Japanese garden brings solace to Prairieville couple

Lisa Harrison Rainwater turned to nature and art after the sudden illness and death of her 25-year-old son, her only child, in October 2009.

In her grief, she transformed a small rock garden in a front corner of her backyard into a complete Japanese-style garden and her Prairieville home into a studio and gallery for her art.

“I needed the beauty of the garden, and the spirituality really helped,” she said. “It is my grief therapy.”

Rainwater originally did the rock garden because it was low maintenance. “The trouble was that the rest of the yard looked really empty,” she said.

With the help of Charbel Harb and CCR Ponds, she dug up the rock garden and replaced it with a stream that cascades into a shallow pool. The area is colorfully planted and accented with a Buddha and a crane, which her husband, Quinn Rainwater, says is the Japanese symbol for peace, long life and good fortune. He was stationed in Japan during the Vietnam War and acquired a great appreciation for Japanese gardens. The Rainwaters moved the rocks from the old rock garden to create a dry stream under a wooden garden bridge at the center of the backyard.

The garden was developed around existing tallow trees, which Quinn Rainwater was about to remove when Harb intervened. “Charbel said they were natural works of art,” Quinn Rainwater said.

Lisa Rainwater added other trees over time. “She loves willow trees, so we got one. She loves magnolias, so we got one. I told her, ‘Honey, don’t love a sequoia,’” Quinn Rainwater said with a smile.

In more recent years, the Rainwaters added a seating area under trees and a torii gate that leads to another garden area. On the gate in Japanese characters are the words for “love” and “peace.”

“The gate marks the division between the physical and spiritual worlds,” Lisa Rainwater said.

“We ring a bell when we enter the garden to send love and peace into the universe,” Quinn Rainwater said.

The spiritual garden behind the gate contains two main beds lined with large rocks, all carefully selected by Lisa Rainwater. The beds are filled with topsoil, topped with rocks or decomposed granite and planted for color.

“It’s all about the look, being aesthetically pleasant,” Lisa Rainwater said. “I love mixing the different colors from the garden. I pick plants for light or shade. I don’t like diva plants.”

A few months before her son died, Lisa Rainwater retired from AT&T. In her younger years, she had studied painting. In her retirement, she began painting again.

As she expanded and refined her garden, she expanded and refined her art. That led to the addition of a combination studio and sun room at the back of the house as a workspace for her painting.

The walls of the home are now filled with her art in three main areas of interest — flowers, swamp scenes and butterflies. The inspiration for her paintings comes from her garden.

“I was not a gardener,” she said. “I always said I could kill a cactus, but I consider what I did as garden art. The garden gives me a peaceful feeling of accomplishment.”