Discover tranquility

A West Coast garden gets a traditional Japanese spin
LAUREN BONAR SWEZEY

In the West, gardens are designed for outdoor living as much as for viewing. Japanese gardens, on the other hand, are more for viewing ― to communicate peace and tranquility. The new Meditation Garden at the Osmosis spa in Freestone blends the two approaches. "It's a Japanese-style garden created for California," says owner Michael Stusser. The design, by Robert Ketchell, founder of the British Japanese Garden Society, is Japanese, but the use of California native plants and the lovely coastal-hills setting tie it directly to the region.

What makes it so serene? A mirror-smooth pond reflects the day's changing light and passing clouds. Plantings are simple yet sculptural: a single conifer beside a shapely boulder in one area, a Japanese maple and several conifers in another. Gravel raked in swirls around boulders evokes the feeling of water.

Like Japanese gardens, the Meditation Garden is meant to be viewed through a moon window in the pavilion near the pond. But like a California garden, it invites you in to feel the tranquility.

INFO: Osmosis: The Enzyme Bath Spa (209 Bohemian Hwy., Freestone; 707/823-8231) celebrates its 20th anniversary on Sep 9 with a concert and sushi buffet ($65); tickets limited. The garden is open at 9 a.m. Oct 1 and 29 for guided tours ($10) and 10-noon every Tue in Oct for self-guided tours ($5).