The gardens at Ewing Cultural Center are a place of serenity and retreat amidst the hustle of a thriving and robust Illinois community. They celebrate the seasons of Central Illinois and exhibit species native to the area. The gardens’ walkways, plantings, lighting, and other amenities offer a relaxing setting for contemplation and the appreciation of nature’s beauty.
As the manor was finishing completion, the Ewing family hired the famous Jens Jensen to design the manor landscape. The gardens, first completed in 1927, feature a wide range of plantings and trees, many of which were specified by Jensen.
There are many flowering crabs, redbuds, hawthorne, and viburnum. Jensen also suggested violets, phlox, day lilies, and a middle story of flowering shrubs. The Ewing property is known for its collection of bulbs, which herald the coming of spring: snow drops, scilia, bluebells, and daffodils.
Over the years, the Cultural Center has carried on Mrs. Ewing’s love of nature with the addition of new gardens, the Moriyama Japanese Garden in 1982, and the Genevieve Green Gardens in 2007.
The Moriyama Japanese Garden located on the grounds of Ewing Cultural Center was established in 1986 as an example of the friendship between the cities of Bloomington-Normal, Illinois, U.S.A., and Asahikawa, Hokkaido, Japan. Portions of a Japanese garden, installed in 1982, were reinstalled at the new site on the northwest edge of the property.
This garden was designed by Yamada Landscape located in Asahikawa and installed by Landscape Design in Bloomington. On May 12, 1986, Masanori Uchilda, executive director of Yamada Nursery; his son, Norihiko Uchilda; and Shinsaku Kobota, owner of Asahikawa Landscape, flew to Bloomington to personally create the garden. Local residents volunteered to work alongside the guests from northern Japan. Local nurserymen donated both time and materials. The garden is named in honor of Motoichi Moriyama, the first chairperson of the friendship committee in Asahikawa.
The Moriyama Garden has been the site of celebrations and ceremonies and is as beautiful in spring as it is after a winter snow. The garden provides a place for quiet contemplation and a beautiful site for hundreds of people who enjoy it each night of the summer when they come to the Illinois Shakespeare Festival.
The Genevieve Green Gardens at Ewing Cultural Center are a grouping of various “neighborhoods” each with a distinctive character.
The Compass Garden toward the south is a restored heirloom garden with a sitting area. Wildflowers, an expanded collection of bluebell flowers, and a cobblestone path highlight the Woodland Garden on the east side of the Theatre at Ewing. An Arts and Crafts Garden is planned for the north side of the property. The South Lawn Garden to the west of the property’s main entrance features multi-colored flowers appropriate for all seasons, brick pathways, a water feature, and landscape lighting. Among the newest theme gardens are a fern garden, a sensory garden, cutting garden, an all-white garden, and a kitchen garden.
Among the other highlights of the gardens are a new public entry, which directs visitors to a formal plaza leading to the entrance to the manor; a grass patio; a theater walk with a widened walkway and additional plantings. The Great Lawn offers long views of the landscape, a primary pathway, and a future pavilion. The eight-foot wide primary paved pathway is accessible to the disabled.
The gardens boast a wide range of plantings and trees, many of which were specified by Jens Jensen, the property’s original landscape architect. There are many flowering crabs, redbud, hawthorne, and lilacs. Jensen also suggested violets, phlox, and other flowers. The property features many flower bulbs: snowdrops, scilia, and daffodils as well as lilies of the valley and day lilies.
The six-acre garden project, funded as part of a $5.9-million bequest to the Illinois State University Foundation, honors the late Genevieve Green, a figure on the local music scene, who had a profound love of flowers and nature.
The gardens inspires a greater appreciation and understanding of plant species, emphasizing varieties native to the Midwestern United States.
The gardens surround Ewing Manor, which is the Sunset Hill estate of the late Hazle Buck Ewing, a philanthropist who had a keen interest in the environment, international culture, and education. Ewing Manor offers a gracious setting for a wide range of cultural, educational, and social events. The grounds include a wooded landscape; a Japanese garden, a gift from Bloomington-Normal’s sister city, Asahikawa, Japan; and many small gardens connected by a brick pathway..
The Ewing family hired Jens Jensen to design the Sunset Hill landscape in 1927. The new gardens at Ewing Cultural Center reflect Jensen’s original design. Jensen (1860-1951) was a landscape architect of Denmark, Chicago, and Door County, Wisconsin. His portfolio included four of Chicago’s major parks—Columbus, Humboldt, Garfield, and Douglas—plus 15 smaller ones. His advocacy of conservation led to creation of the Cook County Forest Preserve District in Chicagoland, Illinois state park system, and the Indiana Dunes State Park and National Lakeshore.