Saturday, August 8, 2020
Serenity Garden to Offer a New Place for Contemplation
Workers construct the steel divider that will keep the pond separate from the creek that flows through the botanical garden.
Thursday, December 5, 2019


A turtle and a crane are taking root at the Sawtooth Botanical Garden.

A flat stone represents the tortoise, a symbol of longevity according to Japanese folklore. An upright stone will represent the crane, also a symbol of longevity but only believed to live a mere thousand years compared with the tortoise’s 10,000 years.

The two will be among the features of a pond that will make up the new Serenity Garden currently being constructed.

Kim Nalen and the Nalen Family Foundation helped provide the funds to get the Serenity Pond started.

The garden was designed by Martin Mosko, the landscape architect and Buddhist monk who designed the Garden of infinite Compassion, which features a prayer wheel blessed by the Dalai Lama.

Dean Hernandez, an SBG board member and local landscape designer, has also been working on the project, along with Cooper Hayes from Webb Landscaping.

The garden will feature a meandering pathway that journeys around the pond. There’ll be grassy spots for people to throw a blanket on and a big Chief Cliff Rock boulder from Montana for people to sit on. The garden will also feature a pagoda over a bench, from which people can watch a small cascade spilling into the pond.

The path will be usable by people using wheelchairs.

The pond will include rocks representing the tortoise and a crane.

“We want it to be useful,” said the garden’s executive director Jen Smith.

Garden representatives hope to connect with donors over the winter so they can start phase two in the spring. The pagoda will be the final piece.

The Serenity Garden and pond replaces a pond surrounded by a gravel area that had filled in with silt and sediments that filtered down Clear Creek following wildfires in 2007 and 2013. As it filled, the pond resembled a swamp filled with cattails.

“It was more a swirl of swath,” said Smith.

Jen Smith and Dean Hernandez survey the work the day before the big Thanksgiving Eve snow.

The Serenity Garden pond will have its own water source. It will be separated from the stream by a steel divider and rubber liner so it won’t be subject to sediment.

An eclectic mix of ground covers, ornamental shrubs and grasses will surround it.

“This is going to finish the entire third of the garden. I feel this has been kind of a lost area so it’ll be so exciting to tie everything together,” said Smith.

The catalyst that got the garden off the ground was nearby resident Kim Nalen, who came looking for a way to honor her late mother Kim and her brother who died of cancer at 37. Her father Chip and the Nalen Family Foundation was a big booster of the project, as well, as Chip Nalen has always loved Japanese tea gardens.

Webb’s new Hydradig, bought for a quarter million dollars from back East, can average 25 miles per hour on the highway. Its bucket can turn every which way to make digging projects more efficient.

“I love the Sawtooth Botanical Garden and my dog Maddy really loved it. It was her happy place,” Kim Nalen said. “I go there a couple times a week with my dogs Dewey and Gracie and turn the prayer wheel to express my gratitude to the universe and love for those I have lost. The garden is a hidden treasure and so serene no matter what the season or time of day. And this Serenity Pond will only add to that.”


The garden will be perfect for wellness events, such as the annual Healing in the Garden event led by Katherine Pleasants, which invites Healing Touch and other practitioners into the garden for a day. It’s also expected to be a favorite spot for weddings or wedding photos.

The Sawtooth Botanical Garden needs between $150,000 and $175,000 to finish it off.

Smith said she hopes to raise enough money over winter to start the next phase in the spring. The pagoda will be the final piece.

Cooper Hayes, project manager for Webb Landscaping, called it a challenging project

“But it’s great to be part of a project the whole community will use,” he said. “And it’s great to be part of a project that will be around for years,” he said.


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