At six acres in size, Yuko-En on the Elkhorn is one of the largest public Japanese gardens in the United States and the first such in Kentucky. Japanese culture has a special significance to the local Bluegrass community as it is the site of a large Toyota Motor Company manufacturing plant. The garden was built with donations and in-kind services from many local business and individuals including: Toyota; the community of our sister-city, Tahara-cho; Aichi Steel; Louisville Forge and Gear Works; and local financial institutions. The entire project cost approximately $1 million. The Four Seasons Educational Villa, completed in May 2013, was funded in its initial stages largerly by the citizens of Tahara, with funding from Georgetown's Sister City, the City of Georgetown, Scott County Fiscal Court, Scott County Tourism and Yuko-en's parent organization, the Scott Education and Community Foundation, a 501c3 non-profit..
The garden has been built on the former site of a monastery built in 1898 on land acquired from the family of Gov. James F. Robinson. The new garden was co-designed by Steve Austin, a local landscape architect and lawyer, and Jeff Singer, a local landscape designer and owner of Singer Gardens.
The design process was not a conventional North American one. Austin executed a series of paintings that outlined the vision of what the garden could become and then turned these over to nursery staff and construction workers, who actually did much of the design work as they were constructing the site. This process is uncommon today, but is an important part of traditional Japanese design and has analogues in European architectural history as well.
The originally flat field has been transformed by 1400 truckloads of earth into a series of undulating hills that hide, reveal and frame views along the paths that guide visitors through the space. Singer laid the dry creek bed by hand, placing each piece of gravel and stone based on his experience as a river kayaking enthusiast. Other design elements include a bridge crossing the dry stream, a pond, stone lanterns and a Zen Rock Garden. An unusual addition is a bog garden adjacent to the pond. The bog acts as a bio-filter for the pond.
Planting and construction materials are a combination of Japanese and local Kentucky sources. Flowering red bud trees, join Kentucky canebrake and Bluegrass savanna, bur oaks, blue ash and Kentucky coffee trees which are blended with Japanese Maples and Iris.
The garden is located on Elkhorn Creek adjacent to the grounds of the Cardome Centre on the west side of U.S. 25 (North Broadway), just 0.7 of mile north of downtown Georgetown. Yuko-En is location in the heart of the Elkhorn Trail Corridor system including over 10 miles of public hiking trails along tributaries or Elkhorn Creek. Access to the creek is available at the garden and in the adjacent Cardome Park which is complete with a boat launch above the Wallace Dam. Canoeing and fishing are great along the Elkhorn.
The state resolution/proclamation:
The resolution states "A Resolution recognizing Yuko-En on the Elkhorn:
The Kentucky-Japan Friendship Garden as the official Kentucky Japanese Garden."