Making A Japanese Garden – Flat Gardens

Flat gardens within Japanese garden culture one of the simplest forms of gardens you can consider when planning a Japanese garden space.

Flat gardens, or Hira-niwa in Japanese ,do not have hills and do not have any water in the way that a western garden would. The flat area which is essentially made of either sand or more usually gravel IS the water. All Japanese gardens tend to be a lesson in environment and space.

Part of Portland's Japanese Flat Garden Courtesy of

Part of Portland’s Japanese Flat Garden Courtesy of

Just like in a Zen garden the gravel is raked into swirls and different shapes to give the impression of the movement in a body of water. The ground is usually covered this way and on occasions I have seen flat gardens that use very small pebbles ,once again raked in circles and straight lines to give the impression of water  ripples.

A flat garden can include many familiar ingredients that you would expect when making a Japanese garden. Stones, Rocks, Trees and Shrubs are very common. The trees although natural will be pruned and the low level shrubs and bushes shaped on the edge of the water space.

Courtesy of

Courtesy of

Flat gardens were first designed to interpret and in miniature mimic Japan’s seaside landscapes or some of its grander lakes, a journey through Japanese garden history points to war and water shortages as to why water was replaced by gravel as a ‘dry’ substitute. This is a trend that has continued for hundreds of years even in peacetime and with abundant supplies of water. The Edo period of Japanese history is when flat gardens became very popular.

Interestingly water features apart from a body of water are fairly common in a Japanese ‘Flat’ garden. For example, large upright stones can symbolise a waterfall and this something that you can copy for a garden space that you have in mind however large or small.

Use non sharp edged rocks or stones ( Granite) to depict islands within your gravel water area. 3 together is a popular representation of ‘The Isles of The Immortals’.The Japanese Circle and Gourd Islands are often copied and represented in the gravel water area to add the spirit of enlightenment. You will be able to get the correct rocks and stones from your local aggregate supplier – take sometime to consider the shapes that you want and strictly speaking for authenticity you should not use rounded stones.

Other ingredients that you may wish to add to a flat garden are stone lanterns, included for the illumination of parts of the garden at night, basins and if you are very ambitious even a well ! Well’s are normally constructed out of wood and have some way of getting the water out of the well – a pulley and bucket or a large wooden spoon are common.

Stepping stones can be placed across the gravel water area and look very effective if they lead to the far side of the gravel area where a rustic hut or pagoda is located. After the 16th century this was a popular type of design where the hut would be used for the slow and meaningful Tea ceremony.

A completed flat garden will give a real impression of depth of space to the viewer as the eye is drawn into the water area with the clipped shrubs on the faraway edge. The stones or rocks placed carefully within the raked gravel ‘water’ area give a feeling of depth and perspective relative to the scale of the garden.

As a Zen garden is designed to be viewed from a single space it is exactly the same with a Japanese flat garden. The view is sometimes ‘framed’ when a veranda door is opened or when looking through a larger window into the garden itself.

A flat garden is often seen as similar to a landscape painting when designed and built correctly to scale. The viewer’s eyes are drawn across the water to the carefully clipped low level shrubs and plants like Lilies or Azeleas. In Japan plantings are deliberately made in a flat garden to show off the seasons.

Maples for the autumn , Cherry blossom looks its best in Spring, the soothing impression of water signifies summer and something like a Black Pine denotes the winter.

Flat gardens became an alternative to hill gardens in Japan as were amongst then first residential gardens added to the homes of ordinary Japanese people and they continue to be a wonderful type of garden today for any yard or garden area.

I believe a ‘Flat’ or Hira-niwa garden is a cost effective and beautiful option for a domestic Japanese garden as it includes some of the essential ingredients needed for a Japanese garden as well as the classic Japanese garden design method of borrowed scenery. This is where the designer either copies a specific landscape in miniature or use existing scenery such as a hill located outside of the flat garden space to include it in the overall garden view.

But, lets face it, not many of us have a natural piece of landscape that we can include in our overall design so just the copying of a real or imaginary landscape will be more than enough. Creating miniature landscapes allows your creative juices to flow and your imagination to run wild! All the more reason to get started on building your dream Japanese garden space.

