Overview: You can be in the Stone Garden and enjoy it on many levels. It can be seen as a mandala, an imprint of existence. On a lighter side, forming triangles between the few features in it makes you appreciate the Stone Garden’s meditative ‘empty’ spaces. Also, noting the different feelings you get from its curved, diagonal and straight paths gives you an insight into its design.
Looking at some of the aesthetic elements in a Chinese garden adds to the power of the Stone Garden: odd numbers, the triangle, simplicity, contrast, the yin-yang, hiding, suggestion, and change.
On a practical level, there is a reason for this design. The site is the roof of the abandoned Point Grey reservoir. Lightweight volcanic rock was used. The weight factor had to be considered. And it just so happens that the area next to the Stone Garden is the second highest point in Vancouver. The stars were aligned when this garden was created. More about this Garden.Text and photos by Hughie Jones.
History: The Stone Garden opened in 1983 as part of the newly-built Sino-Himalayan Garden. It was inspired by Roy Forster's visit to China in 1981 and was a practical solution for masking the former Point Grey Reservoir underneath. The Reservoir was buried by tons of fill from the neighbouring Shaughnessy Place II development and topped by lightweight rocks, as soil would have been too heavy. The large standing rocks came from a quarry in Reno, Nevada. Excerpted from "From Garden to Golf Course".
2021 Update: On a Garden Walk, the Curator pointed out the limitations of this area: the reservoir can’t support a garden with soil, a lack of irrigation, and reflected heat from the stones. The area gardener did a massive amount of work here, torching the weeds and raking the rocks into a simple pattern. They would like to add sections of pea gravel to the river rock, which could be raked into more complex designs, perhaps providing rakes for visitors to do this. The position of the large stones is very symbolic in this kind of Asian Garden; some of ours have fallen over, which changes the meaning of the stones to knowledgeable visitors.
Over the years there have been studies about storing water in the reservoir for Garden irrigation, and some work was done in the 2010s to divert storm water from the adjacent street. However the Garden Superintendent notes that a recent look at the area revealed major seismic implications for this project, and it is too expensive to pursue.