The Sawtooth Botanical Garden, south of Ketchum, was recently given a rare honor that was unveiled at a reception Wednesday, Aug. 3. The public gardens were chosen as the site of a "Garden of Compassion" to be built in honor of the 14th Dalai Lama's visit to the Wood River Valley Sept. 10 through Sept. 12.
While in the valley, the Dalai Lama will address several gatherings. The main event is a "Healing Address" on Sept. 11, the fourth anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the East Coast, when His Holiness will speak to 10,000 people at the Wood River High School in Hailey.
At the Botanical Garden reception, patrons and board members met with the Colorado-based landscape designer Martin Mosko, who was chosen to lead the garden's creation.
Mosko is uniquely qualified to create the garden. He is the owner of Marpa & Associates, a 30-year-old landscape design company, and he's an ordained Zen Buddhist monk. In addition, Mosko is the abbot of the Hakubai Temple in Boulder, and heir to the lineage of Tenzan Keibun Otokawa Roshi. He is also the author of the recently released book "Landscape as Spirit: Creating a Contemplative Garden."
A soft spoken and peaceful man, he said the new garden will "hopefully be a world-class alpine garden." It is to be located on the northeast side of the Sawtooth Botanical Garden's main building in a 15,000 square feet space.
The Sawtooth Botanical Garden is located near the intersection of state Highway 75 and Gimlet Road.
The project was initiated when the "His Holiness the Dalai Lama visits Sun Valley" event organizers—in particular Ketchum resident Kiril Sokoloff, the guiding force behind the visit—decided they would like the Tibetan prayer wheel linked to the event to be in a garden. The prayer wheel, which was made in Dharamsala, India—where the Dalai Lama has lived in exile from Tibet—will be the focal point in the "Garden of Infinite Compassion." The Dalai Lama will bless the prayer wheel on Monday, Sept. 12, in a private ceremony with the Buddhist community. Thereafter, it will be accessible to the public.
When she learned of the commission, Anita Northwood, director of the Sawtooth Botanical Garden, called Panayoti Kelaidis, a rock-garden expert with the Denver Botanical Gardens. According to her, he said, "If you can get Martin Mosko to do this project, it'll be a coup. He'd be the perfect person."
"She called at his suggestion and I took a flight up the next day," Mosko said. "The garden is to be both contemplative and celebratory, where the community may meditate and be inspired by the beauty of the natural world.
"It will have an alpine theme because of the high, pure atmosphere, with very small plants such as osteospurmum, arabis, arnica, alpine asters, poppies and orchid, columbine and Lewisii. This is a great altitude here (for this kind of garden). We could have as many as 3,000 varieties.
He added, "Prayer wheels are moved water. So, we'll have a river that is really recirculated water, but will look like a branch of the existing stream. There will be an eight-foot sunken garden with over 400 tons of stone from Montana. The 16 stones represent the 16 Arhats, who serve as protectors."
An aspen grove and alpine plants will encompass the expanse of land now being cleared at the site. Mosko expects to be laying the enormous rocks in place this weekend and working straight through on the project until Aug. 16. He has told his clients he isn't available currently, except for prearranged lectures to which he was already committed.
"When I told them it was because of a garden for the Dalai Lama they felt that was a good excuse as any," he joked. "I have never met His Holiness but inadvertently he is kind of responsible for my meeting my wife." When asked to elaborate, he laughed and said it was way too long a story to tell. "The Dalai Lama is revered by all Buddhists because of his magnetism, sincerity and purity of heart. I hope to be here (when he blesses the prayer wheel)."
Mosko said the garden will encompass three aspects: the physical, the energetic and the metaphysical.
The financial aspect is one that also cannot be overlooked. The Sawtooth Botanical Garden's board president, Keith Pangborn, said they "were extremely excited by the wonderful opportunity," and encouraged people to pledge donations. They expect the three stages of the garden to cost a total of $250,000, and are looking to completing the first phase by the Dalai Lama's visit.
Mosko may be a Zen Buddhist but he is also a businessman. "With sufficient money, we can complete the majority of the work by the time he comes. We really need to raise money quickly."
Northwood did a bit of fund raising at the reception. "Pledges came in at approximately $60,000," she said. "We have a long ways to go. It's very exciting and Martin is just a lovely man.
"We're delighted to have this very special, spiritual prayer wheel in the garden and are hoping that people will find this garden a place for all denominations to find peace and harmony. Fund raising is still on going and we'd love donations of any kind."
The prayer wheel created in honor of His Holiness' visit will have housing and turning mechanisms built by valley artist Larry Meyers.
For more information or to donate, call the Botanical Garden at 726-9358.