Yuko-En on the Elkhorn is a Different Kind of Spa Visit – And What is Needed Now
Gracious garden is calming oasis in the midst of global pandemic
GEORGETOWN, KY – April 8, 2020 – As people look for scenic spaces to stroll outdoors and maintain safe social distancing, Georgetown, KY invites fresh air seekers to visit a pocket of paradise designed specifically for this purpose: Yuko-en on the Elkhorn is a Japanese-style strolling garden and the Kentucky-Japan Friendship Garden – the only one of its kind. A visit to this enchanting refuge, especially during these uncertain times, is like a spa visit for the senses and the soul.
Step through the garden’s Tokugawa gate and enter a world of color, fragrance, graceful sculptural elements and serenity, with waterfalls and chirping birds adding a soothing soundtrack and the creek, ponds and Japanese-style stone garden inspiring quiet reflection.
“There is a sense of calm at Yuko-En that to me seems like an oasis,” said Mayor Tom Prather, who has been heavily involved in the garden since it was created nearly 20 years ago. “It is a unique experience and a treasure.”
Sweet-smelling blooms, including Japanese irises, wisteria, daylilies and varieties of hydrangeas – oakleaf, wild and Annabelle – provide a healthy dose of aromatherapy. These same flowers, along with the waterlilies on the reflecting pool, add bursts of purple, cream, yellow, pink and snowy white, to a landscape layered in greenery. Twenty-six different types of trees provide shade and shadows, texture and tonality.
“The garden in April and May is just starting to come out of its winter slumber,” said Yuko-En board member Arlene Wilson. “The redbuds, Japanese cherry trees and American Yellowwoods are starting to bloom against a backdrop of a lovely pine grove and cedar trees.”
The garden design gently guides visitors along paths of native cane to bridges and a koi pond, where brilliantly colored, gape-mouthed fish jockey to swallow up any food tossed their way. Lanterns, including the Kotoji lantern, grace the landscape, lending authenticity and artistry to the pond. A Maho-An Tea House, designed to be used for a tea ceremony, provides a quiet resting place. Another house, the Raku, holds a kiln and signifies the blending of two cultures. It is the only working kiln within a Japanese-style garden, in or out of Japan.
Named for the literal meaning of the words, “yuko-en” – friendship garden – it is based on such Japanese gardening principles as working in harmony with nature, weaving in symbolism, creating a miniature world and framing views beyond the garden that connect the garden to the world beyond its gates.
“One of the highlights to Yuko-En is its proximity to downtown Georgetown,” said Wilson. “It sits on the banks of Elkhorn Creek, which served as the pathway to settlements in the Bluegrass and continues to be a shared resource in the life of the community.”
As home of the largest Toyota manufacturing plant* in the world, Georgetown is a natural setting for Yuko-En, officially proclaimed the Kentucky-Japan Friendship Garden by the Legislature of the Commonwealth of Kentucky. The four-season, five-plus acre garden was planted as an homage to the sister city relationship established in 1990 between Georgetown and Tahara, Japan, two years after Toyota broke ground here.
“In these difficult times, we have to continue to appreciate beauty and the natural world around us and Yuko-En is a stunning example of an opportunity for people to do so while allowing for social distancing,” said Prather.
Pack a blanket, pick up a picnic curbside from a Georgetown restaurant and head to admission-free Yuko-en on the Elkhorn, open daily, dawn to dusk. Take a virtual tour or watch a video that shows off its splendors, then download the self-guided tour brochure. Oh, and bring your dog. Man’s best friend is welcome at Yuko-En. Information: 502-316-1592.
*Psst! Did you know you can take a video tour of Toyota Motor Manufacturing? Zoom on!
For more information about visiting Yuko-En, visit the Georgetown/Scott County Tourism website at www.georgetownky.com.