Vision & Design
The vision of the Gilbert Sister Cities Friendship Garden kept with the long-standing mission of Gilbert Sister Cities to further the development o greater friendship and understanding between the people of the Town of Gilbert and other nations. The Garden honors the diversity and rich culture of the global friendships between the Town of Gilbert, Arizona; Antrim & Newtownabbey, Northern Ireland; and Leshan, China.
The Garden design was envisioned to capture the interconnectedness between our communities, while imparting a unique personal experience of three different cultural landscapes. The Garden provides both a symbol and experience to citizens and visitors alike to consider the importance of diversity and connectedness in enhancing our thriving community.
Selecting the plants represented in the garden presented some challenges in that the climates in each of the cities couldn’t be more varied – Gilbert; hot and dry, Leshan; hot and humid, Antrim & Newtownabbey; cool and wet. Surprisingly, there are a number of plants that grow in each location and they are represented here in the garden. In the cases where plants native to one of our sister cities wouldn’t survive the desert heat, we chose a “sister” plant to be representative. The diversity of flora in the garden showcases each city and allows for a beautiful setting.
The first bridge you enter as you approach the garden is the “Northern Ireland” bridge. It is patterned after the Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge in County Antrim. The bridge links the mainland to the tiny island of Carrickarede. It is 66’ in length and is suspended 98’ above the Atlantic Ocean below. It was first erected by salmon fisherman 350 years ago.
The bridge leading directly into the garden is representative of a Chinese bridge. Though not patterned after one bridge in particular, the design most resembles the Haoshang Bridge which leads to the Wuyou Temple in Leshan. This highly rounded arched pedestrian bridge is associated with gardens in China.
The fountain in the middle of the garden reminds one of the Giant’s Causeway in County Antrim, Northern Ireland. The Giant’s Causeway is an area of approximately 40,000 interlocking basalt columns, the result of an ancient volcanic fissure eruption. Most of the columns are hexagonal, although there are also some with four, five, seven or eight sides. It was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1986.
Irish folklore says that the holestone will bestow everlasting love on couples who clench hands through the hole. The ritual involves the woman reaching her hand through the hole and her partner grasping it, after which the pair pledge their undying love.
In Chinese culture, the Crane symbolizes longevity, immortality, good fortune, beauty, harmony and grace. It represents positive change and focuses on the need for balance and living in harmony with others. The crane represents a lasting, soaring spirit plus health and happiness.