Cranbrook Japanese Garden – Volunteer Gardeners

Give the gift of your time—become a Cranbrook Japanese Garden Volunteer Gardener!

Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research is inviting a small group of committed volunteers to help rehabilitate one of the oldest Japanese gardens in North America during the 2023 growing season. Working directly under the supervision of Emily Fronckowiak, Michigan’s only APA Certified Aesthetic Pruner, a group of ten Volunteer Gardeners will work with Emily and our returning volunteers to tend the Lily Pond Cascade, control invasive species, maintain the existing paths, contour and plant new groundcover, set stone steps, and water fragile plants. 

In the spring of 2016, Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research boldly announced its aspiration to revitalize Cranbrook’s 100-year-old Japanese-style garden and ensure its future for the next generation. This aspiration became a vision in the summer of 2018 when Sadafumi Uchiyama, Garden Curator for the Portland Japanese Garden, began to develop a Master Plan for the garden’s rejuvenation. This vision began to take physical form in October 2018, when Master Gardener Hiromu Terashita and five gardeners from the Japan Federation of Landscape Contractors rehabilitated one of the garden’s historic features, the Lily Pond Cascade.

Photograph of the Lily Pond Cascade in the Cranbrook Japanese Garden, June 14, 2019. Photograph by Gregory Wittkopp.

Implementing the full extent of Uchiyama’s vision for the Cranbrook Japanese Garden will take time and money. While this planning and fundraising takes place, there is work that can be done. For the past four growing seasons, the Center has been working with Fronckowiak to maintain the rehabilitated Lily Pond Cascade and—in ongoing consultation with Uchiyama—tame the remainder of the garden. Most recently, Fronckowiak’s garden firm, Emaline Design, restored the bolder shoreline of the Willow Pool along the southern edge of the Japanese Garden.

Volunteer Gardeners will meet in the Cranbrook Japanese Garden one day each month during the 2023 growing season, April through October, from 8:30am to 1:30pm, on the following days (all days are Thursdays, unless noted otherwise).

  1. Thursday, April 27
  2. Thursday, May 25
  3. Thursday, June 15
  4. Thursday, July 13 
  5. Thursday, August 10
  6. Thursday, September 14
  7. Thursday, October 12

Each day in the Japanese Garden will begin with a training session that will include introductions to the history and the future of the garden presented by Center Director Gregory Wittkopp and/or training on Japanese gardening techniques presented by Emily Fronckowiak. During the summer and fall, Cranbrook will provide volunteers with additional educational opportunities related to the Japanese Garden and “insiders” access to special opportunities, such as a planned visit by Sadafumi Uchiyama.

Cranbrook Japanese Garden Volunteer Gardener requirements include:

  • Volunteers are expected to have experience, at any level, working “with their hands” and “on their knees” in a garden.
  • Volunteers are expected to have an interest in Japanese Gardens and a respect for the potential of a beautifully maintained Japanese-style garden at Cranbrook.
  • Volunteers are expected to be willing to learn Japanese gardening techniques, realizing that part of what defines a Japanese-style garden is a respect for the unique principles and techniques that guide Japanese garden maintenance. 
  • Volunteers will be expected to work in the Cranbrook Japanese Garden a minimum of four of the seven scheduled Thursdays during the 2023 growing season (April through October); missed Thursdays can be made up through independent assignments such as watering plants.
  • Volunteers will be required to join the Center’s sister organization, Cranbrook House & Gardens Auxiliary; memberships begin at $50.00/person. Additional information on the Auxiliary and the benefits of membership may be found on their website.
  • Volunteers will be asked to support Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research with an annual gift to the Center Fund.
  • Volunteers will be expected to bring their own gardening tools for use in the garden and may be asked to purchase some select Japanese hand tools.
  • Volunteers will be required to bring their own lunch and any other dietary needs; Cranbrook will provide bottled water and snacks.
  • Volunteers understand that the Cranbrook Japanese Garden and its access includes gravel and packed earth paths, stone steps, slippery bridges, and uneven terrain; volunteers accept these and other known and unknown hazards and will volunteer in the garden at their own risk.
  • Restrooms will be available in the Tower Garage Workshop, on the south side of Cranbrook House.

What will our Volunteer Gardeners receive in return? In addition to learning from experts and developing an “insiders” understanding of the Japanese Garden and the time-honored techniques that are required to nurture and maintain this important cultural landscape, our Volunteer Gardeners will receive Cranbrook’s heartfelt gratitude and the satisfaction that comes with realizing they are helping to ensure that the Cranbrook Japanese Garden remains a place of beauty, solace, and inspiration for visitors today and many generations to come!

Still interested in becoming a Cranbrook Japanese Garden Volunteer Gardener? We would love to hear from you! Please send an email of inquiry to Center Director Gregory Wittkopp at Please include a brief statement of your interest in the Cranbrook Japanese Garden and the experience that you could bring to its rejuvenation and maintenance.

For more information on Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research and the Cranbrook Japanese Garden, please visit our About and Visit webpages.

Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research gratefully acknowledges the volunteer gardeners that work with Emily Fronckowiak to maintain the Cranbrook Japanese Garden. Their work helps to keep the garden a place of beauty, peace, and inspiration for current and future visitors. 

Photograph of volunteers in the Cranbrook Japanese Garden

Current Volunteers
•    Christine Bakalis (2023 – present)
•    John Lord Booth II (2021 – present)
•    Lois Booth (2021 – present)
•    Thomas Booth (2021 – present)
•    Rachael Cox (2023 – present) 
•    Stephanie Fakih (2022 – present)
•    Glee Firth (2023 – present)
•    Karen Hagenlocker (2021 – present)
•    Masami Hida (2021 – present)
•    Lisa Hill (2023 – present)
•    Melinda Krajniak (2022 – present)
•    Susan Lundal (2022 – present)
•    Saida Malarney (2021 – present)
•    Scott Marcantonio (2022 – present)
•    Laurie Olexa (2022 – present)
•    Gabe Ourlian (2023 – present)
•    John Owens (2022 – present)
•    Rick Rushing (2021 – present)
•    Lindsay Shimon (2023 – present)
•    Sarah Stever (2021 – present)

Current Center Staff Members
•    Nina Blomfield, Decorative Arts Trust Marie Zimmermann Collections Fellow (2021 – present)
•    Mariam Hale, Collections Fellow (2023 – present)
•    Leslie Mio, Associate Registrar (2021 – present)
•    Gregory Wittkopp, Director (2021 – present)

Former Volunteers
•    Timothy Mast (2022)
•    Tomas Hida Serna (2021)

The 2023 Japanese Garden Tour Season is sponsored by the Clannad Foundation and the Japan Business Society of Detroit.







Cranbrook Japanese Bridge, July 16, 2019; Photography by Eric Franchy.

Emily Fronckowiak (far left) Sets Stones Along the Edge of the Lily Pond Cascade and Gardeners Remove Debris from the Stream Bed, October 1, 2019; Photography by Gregory Wittkopp.

Rehabilitated Lily Pond Cascade, June 14, 2019;  Photography by Gregory Wittkopp.

Consul General Nakagawa (left) and John Lord Booth, II (Center), with Sadafumi Uchiyama in Cranbrook’s Japanese Garden, October 13, 2019; Photography by Daniel Smith.

Cranbrook Japanese Garden Volunteer Gardeners, April 14, 2022; Photography by a Cranbrook Schools Student.