After working for several years in finance in New York City in the early 1990s, Miguel Cruz decided to move his family to a more tranquil setting in Redland and pursue furniture-making. Then, in 1997, he decided to build more than furniture.
Cruz began to create a Japanese garden in his 2.5-acre lot, which reflected his family’s Asian ancestry.
“My grandfather was Chinese and my wife is Chinese-Jamaican,” Cruz said.
He intended the garden to serve as a peaceful space for meditation and an appealing place for his family to spend time together.
“I’ve learned that less is more when your life becomes simpler,” said Cruz, 57.
He never expected that concept, along with the garden, would change his life – both personal and professional.
Three years after building the sanctuary for his family, Cruz hosted the wedding of a family friend in the Japanese garden.
It was so successful that the family hobby became a business, now called Redland Koi Gardens, co-owned by Cruz and his wife Suzanne, 61.
“After hearing people’s positive reaction to the garden, we decided to turn it into a business,” said Cruz, who first opened the garden’s doors to the public in 2002.
Now, this Japanese garden, which operates year round, hosts quinces, private parties, karate classes, concerts, corporate functions and weddings.
Ana Ramirez had her wedding at the Japanese garden in the spring.
“I was looking for a low-budget garden that was very nice and intimate,” said Ramirez, 35.
When she went to see the space, she immediately fell in love with it.
“The trees, the shadows and the water running in the background made us feel connected with nature,” said Ramirez. “We knew this was the place for us.”
The garden has three ponds with Koi fish imported from Japan. Throughout the garden are Thai Longan trees that can grow up to 40 feet tall. Dangling from these trees is Spanish moss. And aside from the wooden Japanese huts, the ground in the garden is covered in white pebbles.
During the summer months, the busiest season, Redland Koi Gardens hosts up to three events every weekend. During the other months, the garden is limited to two events per weekend.
With such demand, Cruz now is planning to expand and almost double the size of the Japanese garden.
“It will always be evolving,” said Cruz. “As long as I’m living, I’ll be listening to it and changing it.”
But that was not his initial intention when he left New York and moved his wife and four kids to South Florida. Cruz just hoped to pursue furniture-making, a hobby he considered a form of relaxation therapy.
He spent his first months in Florida designing and creating desks with multiple compartments for storing office supplies, wall to wall bookshelves and personal home bars. With time, his interest for furniture making expanded, and he began to build whole rooms and, eventually, entire homes.
It was a year after moving to Florida that he began to use his skills in his backyard to create a Japanese garden.
Cruz has now run Redland Koi Gardens with his wife for 11 years.
“There’s a lot to do,” Suzanne said, “but I love the work.”
Both Suzanne and her husband are thankful for the personal growth that the Gardens project has brought to them after all these years.
“As the garden has grown, I have grown,” said Cruz. “And I am very grateful for that.”