The History of Rochester’s Ayame Garden


The Ayame Garden, located in the Bausch and Lomb Riverside Park, was created as a collaborative effort formed over many years involving the Pacific Flora 2004/Iris Friendship Garden Project and the University of Rochester Horticulture and Grounds department. University of Rochester alumna and project leader for the Iris Friendship Garden of Highland Park, Edna Claunch, was instrumental in creating the Ayame Garden.  After being introduced to Manager of Horticulture and Grounds, Dan Schied, together the two worked with Japanese representatives from Hamamtsu, Japan, and many others to create an intercultural friendship garden. The garden serves to celebrate the cultural diversity of the University of Rochester student population.

The selection of plantings in the Ayame Garden was chosen to show the connection between Hamamatsu, Japan and Rochester. Since 2006, Rochester has been “sister cities” with Hamamatsu. By definition of Sister Cities International, a “sister city”, is a broad-based, officially approved, long-term partnership between two municipalities in two countries. A sister city is officially recognized after the highest elected or appointed official from both communities sign off on an agreement. Sister city relationships offer the flexibility to allow connections to form between communities that are mutually beneficial and take on issues that are most relevant for the partners. All elements of the Ayame Garden’s design (the name for the garden, the logo, and structural elements) were careful decisions that would reflect the University’s cultural understanding of their Japanese friends and Asian students.The two main plantings of the Ayame Garden are Japanese irises and Louisiana irises. Along with a gift of a yukimi ata, or snow viewing lantern, the Japanese irises were brought by a Japanese delegation from Hamamatsu. The Louisiana Irises were donated from all over the country – California, Arkansas, Florida, New York, and Arizona.

The garden is located at the current canoe launch on the Genesee River, bordering the University’s River Campus. The Japanese irises are featured on the peninsula on the left facing the river, and the Louisiana irises are on the right within the large swamp area. A few select maple trees complete the design.

The Ayame Garden name was carefully chosen with the Japanese word for iris (ayame) and the English word “garden” to further show the connection between the two cultures. The logo shown at left was carefully chosen to include the depiction of the snow lantern, the kanji version of ‘Ayame Garden’, and so the title would be incorporated into the design to reflect elements of the warmth of friendship between Hamamatsu and Rochester, and would identify the garden as an iris garden.

Eventually, the project hopes to construct a small tea house behind the Ayame Garden. It will be for special events only, will be handicapped accessible, and provide the history of the Sister City relationship, the Genesee River, and botanical descriptions of the plantings.

For more information about the University of Rochester Arboretum including a River Campus Arboretum Video Tour, visit

By Alanna Scheinerman, Class of 2013