gardens Flourish in the Southwest

Mar 01, 2013 10:20AM ● By Jon D’Auria

In January, Tucson welcomed a unique new addition to our already diverse array of attractions when Yume Japanese Gardens opened its doors to the public. Located just south of the Tucson Botanical Gardens, Yume Japanese Gardens brings beautifully meditative landscapes all the way from Asia to our desert environment. With three-quarters of an acre of beautiful and authentic Japanese gardens that feature many varieties of traditional landscaping, each meticulously crafted and impeccably maintained in a different theme, a visit is sure to bring calm and relaxation to all that wander its pathways and courtyards.

It all began with the vision of retired Archaeologist Patricia Deridder, who, after traveling the world and spending time in the Orient, decided that she wanted to make Tucson her home and bring with her a piece of a landscape that had such a profound affect on her. “I lived in Japan for 15 years, and ever since I came to the U.S. I wanted to share this unique culture that I really enjoyed,” says Deridder. “I’ve found that if you know another culture or language, you become a better person. I knew I wanted to create a museum or a garden, and when this land presented itself to me, I knew this was the spot and what I was to do with it. The rest fell into place from the there.”

In the months following, Deridder turned the land that once comprised the territory of Native Seed Search into a peaceful sanctuary that is true to the principles of Japanese gardens, adapted to the climate of the Arizona desert. It’s no secret that Japan has a vastly different ecosystem to that of Tucson, but Deridder found ways to accommodate the plants and foliage to maintain the garden’s authenticity.

“It’s not the ideal climate for a garden such as this, and when you find them here in the states, they’re typically in Seattle and California, where the climate suits it more. It’s not easy, but we’re learning how to incorporate the traditional plants and elements and making them survive here in the desert. We started with all young components to this garden, so everything you see is new. Tucson will have to grow with the gardens,” she says, laughing. “Every time you come, you’ll see the plants and fish growing.”

Yume, which translates as “dream” in Japanese, features a Zen contemplative garden with beautifully austere raked sand, a stone and gravel garden with triangularly placed rocks, a grass garden with circular turf arrangements, courtyard gardens with fountains, a large strolling pond garden with koi fish and aquatic plants, a modern garden that focuses on simplicity and a sculpture garden, all of which contrast with each other while fitting together seamlessly to form a greater whole.

“Each stone has its place, and everything is trimmed and kept in a certain way, with a lot of intention,” says Deridder. “Each tree faces a certain way for a reason and the placement of every single bush is important, as well as how it is trimmed and presented. We put weights on some limbs to lower the branches; some things need to be in the shade, some need sun. Everything has to be constantly maintained for the garden to keep its authenticity.”

For those seeking to take in a concert or tea hour, or just fill their afternoon with an enchanted walk, the Yume Japanese Gardens is a spectacular and beautiful site to behold, and the healing properties of the grounds will surely present themselves to all that enter into its gates. “The focus is to bring peace and allow people to feel meditative when they walk through this space, and to experience a culture that might be new to them,” says Deridder. “My main goal is for people to come into another land and forget that they are in the States and go on a mini-trip in their own backyard.”

Yume will begin a series of monthly concerts from 7 to 8 p.m., March 8, with master bamboo flautist Alcvin Ryuzen Ramos performing haunting traditional Japanese shakuhachi music by candlelight.

Yume Japanese Gardens is open from Oct. 1 to May 31. Admission is $9 for adults and $5 for children, with discounts available. Location: 2150 N. Alvernon Way. For more information, call 520-445-2957 or visit

Jon D’Auria is a frequent contributor to Natural Awakenings Tucson.