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Creating a Japanese Garden and Landscape
Designing a Japanese or Oriental-style garden means
blending simple design elements with an aesthetic principle that
seeks to replicate nature. While many Western gardens seek to tame
nature by organizing it to fit in a prefigured design, Japanese
gardens try to emulate what actually occurs in the natural world.
The following article discusses how you can transform your setting
into a Japanese-style garden complete with Japanese design
elements, structures, and ornaments reflective of the Far East.
First, assess your garden or landscape space. Japanese gardens will
work for large settings just as well as very small areas that
perhaps constitute the size of an average garden shed. However, a
small garden space means approaching the overall design with a
minimalist view and choosing only a few simple and sparse objects.
If your space is large than there are many avenues to consider, but
a few main elements that occur in traditional Japanese gardens
would include rock or stone features, water features, and Oriental
plants. Optional elements might be decks, fencing, walls, bridges,
statues, wildlife, etc…
There are many ways to incorporate stone and rock into your
Japanese garden; while these may be aesthetic reflections, they
may also be quite useful in the garden. Placing a rock in the
middle of a garden pond may serve no other purpose than to reflect
the idea of an island in the middle of the sea—a lovely touch for
any Oriental garden. However, placing large flat river stones at a
shallow spot in your pond could almost constitute a bridge if it
allows visitors a passage from one section of garden to another. Of
course, a true bridge made of stone to span any part of the garden
is an excellent way to bring Japan to your landscape as the
Japanese are quite famous for their stone and lacquered wood
Stone is used in many ways. It may even be needed to represent the
role of water in nature. Consider a gravel stream for a border or a
pool of stones around an ornamental cherry tree. Groupings of large
stones might even be thought to represent the mountains of Japan.
When water is not easily incorporated, stone makes a wonderful
choice for a traditional Japanese garden. Stone may also be used
for garden paths, basins, and even rustic benches placed throughout
the garden where scenery may be best enjoyed.
Water is a basic component of a Japanese garden. From very plain
stone basins to large ponds that are home to goldfish or koi, the
role of water is important to bring a sense of natural balance to
your garden. Waterfalls that tumble over stone or very simple
fountains that trickle from a bamboo shaft—consider a water feature
that is appropriate for your space but also one that you will be
able to maintain.
Garden ponds require significant maintenance, but they are
truly beautiful in any setting when properly cared for and will
doubtless become the focal point of any garden setting.
You will also want to consider any structures for your garden in
the design stage. A garden pond will not only be enhanced by a
bridge, but even simple decking that zigzags a side of the pond
will greatly reflect the Japanese style. It will also allow you to
keep some of your pond plants contained; many water garden plants
are very invasive and require lots of maintenance, but if contained
near your pond, you will still maintain the look you want with far
less work. Other structures to consider may be pagoda like gazebos,
small pavilions and stone towers.
Plantings will go far to suggest a Japanese style. From bonsai to
water lilies, there are many plants that are great choices for any
Oriental garden. Consider trees, shrubs and low-growing plants for
a good balance. Rather than many trees, consider only one tree as a
focal point, or strategically planted trees. Shrubs make great
borders and provide a bit of height to the area when trees are few.
Flowers and lush green plants certainly have their place in a
Japanese garden; consider moss, chrysanthemum, azaleas, weeping
forsythia, funkia, cape jasmine, plantain lily and many more
depending on your own taste and garden climate.
Finally, consider other ornamental Japanese features that will also
provide important functions. If privacy is an issue, incorporate
bamboo fencing. Few other features will so predominantly reflect
the Japanese aesthetic in the garden as bamboo. Japanese stone
lanterns or lighting fixtures of an Oriental nature are also useful
garden elements. There are many Japanese garden ornaments available
online or from local garden centers. Items like stone containers
and lacquered pots make fine choices. When choosing garden props,
opt for simplicity and always remember that less is more in a