For more help with a flat garden design and how to develop your own stunning Japanese garden get your free copy of my latest book ’11 Simple Ways To Turn Your Garden Japanese’ by CLICKING HERE

Best Wishes and I hope you have found this information useful and inspiring for your own Japanese garden space!














’11 Simple Ways To Turn Your Garden Japanese’ from Making A Japanese Garden Dot Com

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If you have always wanted or dreamt of a Japanese style garden space for your home whether indoors or outdoors then I have some great news for you. Launched today is my new FREE book ’11 Simple Ways To Turn Your Garden Japanese’ and this short video will tell you more. Take a look!

To find out more and how you can make your Japanese garden dream a reality without breaking the bank! CLICK HERE for your complimentary copy and free membership to ‘The Japanese Garden Bulletin’ our weekely new newsletter for fans of Japanese gardens and making a Japanese garden.


The Japanese Garden Bulletin NEW Newsletter – Listen To What It’s About…


Thanks for stopping by making a Japanese garden dot com.

In a very short while I am launching an exciting, interesting and inspiring newsletter on Japanese gardens …it will be totally free and take a listen to my little message about the service I am providing for Japanese garden enthusiasts.If you love Japanese gardens or dream, of your own Zen garden ( sometimes referred to as a Japanese Rock garden) you will love the design tips and information that I have got for you.

Delivered straight to your ‘inbox’ EVERY week ‘The Japanese Garden Bulletin’ will help you make your dream of a relaxing Japanese garden become a reality…and it’s not as difficult as you may think!

CLICK on the audio players ‘Arrow’ to LISTEN



Happy New Year From ALL Of Us At Making A Japanese Garden Dot Com

Thank you for visiting our website that is all about giving you useful information and tips for making a Japanese garden. There is a lot of very informative and helpful information on this website that will help turn your small or large space at home whether indoors or outdoors into a space with a touch of Japan.

We wish all our readers a very Happy New Year and a HEALTHY and inspiring 2013!

We are starting a FREE Japanese garden NEWSLETTER at the end of January called the ‘Japanese Garden Bulletin’.

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You can sign up for free to ensure that you recieve a massive amount of Japanese garden and Zen garden information at this website , where you can read more about the sort of information we will be providing in our ‘Japanese Garden Bulletin’ newsletter.

We never share your email with anyone else or any third parties and you can unsubscribe at ANY time with a click of your mouse or a tap on your smatphone or tablet!

We really look forward to sending your our newsletter CLICK HERE  to SIGN UP

Making A Japanese Garden – A Little Inspiration Goes A Long Way…

If you are thinking of making a Japanese garden and want to turn your rear garden or yard into a calming and peaceful area then you are joining a growing band of like minded people all over the world.

Japanese gardens and Zen gardens are in vogue and this website has been set up specifically to give you a little inspiration for your dream project!

A little honesty first though. Making a Japanese garden is not something that you can do with any degree of success or the right results in a weekend and it WILL take up quite a lot of maintenance time but if you are not phased by either of these aspects then your hard work will be rewarded with a truly lovely space at your home.

More good news comes in the form of your budget. Japanese gardens can be expensive to design and build but you can construct one on a limited budget and in today’s economic climate a lot of people do you financial constraints.

One of the most cost effective ways of making a Japanese garden is to identify an area in your yard or garden, mark it out with string or cable and dig it out to a low level say approximately 4 -6 inches deep.Take precautions for weed growth and fill the area with gravel or you can use sand if you live in a dry climate.

Gravel should be ideally 8 to 10 mm in size as it is easy for raking – so you get those lovely circular swooshes and simple staright lines. Rocks can be placed in small clusters and you can use smooth rocks but taller slightly jagged ones really look striking to the eye.

I have a small space Zen garden at home with a cluster of 3 rocks and a single rock on an island surrounded by neatly trimmed grass – this gives the impression of an island in the sea. Zen gardens or Karesansui ( Dry gardens) mimic landscapes so the good news is that you can let your imagination flow!

A dry river bed is another option and you can surround this with stones and rocks and low level plants. If you desire a wooden bridge or stone bridge this would look spectacular over the bed.

