The first design principle to be absolutely clear about when making a Japanese garden is that ALL elements of nature are present in these types of gardens. In Western style gardens it is usually far fewer elements of nature that are used in any one garden area.
Japanese gardens use more water – whether wet or dry- than a Western garden. Rocks and stones are much more common as ingredients too. There are reasons for this and a read up on Japanese garden history will explain all.
Gardens in Japanese culture have spiritual, historical and cultural meaning. You can read about all the aspects of Japanese gardening in one free book that I have prepared for you CLICK HERE to get your copy and also for access to my Japanese garden Newsletter called ‘The Japanese Garden Bulletin’.
For now I want to simplify the design principles so that making your own Japanese garden is simple and straightforward.
Most Japanese gardens reflect real landscapes that you see in nature. This is something called ‘borrowed scenery’. What a designer does is copy a real piece of scenery only in miniature.
You don’t have to do this because you have something called an imagination. Don’t be afraid to use it,think about the elements that you would like in your ‘mini’ landscape garden and let your mind wander. Use stones and rocks as hills and mountains, sand or gravel as water, small shrubs and grasses as plantings, trees like Acers / Maples and so on.
Think of creating a scene that catches your imagination and reduce its scale to give you a manageable garden space. There is nothing to stop you thinking big but that does mean a lot of work – it is far better to start making a Japanese garden on a small scale and once you have confidence and more knowledge increase the scale.
A pond could signify a lake, raked gravel the swirling movement of an ocean. A lot of people like water in a garden space – in a Japanese garden you can do this although in a Zen garden it is not generally included as the sand and gravel are the water area.
Flowing water in a Japanese garden signifies the passage of time. Fountains are rare but waterfalls ( more natural) are fra more commonplace.
Japanese gardens usually appear very ordered and manicured but can also be wild and even tropical in design. This gives you a lot of options depending on what garden space you have vaialable and what sort of climate you have.
One thing that I recommend is a border for your garden. It is the division between your peaceful , stress free haven and the outside world with all the distractions that go with it.I prefer a border of bamboo eith in cane form or using a growth of black bamboo for example.
Fencing ( low level) is more rustic in look and you can have a gate in a Japanese garden , usually they are found only in Tea gardens.a nice touch in larger gardens is to separate areas of a Japanese garden with different borders as the viewer and visitor moves seamlessly between areas of the garden.
Never over clutter a Japanese garden. The Japanese enjoy free space and the elements of your garden will look more natural and stand out as a result. If you want to plant dry climate plants or cactus in a Zen / Japanese rock garden then space them out to get the same effect. Less is more in a Japanese garden space and empty areas are not only authentic but pleasing on the eye to the creator and visitor!
For some really great ideas for turning your garden Japanese at home , however large or small your space, you can get a free copy of my latest book ’11 Simple Ways To Turn Your Garden Japanese ‘ by CLICKING HERE