Botanic Society Plans Relaxation For Mind, Soul

Garden a retreat for community and tourists

By Kelsie O’Keefe
Mass Comm. Major

Photos by Amita Manandar

Visitors walk through the Garden of Mind and Soul plot.

The Northern Plains Botanic Garden Society is planning a relaxing community and tourist destination.

Sadafumi Uchiyama, garden curator of Portland, Ore., Japanese Garden and third-generation Japanese gardener, presented his plans for one section of the Botanic Garden called the Garden of Mind and Soul, on May 13 at the Northern Pacific Depot on Main Avenue in downtown Fargo.

Two acres of land have been designed for the Garden of Mind and Soul.


Garden reflects, connects

The Garden of Mind and Soul is a reflection of Japanese thought and style, depicting the beauty of nature through miniature to promote awareness of our existence as part of the environment.

“We’re dedicated to having a space where you do reconnect with nature,” says Botanic Society president Pegi Palmes. “(The Garden of Mind and Soul) is not a show piece…it’s something that you just go and you feel and be a part of, and boy, that’s so important.”

Promoting community

The Garden of Mind and Soul is just one of many garden sections in the Botanic Society’s Botanic Garden plans.

Founded 11 years ago by Dr. Chiwon Lee, a horticulture teacher at North Dakota State University, the Botanic Society aims to promote community through gardening.

The Society is attempting to establish and operate a botanic garden, conservatory and arboretum in Fargo.

Visitors try to spot letters in the Alphabet Garden.


The Botanic Society’s goals include:

  • Providing a quiet, meditative environment secluded from the outside world through use of Japanese gardening principles.
  • Creating a tourist and visitor destination.
  • Providing a venue for delegation trade meetings, public-at-large meetings, receptions, classes, weddings and other events.
  • Providing opportunities to exchange cultural information.
  • Displaying the economic significance of the present agricultural and product trade between the area and Japan.

A bench made from an old oak tree sits in the Woodland Garden.

The botanic gardens will spread across 52 acres of Fargo Park District-owned land along University Drive between 28th and 32nd avenues and to the north and east of Yunker Farm.

The Botanic Society has planned a 25-year outline to finish the gardens. A 10-year projected finishing date is planned for the two-acre Garden of Mind and Soul alone.

Japanese culture integrated

The Botanic Society hired Uchiyama to develop the plans for the Japanese garden to add the details that its members couldn’t, says Palmes.

Instead of trying to make a Japanese garden something that would seen in Japan, Uchiyama is focused on approaching the garden in a gentle way, integrating Japanese style with local plants and materials.

“It will be packaged in a way that will show how we relate to each other,” says Uchiyama.

According to the Botanic Society website, “the garden, while using design and construction principles of many Japanese gardens, applies an organic approach by use of indigenous, local materials to find the spirit of the site in a local context.”

Seedlings are sprouting in logs throughout the botanic gardens.

Space supports activity

Uchiyama has planned the space to support maximum activity use.

“(The garden) has to be connected to the people,” says Uchiyama. “Meaning people have to be there and enjoying themselves.”

The pavilion alone is planned to hold 150-200 people, aimed at providing a space for weddings and other celebrations.

Other Garden of Mind and Soul features include a waterfall, island, indoor garden, zig-zag bridge and flowering trees among many more.

A bulldozer sits, waiting to begin construction on the Garden of Mind and Soul.

Volunteers, admirers welcome

The garden construction and planting will be mostly funded by grants and donations, according Palmes.

Volunteers are always welcome at any stage of the construction. Eventually, the society will need to hire staff, says Palmes, but volunteers will always be needed.

The Gladiola Garden is among many that are ready for viewing, though visitors are welcome to walk along the entire area. 

Many gardens are already underway and ready for viewing including a rain garden, butterfly garden, alphabet garden and woodland garden that features a fairy garden hidden amongst the foliage.

“We are a destination now,” says Palmes.

Ruth Morton plants flowers in the Woodland Garden. Morton has been volunteering at the Botanic Society Gardens for two years.


There are a number of outdoor botanic gardens outlined in future plans including:

  • Rose garden
  • Sensory garden
  • Rock garden
  • Herb/Knot garden
  • Community garden
  • Children’s garden
  • Vegetable garden
  • Native plants

To volunteer or donate, visit the Botanic Society website at and become a part of something that will last for lifetimes to come.

A weed growing in The Garden of Mind and Soul plot, soon to be plucked as construction begins.


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