Bamboo is used in Japanese gardens for space separation and fencing can be bought or made relatively inexpensively. Trees provide the ‘living’ element of the garden and have to be planted correctly, drainage has to be good and equally importantly you should only pick trees, plants and low level shrubs that will grow in your climate.

If you plant things that are risky then the chances are you will be removing them sooner than you had hoped for. Trees are central to many types of Japanese gardens and in autumn or fall they come into their own.

I shall be putting some information on this website in the very near future about which trees are perhaps best to use in non extreme European and North American climates AND most importantly what colours you can expect from them in the autumn for maximum effect in a Japanese garden.

Water features are something a lot of people desire , with or without Koi for example and this is something else that I am going to cover here on in the near future.

I have launched a Japanese garden free newsletter  called the ‘Japanese Garden Bulletin’ and you can register to recieve your complimentary copy featuring Japanese garden news, tips , design ideas and a LOT more just CLICK HERE

Making A Japanese Garden – Rewarding But Demanding Too!

Steve’s Tea House – made of Cedar

Thanks for visiting my website , and hopefully I can give you some inspiration if you are thinking of making a Japanese garden. I visited a gentleman called Steve at his home to take a look at his Japanese Pond viewing garden.

It has been a labour of love for Steve who lived and worked in Japan for 7 years. On a business trip before he moved there he had a couple of hours to spare before catching a flight home and asked the concierge at the hotel if they could recommend something to do for a couple of hours.

“Do you like gardens?” the concierge asked Steve , to which he replied “Yes” and he promptly directed to look at his very first Japanese garden with its different entrances, beautifully crafted Azeleas , trees and shrubs. Rock formations and paths at right-angles.

He was struck by it’s beauty and promptly fell in love with Japanese gardens. Whilst in Japan he visited over 80 different gardens mainly in the Kyoto area and amassed a very large collection of Japanese garden textbooks and journals.

The knowledge he gained was defining in his plans for making a Japanese garden and this he did at his home in the UK. It took two years to build , is completely enclosed and has a large Koi pond which has been troublesome to say the least.

Japanese plants, trees and shrubs grow freely in his garden as the climate difference between Japan and the UK is actually not that different. As he pointed out to me some of his Acer’s in their native Japan can withstand sub-zero temperatures.

I went to film a video with Steve and to ask him all sorts of questions about his Japanese garden and its construction and will be making this chat available soon. I have to edit it first!

Steve says the most demanding part of the garden were the rocks, pond and pathways as he wanted to stay true to his original design. Like me Steve also believes very strongly that you have ‘freewill’ to go about making a Japanese garden in whatever styles or styles you wish.

His is a Pond Viewing garden BUT it has a Tea house too because he likes them. That is the key message about making a Japanese garden – add what you want and what feels right in your garden area. Don’t be intimidated by technical books after all Japanese gardens are simplicity with nature!

It was a really interesting visit and I am looking forward to letting you see the video but to wet your appetite here are some photograph’s of Steve Mazloumian’s Japanese garden!

Steve has about 8 different varieites of Acer’s in the garden

The Moon Window – providing a peak into the garden!

A Koi Pond, Lantern and Autumn Colours!

A Zen feel to one area of the garden – note the autumn colours again.

Making a Japanese garden – Californian Japanese Gardeners Struggle And What We Can Learn

Japanese immigrants into the US brought with them an ordered way of life that seemed odd to Americans, they arrived on the West coast of the US in large numbers and had to endure restrictive laws and the aftermath of World War 2 when they were not held in great esteem by the locals.They were viewed with suspicion.

Time is a great healer and breaks down the barriers of persecutuion and America’s Japanese American community started to grow and flourish. Gardening is something that comes easy to the Japanese, at school they are routinely taught how to prune and plant vegetables and these homegrown skills were useful when faced with living in a new country with limited language skills.

In Hollywood and other parts of California an Oriental or Japanese garden were considered status symbols. A Pith helmeted gardener of Japanese origin was an essential requirement. Today things are very different as most American’s opt for ‘Cut and Blow’ gardens – they are simpleand easy to maintain.

Having said that some of America’s best and most stunning Japanese gardens can be found on the West coast from California to Washington state.

