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A short presentation to help with creating a Japanese garden in your yard or garden. The presentation explains what is required and what you should consider and DO to create your own Japanese garden in a small space.
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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
When making a Japanese garden it should look older and more established than its surroundings. Plants, Shrubs and Trees can help bring your garden space to life and make it appear at one with nature.
Avoid over cluttering your garden and you may find that you have to slightly control your enthusiasm. Always pick living ingredients that suit the climate where you live and don’t be afraid to plant trees like Maples in colder climates as they survive in Japan in temperatures well below minus 10 degrees.
The heat of the sun is more of an enemy than the cold and ice.
This article is going to give you some suggestions on what to consider adding to your Japanese style garden and I promise not to get too technical. But if you want to find out more detailed information you can download a free copy of my book ’11 Simple Ways To Turn Your Garden Japanese’ by CLICKING HERE. As you become more adept at this form of gardening and you acquire more knowledge you can start to spread your wings a little.
A popular common element in a Japanese garden and Zen gardens are small Coniferous shrubs. Evergreens provide colour all year round and will help your other trees and plants stand out during their seasonal changes.
A good rule of thumb when making a Japanese garden is for every Deciduous planting plant 2 evergreens. Coniferous shrubs really fit the bill as they are hardy and require little maintenance apart from some minor shaping and pruning. They really look striking when planted near rocks and stones and because they start off small and the view actually gets better over time. Remember to plant with spaces between them and other shrubs or rocks to allow this growth.
You have literally hundreds of varieties and species of Coniferous shrubs to choose from and popular ones include Mugo Pine, Dwarf Balsam firs and Next Spruce.
Bamboo is another popular addition in a Japanese garden not only for separating areas but also in plant form. Tea gardens always have arrangements of Bamboo but for your small space garden then these are the varieties of Bamboo plants that will work best sasa, dake, chiku and take.
Japanese garden plants are chosen for their flowering and if you want a cavalcade of colour to contrast with your evergreens and trees then Herbaceous Japanese plants will be the solution.
Morning glory , Iris, deadnettle, Lily Turf, Kuzu Vine, White Radish, Japanese Pampas grass, Henbit, Horse Radish, Japanese Ardisia, Peony, White Chrysanthemum are plants that flower very colourfully but also in most cases have very green leaves providing a beautiful contrast.
You can use Azaleas and Camellias to great effect as well. For the spectacular there is the climbing Japanese Wisteria which grows vertically and is covered in white flowers to a maximum height of approximately 5 feet.
Bonsai plants/trees are popular too but be warned they take quite a lot of looking after and need to be skilfully watered and pruned. These are usually placed in suitably sized pots or containers around the garden area. Some like the Japanese Maple bonsai look wonderful planted between two rocks whilst others like Japanese Black Pine or Japanese White Pine , Plum and Cherry flourish better in a container.
By far the most popular bonsai plant in a Japanese garden is the Japanese Black Pine which is hardy and looks green all year round. A balance of colour is what you are looking to achieve throughout the 12 months of the year.
I hope you have found this useful and you can find out a lot more about creating your own Japanese garden space at home for a feeling of peace and serenity by claiming your copy of my FREE book and Japanese garden newsletter called ‘The Japanese Garden Bulletin’ by CLICKING HERE.
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.
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.
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!
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However large or small Japanese gardens have at least one entrance and the simplest explanation of this is that when entering the garden you are part of a seperate world. When making a japanese garden this is something that you must consider.
If you have armarked a space for your Japanese garden then really think about this important ingredient – the entrance. Think carefully about the boundary of your garden – will it have a stone or brick wall on any of the sides, what will the shape be and where are you planning on putting plants, trees, shrubs, pathways etc.
Entrances and boundaries are ideally identified in positional terms first. I always advise the drawing of a design sletch before any construction begins. This will allow you to be very detailed and clear in your thoughts for making a Japanese garden AND will help you to reconcile your space with your plans when you are standing by your bare piece of land.
A plan really works. It crystalises your design in your minds eye and is very helpful with the placement of entrances and boundaries. Bamboo is very popular for boundaries but to keep it authentic try and use a Japanese bamboo – a lot of display Japanese gardens around the world make a big deal of Bamboo ( quite rightly) but more often than not it will be a Chinese bamboo!
Boundaries signify the end of one world and the beginning of the next – your garden. You may want a pathway leading to a gate or more than one pathway. They should alwyas be at right-angle with no smooth corners as the Japanese believe that demons need smooth corners to be able to change direction.
A path leading to a gate or from it is a great place to start planning when making a Japanese garden , look at it as the first few correct pieces in a jigsaw and you build your design and garden ingredients from there.
Boundaries can also be used bewteen different areas of your garden and bamboo fences make a simple and relatively cheap way of doing it and they are pleasing on the eye because of their authenticity.
One very important principle in Japanese gardening to consider is that everything you do in your garden in terms of design and maintenance should appear to not have been interfered with by humans – its appearance should be natural.
Taking that principle into account for boundaries within a Japanese garden is not that difficult – you have just got to know what to do. Our free design book ’11 Simple Ways To Turn Your Garden Japanese’ has a section on boundaries . What to use, how to use your chosen boundary within your garden ideas and design CLICK HERE for your FREE copy.
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!