On an individual home basis making a Japanese garden is not top of the agenda as they are considered expensive, hard to maintain and take up a lot of space. Only one of those excuses is true. Maintenance is significant and if you want to make a Japanese garden or get one designed for you they do take an awful lot of care and attention.

In a way a Japanese garden is a way of life. For America’s Japanese gardener’s their lives are changing. 74 year old Tadashi Hamada has been a gardener for 50 years , he is an expert pruner , understands Japanese plants and trees like Hollywood Juniper Acers and the impressive King Sago Palm.

All of these plants , shrubs and trees need care. A King Sago Palm costs around $6000 dollars and Tadashi squirms at the many he sees that are just left to be. “Too many bushes die inside because the Sun doesn’t hit it” he says ” You gotta cut them and shape them up” the alternative is a slow irreversible death for a tree or bush.

He has an air of dissapointment in the way gardening has changed and to you and I as Japanese garden lovers we would be sad at the demise of so many interesting gardens shaped and tended so many years ago.

I think as enthusiasts we have a responsibility to Japanese gardening outside of Japan to try and do our bit. Visit Japanese gardens in your area and further afield , read books, talk to experts and practice what we have learned on our own Japanese garden projects. A Japanese garden IS a commitment – for things so beautiful on the eye the workload is significant but manageable!

Making a Japanese garden – this website is about encouraging people to not only have a Japanese garden but to help them decide on what type , size, what to put in it and why, how to maintain it and hopefully inspire a few positive thoughts about these gardening works of art along the way!

A garden or yard can be transformed with a Japanese garden , it is worth the effort whatever size of space you have. There are design experts out there near where you live or you can be adveturous and learn all about them and do-it-yourself! What a challenge!!

There are lots of pieces of useful information on this subject and on my other Japanese garden website . If you prefer the idea of a ‘Rock’ garden and the simplicity it offers go to: .




Making a Japanese Garden – Fences and Gates

Hi Japan Directory

If you are ambitious and keen to make a realistic representation of a Japanese garden then a couple of things you will be probably be interested in are GATES and FENCES.

Typical example of fencing in a Japanese garden

Most Japanese gardens are intended to be seen from outside looking in and have a feeling of being seperate from our everyday world. Enclosure of the garden is achieved by the use of gates and fences whether wooden or made of Bamboo.

Zen gardens are havens of tranquilty and contemplating whilst a Japanese garden is also a place where visitors can go to escape form the stresses and strains of life – a gate signifies the place where you can enter this separate world and a signifier of returning to the world once you exit the garden.

You may think that fences are all about ‘enclosure’ and that thought would seem obvious and to a certain extent is right. Fences also have another meaning associated with them its called ‘Miegakure’ in Japanese a pretty accurate translation would be ‘Hide and reveal’.

So if you are thinking of making a Japanese garden imagine how tantalising some fencing would be adorned with climbers that give the visitor a small glimpse of what lies behind your fencing – a stunning Japanese garden.

If you are keen to make a Tea garden in your space then the gate will open to a pathway that will lead to your Tea house.

The whole concept of the use of gatesand fences in a Japanese garden is all about teasing what lies within the boudaries and containing the space for respite from everyday life. The latter being the reason that these types of garden appeal to so many Westerner’s and Japanese garden designers.

A Japanese garden is a miniature expression of nature and has to be sealed off from the outside world and its worth remebering that fences and gates are just as inportant ina Japanese garden as a stone lantern or Azaleas!



Kew Gardens In London – Video Of The Japanese Garden Area

When making a Japanese garden there is perhaps no better way to formulate the design ideas that you may have in your imagination than actually looking at exsisting Japanese gardens.

I recently visited the garden and had a great time. From The Imperial Gateway to a beautiful Karensui area to stunning rock placement and topiary it is all here on this short video. Steven Speilberg I am not but I hope that you take a look and enjoy it!

Claim Your FREE Copies Of Our Japanese Garden Ebooks On AMAZON Kindle


Thanks for visiting .

Following on from yesterdays post – our 2 E books are available for the next 5 DAYS ONLY on AMAZON KINDLE. Here are the details and we hope you enjoy them and they help with your plans to make a Japanese garden.

Japanese Gardens – Revealed and Explained  – CLICK HERE to access a free copy.

Japanese Zen GardensCLICK HERE to access your free copy.